Telecommunication “numbers” are a means of accessing a vast number of communication services. Numbers carry some useful information on them, for example:
- The type of service one is accessing (mobile, fixed, premium rate, etc.) and in some cases the rates applicable to those services
- Geographic significance for fixed lines, for example, 010 and 011 for Johannesburg
In South Africa, numbers are 10 digits long (with the exception of machine-related numbers, which are 14 digits, and short codes, which are anything less than 10 digits).
Ownership of numbers
The Republic of South Africa owns the numbers used to provide communication services to its citizens. The allocation, assignment and use of numbers is guided by the National Numbering Plan Regulations, GG 35737.
ICASA is mandated to manage the national numbering resource; hence ICASA allocates numbers to Independent Electronic Communications Service (IECS) licensees who in turn assign numbers to subscribers for their use.
A subscriber to whom a number has been legitimately assigned may enjoy the beneficial use of the number freely without hindrance.
Allocation of numbers to service providers
A service provider is required to have an Individual Electronic Communications Service (IECS) licence. The service provider will then need to complete an application form requesting a particular numbering resource in line with the Numbering Plan Regulations, GG 35737.
Some of the information that should be included in the application form to assist the Authority to assess the application:
- The quantity of the numbering resource
- Licence type and number
- A clear description of the service to be provided
- Applicant details
Number portability enables subscribers to retain their numbers when changing from one network operator to another. Currently only mobile and geographic numbers can be ported.
An approved porting transaction takes a maximum of seven working days to complete from the day a request is made by a subscriber.
The actual porting transaction is administrated by the Number Portability Company (NPC). The NPC was formed jointly by ICASA licensees (MTN, Vodacom and Cell C) as a result of the 2001 Amendments to the Telecommunications Act, which mandated ICASA to “prescribe measures to ensure that number portability shall be introduced in 2005”.