By NATARIO McKENZIE
A SENIOR regulator yesterday conceded there were "lingering challenges" with mobile number portability following last Friday's "breakdown of sorts".
Stephen Bereaux, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority's (URCA) chief executive, said the regulator was working with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Alive to resolve the problems highlighted by the 'Black Friday' porting delays. "Last Friday there was a significant technical difficulty experienced with customers trying to port from BTC to Aliv, which was particularly unfortunate because it happened on a fairly busy porting day," said Mr Bereaux.
"URCA started an investigation into the problem that continued into Saturday, November 25. Our purpose at the time was to resolve the issues or ensure that the issues had been resolved by the operators concerned, and people were able to port their numbers. "I believe that we are now at a situation where all of the people who tried to port their numbers over the weekend have now been ported successfully, and I believe the porting systems are now working as they are supposed to," said Mr Bereaux.
He added: "There are some lingering challenges across mobile number portability that we are working with the operators to resolve. We, at this stage, without any suggestion of blame from URCA's perspective in relation to the rules that govern mobile number portability in the Bahamas, think there clearly was a breakdown of sorts and it was inconsistent with how things are supposed to happen. "Whether that was a technical issue or process issue, how it would have been caused and what action we should take, we are doing our investigation and we expect to be able to give the public a little more information on the cause and where the problem originated. If it turns out there has been a breach of one of the rules relating to number portability or otherwise, we would obviously take steps to deal with that. What we would want the public to understand is that with these systems occasionally there may be issues."
Damian Blackburn,Aliv's top executive, told Tribune Business that the number portability system delays had "hugely" impacted Aliv's promotional drive to grow its customer base on "the busiest shopping day of the year".
He declined, though, to comment on whether he felt the disruption - which primarily impacted BTC customers wishing to switch to Aliv and keep their existing mobile phone numbers - was more than a coincidence. BTC hit back at its mobile rival for insinuating that the system fault was part of a deliberate effort on its part to undermine the latter's promotional campaign and efforts to pinch its subscribers.
Mr Bereaux stressed the importance of carrying out a proper investigation, adding: "At the end of the day these operators are both trying to do a business. It's a very vibrant, competitive business. For the long-term success of the market it is important that people are able to switch when they choose."
Mobile portability is vital to Bahamian consumer choice and market competition, as it enables customers to retain their existing numbers when transferring to either BTC or Aliv - a huge benefit to individuals but, especially, business persons.