My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: OUR issues TPPR for a Number Portability Administrator in Jamaica - How Number Portability will get us NANP's NPA and Third 4G Competitor

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Monday, October 6, 2014

OUR issues TPPR for a Number Portability Administrator in Jamaica - How Number Portability will get us NANP's NPA and Third 4G Competitor

MNP (Mobile Number Portability) and LNP (Landline Number Portability) was rescheduled for launch in May 2015 as stated in my blog article entitled “MNP and LNP coming in May 2015 - MNP and LNP in Jamaica delayed as Sheriff Julian Robinson caught in a Telecom Providers Standoff”.

However, it seems that they may be inkling for an earlier launched of MNP and LNP after all after the delay as announced by State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining, Julian Robinson. This which meant that the December 2014 deadline would be missed as stated in my blog article entitled “State Minister Julian Robinson has announced that MNP is delayed until December 2014 - ICT Roadmap in shambles as Fourth Delay Suggest Telecom Provider's Stalling the Process”.

The fault?

Telecom Provider LIME was holding up the process because they claim that Landline isn’t ready for porting as yet as claimed by State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining, Julian Robinson. I suspect its more delay tactic and fear than an actual problem, but that’s my opinion

The OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation), the stand-in Telecom Regulator until the real Telecom Regulator is set up as noted in my blog article entitled “New Telecom Regulator finally coming by July 2014 - New Telecom Provider looking for stability in the Jamaican Telecoms Market post-LNP and MNP by May 2014”, has decided to move ahead with the MNP and LNP Process.

This is a strong indication that Telecom Provider LIME is ready for LNP and all the perils it entails!

This as the OUR Press Release on the NPA (Number Portability  Administrator) License since Wednesday October 1st 2014 lists a TPPR (Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request) document for entities wishing to bid for a single License to handle and manage a Number Portability Central Reference Database and associated Automated Order Handling Process aka a NPA (Numbering Portability Administrator) License as stated in the article “OUR opens auction for single number Portability administrator licence”, published Sunday, October 05, 2014, The Jamaica Observer.

The timeline are already set for the submission for the TPPR (Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request) Proposals for the license to handle and manage a Number Portability Central Reference Database and associated Automated Order Handling Process as stated in the article “OUR hunts number Portability manager”, Published Sunday October 5, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner.

That timeline is as shown below:


The TPPR closes on Monday December 1st 2014. The submitted proposals then under evaluation by the OUR between Tuesday December 2nd 2014 and Wednesday December 31st 2014 so that by Monday January 5th 2015, a NPA can be chosen for the granting of the NPA license.

Hopefully, this awardee will be able to get the Database up and running by Sunday May 31st 2015 at which point Number Portability will be a reality in Jamaica.

You can check out the OUR Press Release on the NPA (Number Portability  Administrator) License offer as well as download the Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document itself for details on how to submit a bid for the NPA license.

It’s the first real indication that MNP and LNP will be coming in May 2015 and not some idle promise by the State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining, Julian Robinson!

OUR and the Number Portability Administrator - How the NPA Will be administered, preferably automated

The Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document is divided into the following sections:

1.      SECTION A:    TECHNICAL AND PRICE PROPOSALS REQUIREMENTS
2.      SECTION B:  INFORMATION TO APPLICANTS
3.      SECTION C:     TERMS OF REFERENCE REGARDING THE PROVISION OF NUMBER PORTABILITY ADMINITRATION SERVICE IN JAMAICA
4.      LIST OF PROPOSALS SUBMISSION FORMS (ANNEXURES)
5.      LIST OF APPENDICES

For those of my readers with a technical eye, the juicy technical stuff is in Section C. Good to read in large font, as the font is a little small and straining on the eye at times!

So it’s clear folks if you’ve sat and read the Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document; the NPA is nothing more than a NPAS (Number Portability Administration Service) that sits in-between each Telecom Operator and handles a CRDB (Central Reference Database) and mediates requests for the porting of numbers between the Telecom Providers via a COHS (Central Order Handling System) as show in the graphic below.


In simpler terms, the NPA manages the Portability transactions between the Telecom Provider, and relays information via SMS/ email to the Telecom Provider, one being the Donor Telecom Provider and the other the Recipient Telecom Provider and the subscriber to indicate that the porting of the subscriber phone number actually took place.

According to the Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document, the physical facility where the NPA is located is called a NPACH (Number Portability Administration Clearinghouse) and doesn’t necessarily have to be on Jamaican soil. In fact the CRDB and the COHS can be located off the island, if no location within Jamaica can be found to host the NPA’s function.

The OUR Expects that the NPA’s Database will consist of the following:

1.      CRDB (Central Reference Database)  - this stores Station codes and Exchange codes for Each Telecom Provider in order to keep track of what numbers belong to whom as well as changes in Telecom Provider after a person’s has put in a request for porting a number
2.      COHS (Central Order Handling System) - This is the front-end interface provided to the Telecom Providers to facilitate the porting of number on request by customer of the Telecom Providers. This effectively lends to the automation of the Number Portability process

That each Data tuple in the Database is expected to have the following basic fields:



The usual requirements are detailed in the Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document and are for a typical Database as shown in the Service Level Requirements below:



NPA and their CRDB and COHS – How the NPACH is expected to mediate between Telecom Providers

This is actually the interesting part.

Apparently communications between the NPA and the Telecom Providers will be all over the Internet and IP Based, if you take a gander at the communications protocols that the OUR recommends in the Technical & Price Proposal Requirements Request document:

1.      Transaction based communication (TCP/IP)
2.      File based communication (FTP, SFTP, SCP) 
3.      Web-based communication: HTML, HTTP/SOAP, HTTPS/SSH
4.      Machine-Machine communication: XML

This communication guideline guides the communications between the NPA and the Telecom Providers mediated via the COHS. The Telecom Provider then the subscriber via SMS/email that their porting transaction was successful or failed, all of which is recorded in the CRDB as well by the Telecom Provider own porting Database. The Telecom Provider will handle that themselves, making the NPA essentially invisible to the subscriber.

The below diagram indicates how a normal request to port a number will take place: 



0.      The subscriber goes to the Recipient Telecom Operator and requests to open a new account and retain his existing telephone number
1.      The Recipient Telecom Operator issues a request for porting to the Donor Telecom Operator via the NPA.
2.      The NPA forwards the request to the Donor Telecom Operator.
3.      The Donor Telecom Operator validates and accepts the porting request, and sends an NP Request Confirmation via the NPA.
4.      The NPA forwards the confirmation response to the Recipient Telecom Operator.
5.      The Recipient Telecom Operator carries out the internal work establishing the new subscriber access.  When the activation has been completed this is confirmed by sending an NP Complete indication to the NPA.
6.      When the NPA receives NP Complete indication from the Recipient Telecom Operator, the NPA sends the deactivation request to the Donor Telecom Operator, sends a SMS/ email to the Subscriber advising that their number is about to be ported, updates the central reference Database with the new porting information on the number(s) in question and distributes a DB Update to update the number Portability Database on all participating networks with the new porting information.
7.      The Donor Telecom Operator deactivates the number on its network; confirms by sending an NP deactivation complete message to the NPA.
8.      The NPA forwards the NP deactivation complete indication to the Recipient Telecom Operator.

Note here that:

1.      Donor Telecom Operator is the Telecom Operator from which the subscriber is porting their phone number
2.      Recipient Telecom Operator is the Telecom Operator to which the subscriber is porting their phone number

And how does the NPA make money? According to the OUR, they’re allowed to charge:

1.      An annual fee the Telecom Providers who subscribe to the NPA’s NPAS
2.      A per transaction fee to the Recipient Telecom Provider, all of which are subject to the regulatory approval of the OUR

NPA and NANP Number Ranges – Despite problems, this’ll allow a Third Competitor to come to Jamaica

Good to note that in their performance guidelines there is no reasonable expectation as to how long a Porting request sent by a subscriber is expected to take. This may be within an hour, a day or even a week. Also no specification as to the cost to the consumer i.e. the upfront fee they’ll most likely be charged by the Telecom Providers.

Even more distressing, it appears to be a service you’ll have to do at the Telecom Providers Offices across the island, as there is no mention of making the Porting Process Online or via a smartphone App.

This makes making me envision long lines of persons waiting to do a Porting request at a Digicel or LIME Customer Care Desk, akin to the long lines that I had to experience just to get a JUTC SmarterCard as noted in my blog article entitled “JUTC SmarterCard Launch not very Smart – Options for KMTR commuters needed purchase and top-up SmarterCard before Cashless Sunday”.

Still, this has me giddy with excitement, being as I’ve been awaiting this for quite some time.

MNP and LNP are critical to Jamaica getting the additional number ranges via a new NPA (Numbering Plan Area) or exchange Code from the NANP (North American Numbering Plan) as noted in my blog article entitled “OUR applies for new Area Code for Jamaica - Competition in Telecoms in the coming Hunger Games Catching Fire of Mobile Computing”.

The next step is for Jamaica to get those Number ranges after the NPA (Numbering Portability Administrator) has been established in May 2015. That may take another six (6) months to a year to assess how well the series works as well as to iron out all the kinks out of the System.

Once the NANP grants the Number Ranges to the OUR and SMA, the Telecom Providers makes adjustments in their Call routing Tables and the NPA administers their usage in their CRDB , then the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) and the OUR can begin an Spectrum Auction anew.

This time for additional spectrum to be sold for the provisioning of a 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Network by a Third competitor, as by that time, there would be an additional 8 million number ranges available for two (2) or more Telecom Providers  to enter what would be a maturing Telecom Market!

Folks, does this sound like a feasible plan? Can it be implemented? Or will it be chaos like the JUTC SmarterCard rollout or even the crowds that greeted many when the DL700 was launched?

Read the documents and make your voice heard by writing/emailing the OUR via the address below:

Office of Utilities Regulation
3rd Floor PCJ Resource Centre
36 Trafalgar Road
Kingston 10
Jamaica W.I.

Tel: (876) 968-6053   Fax: (876) 929-3635
Email: consumer@our.org.jm
Website: http://www.our.org.jm
Facebook Page: facebook.com/officeofutilitiesregulation

Here’s the link to the OUR Documents:





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