My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Who among you Telecoms Providers is without sin cast the first stone against MNP?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who among you Telecoms Providers is without sin cast the first stone against MNP?

{8:7} So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
{8:8} And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
{8:9} And they which heard [it,] being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last:  and  Jesus  was  left  alone,  and  the  woman  standing  in the  midst.

John 8 vs 7 - 9

Globally the world is ramping up for the coming of 4G in its two (2) dominant flavours, LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), as suggested in the article “On call: Welcome to 4G”, published March 9, 2010 11:01 AM PST by Kent German CNET News – Dialed In.

Telecom Provider Digicel Rising Stars is reflective of this push, with virtually everything new, as stated in the article “Rising Star host Search tomorrow - Kiki addresses rumors”, published Monday March 29th 2010, The Monday Star .

Despite the strange off guard comments expressed by CEO of Telecom Provider Digicel, Mark Linehan, who on Monday 16th November 2009 stated that “As far as we are aware, the OUR has not indicated anything of the sort to us.

The issue of number portability is a complex one, which will, no doubt, involve extensive consultation with the industry and a detailed analysis of the associated costs and benefits to the sector as a whole." as published in the article “OUR signals policy shift on portability - Says Jamaica running out of phone numbers”, published Friday November 20, 2009 by, Mark Titus, Gleaner Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner,.

MNP (Mobile Number Portability) is a necessary reality, as according to OUR Director General Ahmad Zia Mian, MNP is now a necessity as Jamaica has used up all of the eight million (8,000,000) phone numbers that were assigned to our LATA (Local Access Transport Area), with only one million (1,000,000) being left.

As efficiency is demand by the NANP (North American Numbering Plan) in order to get extra numbers the adoption of MNP as a precursor to the expected demand for new numbers.

The coming new services being offered in the summer by the Big Three Telecoms Providers Telecom Provider Digicel, Telecom Provider LIME and Telecom Provider CLARO makes MNP a necessity and as such the lack of comment by any of the Big Three (3) on the issue is not only shocking but is now beginning to look absurd.

Who among ye that is without sin will cast the first stone at MNP, the “harlot database” as we Telecoms Technicians from C&W christened the database into which every Telecom Provider will have to dip to make MNP work?

Already the Dominican Republic recently went MNP in July 2009 and some thirty three (33) countries including the United States, Australia and Singapore have gone MNP since, with Singapore widely regarded to have first pioneered MNP in 1997, coincidentally the alleged year Liberalization of the Telecoms Sector by the then Senator Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Telecommunications – and the year I started going to UTECH to do Engineering.

MNP is even in Telecom Provider Digicel’s “home world”, Ireland, which makes the comments of CEO of Telecom Provider Digicel, Mark Linehan in the article appear even stranger. MNP would be best implemented by:

  1. Big Three (3) Telecoms Providers and the other smaller Telecoms Providers registering all their customers and subscribers Phone Numbers, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI using Government of Jamaica approved identification i.e. Voters ID, Drivers License, Passport, TRN, Birth Certificate
  2. Sharing their company resources
  3. Jointly blocking all VoIP traffic both inbound and outgoing from the Telecoms Providers Networks

MNP would pay for itself via the increased revenue gained from cost savings due to VAS (Value Added Services) that can be implemented due to the registering of customers, sharing resources and increased revenue via the blocking of VoIP.

This as is the case with National Telecom Regulatory Authority in Egypt has been proactive enough to do in order to protect its state-owned Telecoms Provider’s revenue base as stated in the article “Egypt bans international Internet voice calls”, published April 5th 2010, (AFP) Yahoo News.

It would also translate to increased salaries for with entry level Flat Salaries as high as JA$2.5 million per year and management as high as JA$10 million per year for all employees.

But, most importantly, it would result in benefits to customers, as stated by Geoff Houston, country Manager at Telecom Provider LIME who said, quote: “For proper mobile number portability to work here there must be a level playing field in terms of pricing. Unless there is that level of fairness it won't allow the Jamaican customer to exploit the full benefits of mobile number portability.”

This as stated in the article “Mobile firms divided on number portability - OUR not ready to take on issue”, published Friday, 15th May 2009, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Translation: Flat Rate Cross-Network Calling. Knowledge of that alone should make John Public as giddy as receiving a free Blackberry from any of the Big Three Telecoms Providers.

But the concerns of CEO of Telecom Provider Digicel, Mark Linehan may hold validity. Their tactic of “ring fencing” as stated by Telecom Provider LIME Executives to protect their fickle customer base, in the past are indeed validated as in 2002 the then C&W filed a lawsuit against Telecom Provider Digicel alleging that Telecom Provider Digicel’s stance on setting Cross Network rates (off-Network rates) mobile was unlawful

It was in breach of the Telecommunications Act of 2000, as the high Cross Network rates between Telecom Provider Digicel and itself, which is currently is about JA$17.70, as opposed to JA$12.00 for Telecom Provider LIME as stated in the article “What’s behind the two-phone syndrome?”, published March 7th Sunday 2010 by the Sunday Herald was unfair.

C&W eventually won the case in 2007 and Telecom Provider Digicel was then ordered to pay over the US$340 million it had owed C&W ushering what was then thought was the coming of flat rate calling regulated by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) despite reservation about regulation by Government by then COO (Chief Operating Officer) Colin Webster as stated in the article Local phone rates may be lowered”, published: Thursday January 25, 2007 by, Ross Sheil, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

However, Telecom Provider Digicel, the sore loser, quickly appealed and the case dragged on until 2009 when Telecom Provider LIME took the case all the way to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Then came the good news.

Telecom Provider Digicel not only lost the appeal, but also passed a ruling in effect upholding Telecom Provider LIME’s position on the case, which is that the OUR has oversight over the regulation of Cross-Network rates as the OUR regulates utilities and under the Utilities Act, Telecoms Providers, NWC, JPS Co. and Sewage despite the fact that the Telecommunications Act of 2000 does not explicitly state that the OUR is responsible for setting rates.

In addition, historically it has been known that the Privy Council always rules in favour of Commonwealth Governments on issues relating to regulation of Utilities in all former British Colonies, thus the outcome was basically assured once Telecom Provider LIME brought the case to the Privy Council.

This loss by Telecom Provider Digicel to Telecom Provider LIME is one of a string of lawsuits that Telecom Provider Digicel has lost, inclusive of the case which was finally resolved in the Supreme Courts in which Telecom Provider Digicel blocked calls on Telecom Provider LIME’s international circuits in December 2008 and January 2009

There was also a case of contempt brought against Country Manager, Geoff Houston and Lawrence McNaughton as mentioned in the article “LIME wins another legal round against Digicel”, published Sunday February 14th 2010 by The Sunday Herald.

So after this protracted period of time, the obvious become clear: Telecom Provider Digicel “misinterpretation” of the Telecommunications Act of 2000 has not only left the company smarting from its legal defeat (need to put a better law firm on retainer, Telecom Provider Digicel?), in its grudge against Telecom Provider LIME it is neither supportive or in defiance of MNP

Especially since this announcement that it is now a necessity leave all of the Big Three (3) Telecoms Providers as well as the small Telecoms Provider with no choice, especially as one Telecoms Provider, Telecom Provider CLARO, is taking legal action.  

Telecom Provider CLARO, apparently awakened from their docile slumber, without waiting for the ink to dry on the ruling from the Privy Council, the prima facie of their lawsuit against Telecom Provider Digicel in the Privy Councils equivalent of the legal gazette as it relates to the OUR and oversight with regard to Cross-Network calling has already filed legal proceedings against Telecom Provider Digicel and a complaint with the FTC (Fair Trading Commission), alleging that the Cross-Network calling rate contract into with Telecom Provider Digicel, albeit legally binding, in light of the Privy Council ruling is now null and void.

It can be claimed also to be an example of anti-competitive action on the part of Telecom Provider Digicel, thus explaining the filing with the FTC as well as the lawsuit being brought against Telecom Provider Digicel.

If this were a chess game, this would be a very good move and a quite fortuitous pre-emptive strike against the “Old’Cel”, as to wait on the OUR to finally make a determination of the applicability of the Privy Council ruling and begin to set Cross-Network rates would take at least another two (2) years at the least or up to eight (8) years at worst.

This as Telecom Provider Digicel may seek to refresh and have the case retried against Telecom Provider LIME, citing that it be interpreted in terms of a specific legal issue between themselves and Telecom Provider LIME.

Even better, the fact that Telecom Provider Digicel did not immediately seek to cancel all Cross-Network contracts (the habeus corpus for Telecom Provider CLARO case) with ALL other Telecoms Providers with which it had set rates for Cross-Network rates via contract!

This would mean that ALL of these Telecom Providers can also join Telecom Provider CLARO in what would be the biggest Class Action suit and Class Action complaint to the FTC involving Telecoms Providers and their complaints with regards to the anti-competitive behavior of Telecom Provider Digicel in setting Cross-Network rates in a manner that is akin to “ring fencing” (to quote Telecom Provider LIME Executives) in a bid to hasten the OUR playing its hand.

Thus, as additional action, it is being recommended by the learned John Public that all Telecoms Provider who have Cross-Network rate contracts with Telecom Provider Digicel that they STILL have not annulled should join forces with Telecom Provider CLARO and not only bring the matter of the anti-competitive behavior to the attention of the FTC

They can also file a lawsuit against Telecom Provider Digicel in a bid to prevent them from appealing the specific application of the Privy Council’s ruling as it relates to the oversight of the OUR with regards to setting Cross-Network rates.

It would force the OUR into action to make all contracts null and void and make setting Cross-Networks rates priority and thus begin to actively regulate and set Cross Network rates between the various Telecoms Providers with Telecom Provider Digicel.

Thus for once and for all setting a level playing field, and as it is easier with the already beleaguered and overburdened OUR, usher in something that the OUR finds easier to regulate and maintain and something that John Public would appreciate: Cross-Network Flat Rate Calling between all Telecoms Providers under a free MNP Platform.

This is once the main pillars are in place in terms of:
  1. Registering all their customers and subscribers Phone Numbers, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI using Government of Jamaica approved identification i.e. Voters ID, Drivers License, Passport, TRN, Birth Certificate
  2. Sharing their company resources
  3. Jointly blocking all VoIP traffic both inbound and outgoing from the Telecoms Providers Network.

But would MNP and the subsequent introduction of Cross-Network Flat Rate Calling result in Telecom Provider Digicel losing market share?

It would if on net rates for the competitor are cheaper, would be the simple answer, so the traditional idea of over the top marketing antics would not work.

It would also result in the introduction of other VAS by virtue of the customers and subscribers being registered in order to participate in MNP.

Telecoms Providers would be able to introduce VAS such as:

  1. Free Postpaid Plans
  2. Election Voting from Home
  3. Personalized [Behavioral] Targeted Advertising
  4. Market Surveys
  5. Geo-Location Services and Personal Tracking Services
  6. Augmented Viewing Services
  7. Phone Directory Services
  8. Video Calling and Tele-Presence services

There is a host of other services that are related to the launch of 3G and 4G by the Big Three (3) Networks, as both Telecom Provider CLARO and Telecom Provider LIME have already begun drafting up plans to go LTE in anticipation of a pricing war from Telecom Provider Digicel WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e).

Thus Telecom Provider CLARO with its free calling strategy and Telecom Provider LIME with its SupaPak and UltraPak and it generous Cross Network minutes would be able to persuade a lot of customers to transfer their numbers from Telecom Provider Digicel to either Telecom Provider LIME or Telecom Provider CLARO.

Effectively true competition for the first time in Jamaica since the Liberalization of the Telecoms Sector competition that would be accelerated by the Recession in the United States of America which started in 2008 and is expected to last another seven (7) years.

The sins of the Telecom Providers are high onto the OUR and the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) altar and are found wanting.

Perhaps the Government of Jamaica, which stands to benefit from MNP by virtue of increased tax revenues should use the additional sale of spectrum to Telecoms Providers that will be available when Broadcasters make the DSO (Digital Switch Over) as a means of pressure on the Telecoms Providers to go MNP with the benefits to all Jamaicans.

Thus making the Telecoms Providers see MNP as being in their best interest, as from my arguments above, none of them is without sin and thus by their consciences alone, cannot cast a single stone and must allow MNP to come to pass as the world is ramping up for the launch of their respective 4G Networks. 

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