Users can change networks and still keep number

Reports by Pumza Fihlani

Reports by Pumza Fihlani

The playing field has been levelled among competitors in cellphone networks now that mobile number portability (MNP) has come into effect .

This means that from today cellphone users may switch to a network of their choice while still retaining their number.

Users can port their numbers and enjoy the benefits of their chosen networks. Both prepaid and contract users can change networks and porting for prepaid users is just a phone call away, with the change coming into effect about 24 hours afterwards.

Contract subscribers can change networks even if their current contracts have not expired. Prepaid customers have to buy new starter packs for the new network. They can then phone the network's customer service centre to port.

Users need only contact their new services to request a port and obtain more information regarding tariffs and costs.

Better still, MNP will allow users to switch between networks while retaining the same number, and none of the networks will charge porting fees. All the networks - Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile - have indicated they will pick up the porting-fee costs.

Sapa reports that Cell C chief Jeffrey Hedberg said Cell C would bear the cost on behalf of those wishing to move to Cell C in order to make MNP affordable.

"We have been waiting for number portability," he said, blaming Vodacom and MTN for delaying the process for months.

"Finally they have lost and customers are now free to keep their cellphone number and choose any of the three network operators as their provider."

Dot Field, a spokesman for Vodacom, welcomed the introduction of MNP, as did Nicholas Maweni of Virgin Mobile and Bernice Samuels of MTN.

All network operators will be required to pay an administration fee to Number Portability Company, which will act as the porting hub and will facilitate the porting process.

Networks have reserved the right to accept or refuse the port.