“No more need for several numbers! Activate the single rate and call all networks in Cameroon for FCfa 1”. This is one of the messages that several mobile subscribers have been receiving of late from telecom operators on their mobile devices. Without necessarily understanding the opportunity. Opinions are all over the place. Some see in this the magnanimity of mobile companies. Others reckon that this is just a decrease in the communication costs.
The thruth is that operators are getting ready to implement number portability. In other words, according to the decree from the Prime Minister dated 14 June 2012 setting the conditions for number portability, electronic communication network operators open to the public must ensure the subscribers’ right to keep their number when they change operators. All those who wish to keep their number when they switch networks must submit an application. Once the response of the emitting operator has been issued or the waiting period has lapsed (24 h), the receiving operator has twenty-four hours to effectively carry out the portability as requested.
Currently, sources deep within the telecom companies indicate that MTN, Orange, Nexttel, Camtel are applying all sorts of ploys to each keep control on the number of subscribers. “The client must not be forced, at the given time to port his number to a competing network. Consequently, it is necessary to make attractive offers to talk them out of it”, indicates a senior officer in mobile company based in Cameroon.
Since 2015, the Telecommunication Regulatory Agency (ART) has awarded to Chinese manufacturer Huawei, the contract for the supply, installation and operation of a centralised database, to manage this number portability operation. Barring any last-minute change, this service should be executed to make number portability available by November 2016.
But one must also take into account that Cameroonians got used to having several telephone numbers since the boom in this sector in the early noughties because communications between subscribers of different networks were expensive. It was even impossible until 2004 for a MTN client for example to send a text message to his counterpart holding an Orange number. This has now totally changed. And each operator does not want to lose its subscribers with the imminent arrival of the number portability service.