MANILA –Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to direct the country’s telecommunication companies (telcos) to adopt a Mobile Number Portabilty (MNP) feature to encourage competition.
Pimentel made this remark as the Senate continues to conduct hearings on Senate Bill No. 1302, which seeks to extend the legislative franchise of Smart Communications, the wireless subsidiary of PLDT, Inc.
MNP is a feature that allows mobile phone subscribers to use the same mobile phone numbers even if they switch to a different carrier. Under the current system, the first four numbers of a mobile phone number are assigned to specific carriers, forcing mobile phone subscribers to change numbers when switching to a different telco.
The Senate President said that giving consumers the right to retain their mobile phone numbers forces telcos to improve their services.
“If we are unhappy with our current provider, we should be able to bring our business elsewhere; if we see a competitor providing better deals, then we should be able to switch with as little inconvenience as possible,” Pimentel said.
“It should be clear: the NTC should be on our side, not on the side of the telcos. The NTC should encourage real competition and give us the power to choose and help us force telcos to improve data speeds, to provide clearer voice calls, to eliminate dropped calls, and to ensure that our text messages arrive on time,” he added.
He explained that Mobile Number Portability has been available in the US since 2003. It’s now allowed in other countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Hong Kong
Even ASEAN neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam allow users to retain their numbers even if they shift carriers.
He said that regulators in other countries require telcos to allow MNP “because they recognize that by removing the barriers to switching telcos, they are empowering consumers by giving them the power to choose.”
“There is no reason Filipino consumers should be denied this feature. The technology allows for this,” Pimentel said.
The Senate President stressed that the NTC knows that the numbers assigned to particular telcos do not belong to these telcos and are owned by the government.
“…We are in a position to require telcos to allow their customers to retain these numbers even if their customers want to switch to their competitors,” he added.
Pimentel said that the MNP can be implemented to both postpaid and prepaid accounts as well.
He, however, said that although it entails costs on the part of telcos, the billions of pesos they make each year is “the least they can do for long-suffering subscribers who have a litany of complaints, but have limited options.”
Smart reported that it earned almost PHP8 billion in revenues in the first half of 2016 alone while its main competitor, Globe, reported a profit of almost PHP9 billion during the same period.