In the first three weeks of implementation of number portability, Antel was the only one of the three telephone companies that had a positive balance of clients who used the tool to change companies without losing their number.
According to data held by the authorities, closed as of February 1, Antel had a positive net balance of about 1,100 customers counting income and expenses through number portability.
Movistar had in the first weeks a negative net balance of about a thousand users, Y Clear about twenty customers, according to official figures accessed The Observer.
Portaciones represent anyway a tiny portion of the more than 4.5 million mobile phone services that exist in Uruguay, according to data from the Communications Services Regulatory Unit (Ursec).
Although they recognize that these are initial numbers, in the government they emphasize that in the first days there was a “stable” and “sustainable” trend.
Since number portability came into force on January 12, Antel began an aggressive and intense advertising campaign, which included a first spot with several renowned figures (including Luis Suárez, Álvaro Recoba, Antonio Pacheco and María Noel Riccetto). and recently a new announcement with Suárez and other players of the Uruguayan national team. The director of Antel for the opposition, Daniel Larrosa, reported that approximately US$ 1 million was allocated for publicity focused solely on portability.
The other two companies, Movistar and Claro, also implemented specific marketing strategies, but with less exposure than the Uruguayan public company.
The implementation of number portability was framed by the political discussion around the referendum of 135 articles of the Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC). Among the contested articles is the one that declared the “right of users of mobile telephony services” to “numerical portability”, as well as the one that forced companies to provide that service.
The promoters of the referendum –which includes the Broad Front and social organizations– were opposed from the beginning to number portability under the argument that the tool would be detrimental to Antel and in favor of the multinationals, also incurring a cost to the State for its instrumentation.
In an interview with The Observer published on January 15, the president of Ursec, Mercedes Aramendia, said that in the early days “the interest was moderate,” but that “the benefits of portability are not measured by the number of people who migrate or carry”, but in how “it dynamizes the market”.
“Companies are beginning to make an effort to put the consumer at the center because they know that now they have the risk that the consumer has more freedom and can choose more. Companies have a double challenge: on the one hand, to retain their customers, for which which they obviously have to be listening to what their needs are; on the other hand, the challenge of capturing new clients,” he said.
The Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, Omar Paganini, also said that “few people” change companies, and that the main thing is in the recognition of a “right” and “greater freedom” for the user.