Number portability: between user freedom and the defense of Antel’s interests

The latest articles from law of urgent consideration (LUC) –from 471 to 476– They are the ones that refer to the number portability and have generated crosses between opposition and government as soon as they were made known.

Number portability is a functionality that allows users to change phone companies without losing their number. One of its main characteristics from a commercial point of view is that removes the exit barriers users face in switching providers.

In Uruguay, it began to be applied on January 12 after an extensive process that included from the election of the Database Administrator (ABD) to the adaptation to the new system that had to be carried out by both the Communication Services Regulatory Unit (Ursec) and the country’s three mobile phone companies (Antel, Movistar and Claro).

The Cleartech-Cietel consortium was designated as the ABD of the service and each of the telephone companies (Antel, Movistar and Claro) he had to invest US$ 375 thousand according to official figures.

Uruguay was one of the few countries in the region with more than one operator that did not offer this possibility. In Argentina, for example, number portability It has been in force for a decade.

Why NOT repeal

The freedom to choose It is the basic argument with which the government defends number portability. The Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, omar paganinisaid that the main thing is in the recognition of a “right” and one “greater freedom” for the user.

Based on that freedom that is given to the user, the government maintains other arguments such as the importance of the telephone number for the digital identity of people.

The President of Ursec, Mercedes Aramendiafor example, told The Observer what the only impact that a repeal of the LUC article referring to number portability has is on the freedom of the user to be able to choose and own their number. “We are once again in prison, we are unable to change the operator carrying our number, which today is part of our digital identity. We would lose part of our digital identity again,” he stated.

Another of the points on which the government bases its position is that number portability boosts the market given that promotes competition between companies and hence, forces them to offer better services and products. In this sense, they understand that will allow Antel, the state-owned company, to grow.

“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, build customer loyalty, for which they obviously have to be listening to what their needs are; on the other hand, the challenge of attracting new customers”, explained Aramendía in Interview with The Observer last january 15.

Why YES repeal

The promoters of the referendum against the LUC -which includes the PIT-CNT, Broad Front and social organizations– were opposed from the beginning to number portability on the grounds that the tool would go to the detriment of Antel and in favor of the multinationals, also consuming a cost to the State for its implementation.

The main voice against number portability was that of Gabriel Molina, president of the Single Telecommunications Union (Sutel), who, in dialogue with El Observador last Decemberfaced with the government’s argument that competition is positive and that it will allow Antel to grow, stated that “there is the danger” and He explained that if the competition is for services, it will not affect Antel, but if it is for prices, “Antel is dead.”

“If the framework of competition the Uruguayan State regulates it and makes indeed it is for the services and Antel improves its services we are talking about a competition that is not going to affect it so much. Yes now deregulate fully competitive market and leave it to free will allowing multinationals to start compete on prices there antel is dead“, he pointed. According to the president of Sutel, Antel cannot compete with the prices that the multinationals are going to set.

Molina warned that with Antel number portability could cede 11% of its corporate clients, which would mean losing US$20 million per year. In turn, according to a report by the director of Antel representing the Broad Front, Daniel Larrosathe implementation of number portability could generate for the state company losses of between US$123 million in a “minimum scenario” and US$425 million in a “maximum scenario”.

Number portability: between user freedom and the defense of Antel's interests

The numbers and the controversy

Since the beginning of number portability, Antel has some 1,550 new clients compared to Claro’s 130, while Movistar has a negative balance of 1,700 clients.

According to data accessed by La Diario and confirmed The Observer with a source of the Ursec, Antel lost 800 clients in the first half of March, clear 260while Movistar grew by 1,000 customers. For its part, in the last fortnight of February Antel had captured 200 new clients, Claro 50 and Movistar lost about 250.

This information was denied by Ursec authorities and the National Directorate of Telecommunications (Dinatel) who manifested his annoyance at the misinformation generated by “interested actors seeking to influence the political campaign ahead of the referendum”. The owner of the Dynatel, Guzman Acosta and Larasaid to The Observer that the published data is not correct and that he confirmed it with both the Ursec and the ABD. “I categorically deny you. We don’t have a change in trends, it’s fake”, he assured.

However the director representing the Broad Front in the Ursec Directory, Pablo Siriswrote a thread on his Twitter account where he assured that the trend of the beginning is changing and considered as “inelegant that some authorities leak information and appear in the media when the numbers smile at them and disappear when they are not favorable”.

Since number portability came into effect on January 12, Antel launched an aggressive and intense advertising campaign, which included a first spot with several renowned figures (among them Luis Suárez, Álvaro Recoba, Antonio Pacheco and María Noel Riccetto) and also a notice 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.

So far, the numbers show that just 0.3% of the 4.5 million numbers chose to change carriers.

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