By William Casis

Sen. Win Gatchalian called on telecommunication companies to immediately put in place a mechanism for the implementation of the Mobile Number Portability Act (MNPA) now that telecom giants Smart and Globe and newcomer Dito Telecommunity announced they agreed to get US-based Syniverse to provide mobile number portability services.

Gatchalian, principal author of the MNPA, stressed that mobile number portability should be available within six months from the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), as provided under Section 11 of Republic Act 11202.

The law was signed in February 2019. The IRR was issued on June 11, 2019 and took effect on July 2, 2019.

Globe earlier said in reports that foreign countries which implemented mobile number portability took 27 months or a little over two years to make the shift beginning from the issuance of the IRR.

He said setting mobile number portability for the second half of 2021 is unacceptable. 

Consumers, he said,  need not wait that long in order for them to be able to have that freedom to avail of the services they want. 

“We are denying the right of every user to choose what is best for them,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian himself is appalled by Globe’s statement saying that during the bicameral conference, the technical working group meeting and even in public hearings, the telcos assured that they will comply with the rules on mobile number portability. 

In fact, both Globe and Smart have agreed that the provision on mobile number portability be included in the renewal of their franchises during the 17th Congress.

“To allow the telcos to renege on their commitments in fulfilling their legal obligations based on other countries’ implementation is tantamount to consenting to another scheme of the duopoly. “

This will frustrate competition and the Filipino consumer will have no other choice but to put up with their underwhelmingly poor and expensive services”, Gatchalian stressed.

The law provides mobile services subscribers with the option of keeping their existing mobile numbers even if they switch networks or mode of subscription services (from pre-paid to post-paid, and vice versa). 

The bill accomplishes this by prohibiting Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) from locking in mobile devices to their respective network, regardless whether the device is sold as a unit or under a service contract.

Mobile services subscribers are not required to pay a fee when they decide to retain their existing mobile number after moving from one mobile service provider to another or changing the type of subscription from post-paid to pre-paid or vice versa.

The law also removes the interconnection fees charged to subscribers for calling or texting across different networks, according to the lawmaker.

Currently, mobile services subscribers are charged an additional PHP0.50 per minute for calls and PHP0.05 for text messages to different networks. In 2016, these interconnection fees generated a total revenue of PHP3.2 billion for one telco giant.

“The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should ensure that the three mobile service providers will implement the mobile portability in accordance with the intent of the law,” Gatchalian reiterated.

Mobile service providers may be penalized with the maximum fine of up to PHP1 million and revocation of the PTE’s operating franchises if they unjustly refuse to provide mobile number portability services on their fifth violation.

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