Resolving the problem of older switchboards being unable to call 087 numbers
is as simple as asking one's switchboard vendor to spend less than 30
minutes on-site removing the 087 number range from the board's block list.
"A tiny minority of switchboard systems are around 15 years old and those
that are presumably do not connect many calls. This begs the question why a
few blocked 087 calls has become such an issue, especially when the problem
is so easy to fix," comments Greg Massel, MD of Switch Telecom.
The 087 range was premium-rated and used primarily for adult content in the
early 1990s. Although eventually discontinued because of a public uproar,
many switchboards were blocked from dialling 087 numbers and remain blocked
to this day.
"This is a great opportunity to demonstrate in a practical way that
companies using outdated analogue technology should seriously consider
switching to a modern VoIP-enabled PBX system. The VoIP market is booming so
any company that is unable to call 087 numbers will be at a great
disadvantage," says Massel.
The problem arose early last year when the Independent Communications
Authority of SA (ICASA) allocated 087 numbers to VoIP (Voice over Internet
Protocol) providers who are using them to service corporate and residential
customers who prefer not to opt for traditional landlines. It is likely that
the problem will decrease as more people become aware of 087 numbers and
what they are used for.
Massel adds that VoIP providers should be entitled to provide geographic and
non-geographic services to customers using geographic and non-geographic
number ranges as well as toll-free services on the 080 number range.
For example, VANS should be able to issue 087 numbers to customers in any
part of the country while also being able to issue 012 numbers to customers
in Pretoria and 011 numbers to customers in Johannesburg, as Telkom and
Neotel are able to do.
Recognising the convergence of telecommunications technologies, the
Electronic Communications Act (ECA) replaced the outdated concepts of Public
Switched Telecommunications Service, Mobile Cellular Telecommunications
Service and Value-Added Network Service with technology-neutral Electronic
Communications Services and Electronic Communications Network Services.
Massel believes that there is no basis for restricting an ECS licensee from
providing either geographic or non-geographic services.
"Furthermore, even in terms of the old licence categories, a VANS' right to
provide VoIP services should not exclude its right to provide toll-free
services, which, by their very nature, are value-added," he adds.
"Fixed line providers cannot continue to have a special position in the
South African telecoms industry. If that is so, all we have done is created
a duopoly out of a monopoly."