Independent telecoms service provider, Switch Telecom, has received allocations of ranges of geographic numbers in the Johannesburg (010), Cape Town (021) and Durban (031) regions from the regulator, ICASA.
This means that Switch Telecom will be able to compete more effectively with the incumbent operators by offering its customers geographic services in addition to the non-geographic services it currently provides on the 087 number range.
Switch Telecom is one of the first VoIP operators to receive geographic number allocations from ICASA. It will be able to offer customers in Johannesburg access to 010 numbers just as Telkom and Neotel are able to, for example, whereas it could only issue 087 numbers in the past.
"There never was any legal or practical reason for any VANS to be denied access to geographic number ranges. We are pleased that the regulator has recognised our right to provide geographic services to our clients following the recent conversion of our VANS licence to I-ECS and I-ECNS licences," says Switch MD Greg Massel.
"This move will greatly enhance our ability to compete with the incumbent operators. The next logical step will be for us to offer number portability for Telkom customers so that they can change service providers without losing their existing phone numbers," he adds.
Switch Telecom is aiming to complete the technical preparations needed to offer its clients access to geographic numbers as soon as possible. This includes making the necessary technical arrangements with the major national operators.
Massel says that the allocation of geographic number ranges to VoIP providers removes one of the last hurdles preventing large scale business and consumer uptake of VoIP services as a complete replacement for fixed line telephony.
Another of these obstacles recently fell by the wayside when VoIP providers made a transit agreement with Telkom that saw the appearance of the 27 87 prefix and made it possible for users to receive calls dialled from overseas.
"VoIP operators also now have the ability interconnect with each other as well as fixed and mobile network operators as well as the legal right to self-provide infrastructure," says Massel. "We are now able to compete on a more equal footing with the incumbent providers since we can offer our customers most of the services and benefits associated with traditional fixed lines, in addition to the lower costs and value-added services of a VoIP network."