Boostrapping India : COMM.02 - Portable Phone Numbers Act
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Proposed administrative procedure
COMM.02   -   Portable   Phone   Numbers   Act

: To provide portable phone numbers

Pre-requiste readings :
  • Direct Vote in Parliament
  • Administrative issues in telecommunication.
  • RLPP/Jury in Telecom Regulation

    1. The problem
    2. Solution? Portable Numbers
    3. COMM.02 : Portable Numbers Act
    4. Draft of the act to create procedure COMM.02

    The problem : customer is stuck if he has to change his phone number every time he changes phone company

    Say a person has a phone number XXXX-XXXX. He very well could have given the his number to 100s and perhaps 1000s of his relatives, friends etc. Say his phone is charging some amount for calls along with some monthly rent. Say another company comes which offers much lesser rent/charges and/or provides better service. The person would like to change the phone company, but he may not if this will force him to change his phone number. Becuase changing phone numbers may cost him disconnection from many of his customers and thus he may loose some of his business as well. Even if he changes the phone number, this will cuase a lot of inconvinience to all those who are communicating with him, as they will have to change entries in their directories etc. In addition, there is a cost of informing 100s of persons about change of phone numbers.

    IOW, a customer becomes a captive customer of his phone company. The phone company, incl wireless phone companis, know that a person is NOT in a position to change the company, as it would cause considerable troubles to him and his relativs, freinds, clients etc. So a phone company with sizeable base shamelessly starts exploiting its customers.

    In addition, lack of portable numbers stiffles competition. How? Say a town has 10 lakh residents, and teledensity is saturated i.e. at that economic level, almost everyone who can afford phone has one. Now a new phone company, if it comes, will come with two hopes : getting those who have no phone till now, and snatching customers of incumbent phone company. But given that heachaches in changing phone numbers, very few existing users will change. Hence new company will NOT be able to get a sizeable base even it is cheaper. This will discourage the new comers, and create an oligopoly of the incumbents. IOW, lack of portable phone numbers not only increases the prices, but also stiffles the competition.

    Solution? COMM.02 - Portable Phone Numbers

    Solution is to provide portable phone numbers i.e. phone number will NOT change even if a person changes phone company.

    Details of Portable Numbers

    The technology to provide facility that phone number will NOT change even if person changes the company is already here, as long as he keeps the same address. And number can even be location independent i.e. the numbers will remain same even if person changes address and moves to another city/state in India. This will mean a revolution --- a person can keep same number for almost his entire life.

    These days, almost ALL telephone exchanges are digital and computer based. Using such computer based exchanges, there are several ways to realize this. One way is as follows :
    1. Consider a phone owner named A. Say his phone number is V, which is connected to exchange E of owned by company C. A only needs give number V to his associates.
    2. Say A's associate B dials number V. Then exchange with with B's phone is connected will search for V's company/exchange from its local memory. There are two possibilities
      1. B's exchange finds a match say C1-E1. Then B's exchange would ask exchange E1 of company C1 if V is connected to E1. Again, there are two possibilities
        1. E1 is indeed connected to V, and if so, B's exchange will connect with E1 and A and B can talk.
        2. E1 does NOT serve V. Then B's exchange will ask a server of the District to obtain the V's company/exchange. Say it is C2-E2. Then B's exchange will update its memory, and connet B to exchange E2 owned by company C2.
      2. B's exchange does find V's company/exchange in its memory. Then B's exchange will ask a central server of the District to obtain the V's company/exchange. Say it is C-E. Then B's exchange will store this in its memory, and via E it will get connected to number V i.e. A.
    3. If A decides to change phone company from C1 to C2, all he needs to do is inform C1 NOT to serve him anymore, and inform C2 to serve him. He may additionally need to inform the agency which maintains the central server. The change may take a few hours to 1-2 days. But it would NOT require himn to change phone number that he has given to his associated.
    There are several possible refinements of above scheme. In fact, a simple variant of above scheme, which would require a national server, can also enable person to keep SAME phone number no matter where he moves in India.

    Legal procedures to implement COMM.02

    The National Telecom Regulator can pass following orders, or Parliament can enact following law :
    1. Starting some date, the National/District Telecom Regulators will create a new series of numbers, and DIRECTLY sell it to the users for a fee of Rs 1000 and Rs 50/mo for National Portable Numbers and Rs 100 and Rs 5/mo for District Portable Numbers. The numbers sold by National Telecom Regulator will be portable across the country, and long distance changes if any will have to be paid by the owner i.e. callee. The District level portable phone numbers will be valid ONLY in the District and long distance charges if any will be paid by caller. The existing numbers will remain unportable for a while.

    2. Starting some date, EVERY phone company will be required to serve portable numbers for NO extra charge except one-time connection fee of Rs 100 and Rs 5/mo.

    3. The District Telecom Regulator will maintain a server for district level portable numbers and National Telecom Regulator will maintain server for national portable numbers. The exchanges can communicate with them to obtain the exchange with which a portable number is currently connected.

    4. Starting some date, ALL numbers that are given to customers will become property of customers after they pay Rs 100 one time and Rs 5/mo to District Telecom Regulators.

    5. The number will stay with a persons till he continues to pay Rs 5/mo to the District Telecome Regulator or Rs 50/mo to National Telecom Regulator. If he does NOT pay, the Regulators will freeze the numbers for 5 years before re-allocating the same number.

    6. The portable number will be transferable and inheritable.

    Draft of the act to create procedure COMM.02

    I have drafted the text for "Portable Phone Numbers" Act, which if passed by Parliament of India will enable citizens to obtain Portable Numbers. To see the draft, please click here.

         Now citizens can ask MPs to pass this Act. But IMO, it will be wiser for citizens to first enact procedure LM.03, and then use LM.03 to pass this COMM.02 draft WITHOUT any help from MPs. To know about procedure LM.03, please click here.

    If you have any other question, please mail it to Thousand thanks in advance.

    Next - COMM.03 : Creating multi-company wire network