Number porting. It seems so simple.

In the Netherlands, there are about two million people who switch telecom providers every year. This is very simple. If your subscription expires and you see that you are cheaper elsewhere, you simply arrange a new subscription with another provider and indicate that you would like to keep your number. This is very convenient for your existing contacts. As simple as it may seem from the front, a lot has to happen behind the scenes to make it possible for you to take your number with you from one provider to another.

How number porting works.

All providers have their own administration and range of numbers they can issue. For example, Vodafone's numbers start with 55 by default, so the exchange knows exactly which provider to forward an incoming call to.

However, this no longer works when a number has been taken over by another provider. Therefore, number porting only works if there is a central platform on which all providers can report their changes. When a call comes in, it is first checked whether the number appears in the list of exceptions. If that is not the case, it is still transferred to the correct provider based on the number.

central platform needed.

Developing such a central platform is no easy task. There are only a few companies worldwide that can set up such an environment, and Referit is one of them. In the Netherlands, number porting is a standard service, but this is far from being the case everywhere. There are some 200 countries in the world and of these, about half have facilities for porting, the other half have not yet set up a platform that providers can connect to. It is a matter of time before that will happen.

More and more countries are opting for number porting.

We keep a close eye on developments in this area. If we notice something going on in a country, we try to make contact to gauge whether there is interest in our platform. Often it is a long process to get the right people at the table. There is usually a tender that you can respond to. Such a process quickly takes a year. In total, there are only 6 or 7 serious IT companies that specialize in number porting, so we always have to compete against the usual suspects. It's a small world and everyone knows each other.

Referit actually got into the industry by accident. The first platform for which we provided the technology was that of the Channel Islands. Since then, some 15 countries are using solutions we realized, including Trinidad, Jamaica, Ireland, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Panama.

all providers on board!

What does it take to make such a platform work? Technical expert Michel de Gronckel explains: "In order for this solution to work, all the national providers have to participate in it. Often it is quite a process before everyone does. Especially the big, established names don't always see the point. They don't benefit from passing on the status quo. Moreover, they often have many legacy systems which makes it difficult for them to connect to yet another new system."

from tender to platform.

If we won the tender, it will take about 9 months to get the new platform up and running. In that time, a lot has to happen. A tender only lays down global starting points and preconditions. In the implementation phase we agree on the details such as the validation process and exactly what data must be delivered. There are major local differences here. In some countries a simple code is sufficient to validate the transaction, while other countries require complete documents to be scanned, sent and checked. That makes it technically a lot more complex, of course, but also more interesting for us.

Furthermore, the way of working is also different. In Western countries it is very common to sit down with all the operators to discuss exactly how the process should be set up. In African countries, you see that the government wants to be more in charge and takes the decisions.

also for providers.

At Referit, we provide solutions not only at the national level, but also for providers. For example, we created a gateway for ATL Communications, one of the major players in the U.S. telecom market. In the U.S., the process is set up differently than elsewhere in the world. For example, you can't have numbers converted from one state to another there, but you can convert your mobile number to a landline number and vice versa. Furthermore, the porting process there is so complex that small operators can hardly meet all the guidelines.

ATL therefore wanted to offer their customers a SaaS solution that would still allow them to easily submit the mutations to the central portal. Referit developed and managed that system including links. There are millions of transfers per month. Really cool!"

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