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CONATEL abandons number portability for the moment

  • April 2, 2024
  • 17
  • 10

In an interview with AyiboPost, the director of the institution, Joses Jean Baptiste, believes that adopting “such a measure will have no effect on the market since the majority of users already have both cards in their possession [Digicel et Natcom]»

Read this piece in English

In 2020, the former director of the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL), Jean Marie Guillaume, announced to AyiboPost that the state had spent several million dollars to allow mobile telephone customers in Haiti to change operators while keeping their numbers, from October 2021.

A painting made of an ornate frame showing the CONATEL emblem is at the entrance to the office of the current Director General, February 23, 2024. | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

Contacted at the time by AyiboPost, the company Digicel – holder of 70% of the market – refused to intervene on the subject. But Natcom welcomed the project with enthusiasm, according to statements from its spokesperson.

Since then, Conatel has changed directors.

And the possibility for sometimes frustrated customers who want to change companies without changing their number is not part of the immediate plans of the institution headed by Joses Jean Baptiste.

For the new director, “adopting such a measure will have no effect on the market since the majority of users already have both cards”, Digicel and Natcom.

Conatel: Joses Jean Baptiste, the current general director

The current director of CONATEL granted an exclusive interview to AyiboPost on February 23, 2024, in his office, at the institution’s premises, in Port-au-Prince.

According to Joses Jean Baptiste, before thinking about number portability, we must “first create competition”.

Interviewed by AyiboPost on February 23, 2024, the director of Conatel also addressed the disorderly sale of SIM cards as well as his achievements and projects, after a year as head of the institution.

For clarity and brevity, the interview has been edited.

Where is the telephone number portability project?

It must be said that number portability is a regulatory measure taken to strengthen competition.

An economic market, just like the telecommunications market, has its characteristics. When you have a single operator, you have a monopoly, and a monopoly in an economic market is not recommended.

Therefore, when you have two operators, you have a duopoly, and users will have a choice. Now, we have no competition. You have competition in a market when there are at least three operators and these operators have around 30 to 33% of the market.

This situation will ensure that operators do not want their figures to decrease and the figures of their competitors to increase. Portability is there to maintain competition, but it does not create it.

The current director of CONATEL granted an exclusive interview to AyiboPost on February 23, 2024, in his office, at the institution’s premises, in Port-au-Prince.

When you have a duopoly, users know the weaknesses of each of the two competitors. They have a SIM card for each of them corresponding to their needs.

In fact, you are already in portability since the majority of users already have both SIM cards.

Portability is necessary when the market becomes competitive, when you have more than two operators. We must already create the competition and if the competition does not give the expected results, we can then put this measure which is portability. But if you use it well before, it’s putting the cart before the horse.

October 2021 was the planned date for the realization of this project by Conatel. This project was there in 2019. Why this sudden turnaround by Conatel?

Because today, adopting such a measure will have no effect on the market since the majority of users already have both cards in their possession. We must first create competition, not have a dominant operator.

Read also:From October 2021, you will be able to change network while keeping your number, promises Conatel

What about the consumer who is not satisfied with a service and wants to keep his number by changing company?

The market must be competitive. If it is not, you cannot use this tool.

What projects are currently being carried out at Conatel?

One of the current projects is the establishment of a platform for the identification and authentication of SIM card buyers, which represents a double challenge both in terms of security and for the digital economy.

With the advent of the digital economy, user regularization becomes a necessity.

This is why the government has worked on this subject and proposed solutions, in particular the establishment of a platform which will be connected to the databases of the National Identification Office. When a user buys a SIM card by presenting an identification document, they can use it to register this SIM card.

Also read: DCPJ investigations slowed by the illegal sale of SIM Digicel and Natcom

SIM card users who have not been registered before can also use the platform to register.

One of the current projects is the establishment of an identification and authentication platform for SIM card buyers.

There is also the development of a legal and regulatory framework for the use of social networks in Haiti. Their use is growing in the country, but there are not yet defined regulations in this regard.

Conatel is looking into this issue and setting up a unit responsible for studying the situation and proposing regulatory measures to the government. The first recommendation of this unit is the creation of a structure responsible for receiving complaints. If only at the legal level, it is necessary to compile all the incidents and complaints made in order to be able to process them legally.

We initiated the project to migrate from analog television in Haiti to digital television. The network of television channels in Haiti uses a very old system dating from 1930, namely analog television.

This migration will allow each television station to broadcast a single program, or to group several stations on a single channel, thus offering several programs on a single channel. If we can compress these stations, it will no longer be necessary to have all these channels.

Read also: SIM cards sold without control on the streets used by criminals

There is also the implementation of electronic signature which will have legal value. The good news is that this week, Conatel received its international code issued by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). This code will be identifiable for Haiti. The electronic signature is of particular importance. It will no longer be obligatory to travel to sign a document, whether to a notary or otherwise. Currently, the project is awaiting an implementing text from the government. Once published, calls for tenders will be launched to find companies that will be authorized to provide the service.

The good news is that this week, Conatel received its international code issued by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). This code will be identifiable for Haiti.

We also relaunched cybersecurity. If we want to integrate the digital world, it is essential to protect our networks, our banks, etc. A cell dedicated to Conatel works in collaboration with the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics (IHSI) to maintain a network protection system against intrusions, against identity theft, etc.

You mentioned the establishment of a SIM card regularization platform in Haiti. Could you provide us with a detailed overview of the progress of this project?

We have already prepared the tender document, which is 95% complete.

Next, we have the specifications. As it is a platform that will be installed, there will be the physical commission which will allow interconnection with the ONI database and telephone operators.

Why aren’t cell phone companies part of the identification process?

They will be part of it. In fact, it is the State which set up this platform and which will license a company to operate. This is why we created the specifications which will define the technical and financial conditions to be interconnected with the ONI and these two operators.


A view of the building housing CONATEL in Port-au-Prince

When will the project be operational in Haiti?

This project will be operational this year. Because in the phase we are in, our tender documents are already prepared. Next week we will adopt and study the specifications. Afterwards, the administrative processes will be carried out with the Haitian State. For now, our work itself is 80% advanced.

Considering the quantity of unidentified SIM cards already in circulation, how will Conatel act to regularize them?

This platform will offer the registration service more easily without requiring physical travel to the companies. We will provide service to customers.

And this facilitation gives companies much more means to impose a deadline for users who have not yet been identified. They will also have the ability to block those who have not registered. This initiative will close the floodgates of unregistered SIM cards.

There will always be a process of identifying the person who obtained a card block intended for sale. But, the focus and what interests us will be the identification of the end user.

In one click, he will be able to identify himself, otherwise the card will be blocked.

Does Conatel have an idea of ​​the quantity of identified and unidentified SIM cards on the national territory currently?

Yes, we are aware of the quantity in relation to our data, but we cannot share this information. However, we are aware of the extent of the situation.

The Natcom company has announced that from February 8, 2024, the electronic SIM (e-sim) will be available. This is a fairly new initiative for Haiti. Does Conatel, as a regulatory entity, have some control over the initiative?

In fact, the technology is booming, and the innovation of embedded digital SIMs is the trend.

These initiatives pose challenges. So, Conatel observes them and sees what is the appropriate regulation that will have to be put in place in due time.

Par Lucnise Duquereste

Cover image published by AyiboPost showing the current director of CONATEL. | © Photo : © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

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Lucnise Duquereste