You take a f**kwit story by the Latvian news agency LETA and you have one of the ingredients for a half-assed news story in a business daily I won't name because I'm not sure what the story is with mildly dissing (as they say in the hood) these folks.
Anyway, LETA triggers a minor newsroom panic by asserting that Latvia's arrangements for number portability means endusers will have to pay for the privilege. Nobody actually says that in the original piece and moreover, nobody actually tells me that either. In fact, they say that as things now stand, people officially know just about f**k all about how things will really look (one of the privileges of blogging is that you can rant, writing the way I might speak to someone about this in an informal manner).
My story started being written that it wasn't so that number portability costs would be passed to customers even if they were incurred by operators. In other words, LETA was writing bullshit. In truth, nobody really knew whether customers might have to pay, but there were strong factors the suggested they probably wouldn't. Putting it so clearly didn't fly on the first try, so the piece was done with a twist that I'm mildly unhappy with. Then again, doesn't mean shit to those who don't read Latvian, and all the better :)...
Unofficially, it looks like the mobiles at least are going for some kind of independent organization to managed the database that knows whose number is where. That means there could be a variety of cost-sharing arrangements. Lattelekom, according to my sources, is pretty close to signing its arrangements with the small number of small fixed line operators that actually have anything going.
One idea that Lattelekom is mulling (and this would apply only to number portability within any of 26 domestic area code zones) is to package the charge for incoming customers (charged by their former operators) as a kind of fee for keeping an old familiar number while at the same time getting better tariffs, higher quality or whatever it was that made the customer want to switch. At the same time, it is also logical that number portability charges, if applied by the operator giving up the customer to the receiving operator, would also be absorbed by the latter simply as a cost of customer aquisition rather than passing it on to the customers.
It is even less likely that the mobiles would pass on charges, as they regularly put up substantial amounts for customer acquisition with such deals as subsidized phones. C'mon, no phone costa LVL 1 or LVL 19 wholesale. The operator is putting up LVL 20 just to get the subscriber signed up for whatever the minimum time is and hoping the revenues will soon make up for the wholesale cost of some mid-range Nokia or Samsung. So why should a number portability charge be passed on to the customer? At best, it will be diluted and hidden. Does anyone buy shoes on sale where the price tag says $75 for the shoes and $4.95 per buyer for the advertising campaign that announced the sale? No, those shoes are "was $ 99.95, now $ 79.95". Basta.
Even if charges were implemented, it doesn't look like people will rush to port their numbers like stampeded lemmings. Lattelekom doesn't see more that 2 % of its subscribers doing so(about 12 000), thought other sources see a double-digit percentage. However, those predicting stampede away from the incumbent (has anyone seen this elsewhere? 50 % was a guesstimate mentioned to me by one source forecasting what could happen to Lattelekom) are logically saying that the unit cost of portability will fall. If Lattelekom spends about LVL 1 million on its number portability platform, "better" to have 60 000 jump ship than 12 000.
One serious issue is whether the Latvian operators will have their act together by the time number portability must be implemented on December 1. That's when the Public Utilities Regulatory Board will start fining operators. The mobiles and Lattelekom say they will be in compliance.
We shall see. Off to Ericsson in the morning.