Carrier preselection and number portability
The Commission has tabled a Proposal for carrier
preselection and number portability. It is hoped both will be
available by 1 January 2000.
Carrier preselection allows users to use other
service providers than their local operator, for instance for their
long distance and international calls, by dialling a short prefix
before every telephone call. Users can directly choose the service
which is the cheapest and the best. Eventually consumers will have
the option to select alternative service providers, so that their
calls will automatically be routed through their chosen service
provider without dialling extra digits.
Number portability allows users to retain their
telephone number when switching the subscription for their
telephone line to another operator. This is an important facility
in a liberalised telecommunications market: it has been shown that
consumers are unwilling to switch to alternative operators if this
involves the inconvenience of a new telephone number.
Meanwhile, the much-trumpeted liberalisation of EU
telecommunications occurred on 1 January 1998. Already, the
Commission is planning infringement proceedings against Member
States that have not opened up their telecoms markets. Most
countries have implemented the necessary legal framework, but
serious gaps remain. For example, Belgium has merely drafted but
has not put into place legislation abolishing Belgacom's special or
exclusive right to provide telephone services.