Latvia to finish last in phone 'switchability'

  • 2004-12-01
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Latvia will introduce phone numbers that can be switched among operators at the end of 2005, according to the Latvian Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, making it the last of the Baltic states to do so.

If all goes to plan, as of Dec. 1, 2005, clients will be able to switch operators while retaining the same telephone number, said the commission.

For their part telecommunication operators said they had no intention to offer the service before next year's deadline, which is mandated by EU regulations. In fact, operators are upset about the transition, as it will require additional costs.

"In our rough estimate, introduction of the system will cost us close to 1 million lats (1.44 million euros)," said Aivars Kreilis, a representative of Lattelekom.

Kreilis told the Baltic News Service that company experts were nevertheless working on the task, and that the number portability service would be launched on deadline but not a day earlier, particularly since the company has no financial incentive to offer the service ahead of schedule.

Mobile operator LMT has also begun preparations for switchable telephone numbers. Spokesman Davids Dane said that the introduction of eight-digit numbers, which should solve the shortage of available numbers in Latvia, was a more vital problem.

"The new numeration system will allow for giving up the outdated geographical numeration system in fixed-line services, thus creating preconditions for phone number portability," he said.

Competing mobile operator, Tele2, said it was not yet clear how the switchable numbers would be introduced.

"We do not yet have any real understanding of the obligation imposed on us. Everything is vague," said Tele2 spokeswoman Evita Matisone. She added that it was unclear whether operators would work out arrangements between themselves or if an institution would take charge.

Lithuania has already launched the switchable number service this year, while Estonia will do so beginning in January.

At present there are some 1.4 million mobile-phone numbers and under 700,000 fixed-line numbers in use in Latvia.