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Episode Overview

Phone numbers have remained virtually unchanged: they’re a series of numbers that represent a person’s location within the fabric of the phone network. In other words, when somebody dials your number, your phone magically rings!

It may sound easy, but there is A LOT of work that happens behind the scenes. It involves a process called Number Porting.

Today I am joined by Fred Wadia, he is a Number Porting Specialist at Voyager. Fred has been doing this for nearly 15 years, and today he’s going to pull back the curtain on phone number porting.

Transcript

Christian Espinoza 

Technology is rapidly changing our entire landscape. From the tools we use to get work done, to the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. 

 

And although internet speeds are soaring faster than we would have ever dreamed they would, there is something that has stayed reliably constant throughout… I’m talking about phone numbers. Phone numbers have remained virtually unchanged: they’re a series of numbers that represent a person’s location within the fabric of the phone network. In other words, when somebody dials your number, your phone magically rings!  

 

It may sound easy, but there is A LOT of work that happens behind the scenes. It involves a process called Number Porting. 

 

Today I am joined by Fred Wadia, he is a Number Porting Specialist at Voyager. Fred has been doing this for nearly 15 years, and today he’s going to pull back the curtain on phone number porting.  

 

You’re listening to the Growth Podcast, I’m your host, Christian Espinoza. 

 

[THEME MUSIC PLAYS] 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Fred, thanks again. This is actually round two recording, I completely screwed up the first one, so I’m grateful. you were around to do the second one. Listen Fred, can you tell us a little bit about your background story with Voyager, when you started and where you came from? Maybe and how did that journey? Look like for you? 

 

Fred Wadia 

I started in May 2014. I came from Orcon Internet to Voyager. At that time, I was solely got to Voyager for only one purpose, which was to boost the voice side of Voyager. So right now, I do porting for wholesalers and also other stuff like relinquishing and off-numbers and stuff like that so anything related to numbers comes to me. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Have you always done number porting Fred? 

 

Fred Wadia 

I used to do number porting at Orcon too, and I used to help on other things at Orcon also like billing and stuff like that but at Voyager I am solely doing voice porting for Wholesalers and I would say just 10% of retail if something gets escalated to me. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Can you explain a little bit, what is number porting and why is it something that is so important in your role? 

 

 

Fred Wadia 

Sure, number porting is, like if a customer wants to move a number to us from a different provider, an order is placed to move that number and, on the day, when the number is meant to be moved it sends a request to the system saying that we want to take this number to us and the system completes the process, and the number is with us at Voyager. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

I’m sure that you’ve come across issues in the process, is it quite a complicated process would you say? 

 

Fred Wadia 

It is sometimes yes; it does become pretty complicated in the way that different numbers are. If it’s a VoIP number it’s pretty easy to port than to port a PSTN line or a pilot and a stepper type, because a pilot and stepper require, well carriers are different when there’s a pilot and a stepper. With VoIP, the carrier is the same as the carrier most of the time, so sometimes it becomes difficult when porting a pilot and a stepper. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Ok, hold up, hold up. You’re probably thinking to yourself, what on earth is a “Pilot and Stepper”? So let me explain: 

 

A pilot and stepper were the names given to certain phone lines that you would lease off the phone company. The pilot represented the main telephone number of your company, and the steppers were simply used as additional lines. Which meant if one stepper line was busy, the call would hunt to the next stepper line, and so on. Likewise, if you needed to get an available line to dial out on, the stepper lines would serve this need. Usually, these lines were part of a phone service called ISDN which linked up to your company's PBX, or phone system, on site. Due to the configuration of these lines at the telephone exchange, they were always linked up. So, when you're porting a pilot number, you need to list off all the steppers attached to it, otherwise you're going to run into issues, hence why this can prove to be a headache during number porting. 

 

And now back to the interview. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Is this something that you can learn anywhere, or is kind of on-the-job learning? 

 

Fred Wadia 

It’s mostly actually on the job learning to be honest. Everyday I learn some new things, when I request somethings, and somethings do not work, I get expert advice from other providers, so everyday is a learning day on my end. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Are you able to share any stories that come to mind where you’ve had a real hiccup on the job, or something has gone really wrong? Would love to hear some of you have! 

 

Fred Wadia 

Yesterday for example I had a real hiccup on a number, which was a pilot number, and it had multiple DDI blocks attached to it, and the customer did not know how many DDI blocks he had attached to it. For example, this pilot number had 152 DDIs attached to one single pilot! We tried to port the pilot first, and the pilot failed, and we went back again to the customer saying that the number had failed for some reason. We found out that there were so many DDIs attached to the pilot. Once we got that information, we placed another order to get those numbers relinquished because the customer did not want to use those DDIs at all, they just wanted the Pilot to be brought in. We placed another order, the order went through fine, but again it got rejected and the pilot did not come through! The reason? Because there was a missing stepper associated with the pilot. Then we tried for the 3rd time and we were lucky that time, and we relinquished the stepper and we managed to port the pilot to us – 3rd time lucky! 

Christian Espinoza 

So, pilot and steppers, and DDIs, do you expect that customers will know exactly what they have? Is it easy for them to realise what they have and what they don’t have? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Sometimes some providers provide everything on the bill. For example, us, Voyager, we provide everything on the bill. If a customer has multiple numbers, we provide all the numbers on our bill, so the customer does not have any issues, but some providers do not provide all the numbers on the bill and that creates a lot of issues on the customer’s end. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Now I just want to step back a little bit Fred, what got you into voice, and particularly number porting? You said you were at Orcon prior to Voyager, were you doing a lot of number porting there? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Yes, at Orcon actually I, and my other colleague started number porting at also. We were the first people to do porting at Orcon when UCLL and LLU came on board and stuff, we used to do number porting for wholesalers, retail customer, and everything on the Orcon end. When I came here also, I had expertise on porting side, so I had expertise there and now I am a subject matter expert at Voyager. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

What existed before number porting? Was there anything there, or was there even a need for number porting? How did it work? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Before number porting came out, I don’t think there was anything there, except Spark and Telstra used to have a system where they used to create Call Readdressed numbers. So, a call readdressed number is a number that forwards to another number at Telstra Clear, and that’s how they used to do that at Telstra Clear, but before that there was nothing called number porting at all. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Sticking with the topic of numbers, I’m curious, maybe you can help me debunk a myth, but I’ve heard of ‘Golden Numbers’ Can you talk a little bit about what that is, and if that’s a real thing? 

 

Fred Wadia 

The Golden number and platinum number only exist at Voyager. 

 

Golden numbers are the numbers that are very important, in the sense that, the last four digits are like, 1234, or 7777, or it will be 8888, and those numbers are very important at our end. So, what we do is, when a customer wants a golden number or a platinum number for example, is we assign the number to the customer, or to the wholesaler, but on one condition – that they cannot port the number out, and we just charge them a rental charge per number, per month. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Have you ever seen, or ever experienced where customers are fighting over a number? Does that ever happen? 

 

Fred Wadia 

It does, but it’s very very rare to be honest. If we have assigned a number to a customer but that number belongs to another customer which was just, by mistake, relinquished by the wholesaler, and that’s the reason that would happen but it’s very very rare that it comes up. 

 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Do you believe number porting will only pick up in volume as we move more into Voice over IP technologies, and away from the traditional copper phone lines? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Absolutely, 100% it will ramp up to be honest. Now there are mobiles on the same network being ported to the same system, as well as the normal VoIP lines, on the same system. Just an FYI, VoIP numbers are cheaper than PSTN numbers, so there is a lot of move of numbers up and down that system as we speak.  

 

Christian Espinoza 

Can you tell me, is there anything that really helps you in your regular day to day, that actually helps you carry out your job? 

 

Fred Wadia 

I have a good system on my end and the other systems which I work on, so it’s pretty seamless on our end. There are some hiccups sometimes that come up when the systems are slow on the other side, where the ports do not get completed as soon as possible and the customers are down for like 1 hour or so, max. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

So, when a customer is down for an hour or more, what can you do in that situation? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Well, I do correspond with our Wholesalers, if I get information from our carrier that there is a delay from completing the ports. So, I do send updates to the Wholesalers that are porting on that day and I tell them to please inform their customer and just create proper expectations for this. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Would you say by now, after years of number porting in the industry that maybe some customers are maybe used to this? Or are these kinds of, outages and loss of service still really stressful for end customers? 

 

Fred Wadia 

It’s pretty less now because things are automated on the other side of stuff, so all other providers have automation going through also for completing the ports and getting the networks updated for that number. It’s pretty less but yes it does happen, it is electronics, and it is systems so there will be systems going down sometimes or the other. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

What’s your opinion on fully automating this process to the point that you won’t even need a person, like, where we wouldn’t even need you, Fred? I hate to say it, but what is the possibility of that happening? 

 

Fred Wadia 

The possibility of a person not doing number porting is impossible to be honest, because there are so many legacy systems at the back end of so many different providers, big providers I’d say, so there has to be a manual process required, for example, a validation to be sent out, a port approval to be sent out manually. But, by and large, yes, if it’s a single number, if it’s a residential number, yes things can be automated in the sense that the system can validate the number and send the porting to the system and get it approved and the customer gets an email, and on the day when the number has been ported, they get another email saying the number has progressed and it gets closed and completed and the customer is with us. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

So, in a really good day of number porting, what does that look like? A really successful day for you? 

 

 

Fred Wadia 

A successful day would be when the numbers get triggered at…well, there are 2 time slots when the numbers get triggered and in progress, one is at 8 o’clock and one is in the afternoon which is at 12 o’clock, and when the number gets triggered I monitor all the ports which are in progress and the order is completed, I have a look and see if the networks have been correctly updated and the numbers are correctly ported to us. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

So, Fred just to finish, could you give any words of advice for people who are, you know, either just starting out in this voice industry or with number porting in particular, what would you say to them? 

 

Fred Wadia 

Well, I would just say to them to stick to what you like. The main thing is you should like number porting type of stuff and provisioning the customers and contacting the customers too because contacting the customers are very important on my line. The customer should be informed every time. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Fred, are there any last words that you have before we wrap the interview? 

 

Fred Wadia 

If you like number porting, go for it. I like number porting, that’s why I am in that field. 

 

Christian Espinoza 

Just don’t take Fred’s job, Fred is great. 

 

Closing out 

 

Christian Espinoza 

That’s it for this week’s episode. My name is Christian Espinoza, and you’ve been listening to the Growth Podcast, a production from Voyager Internet. 

 

The show was produced, edited and mixed by me. Special thanks to our guest, Fred Wadia. 

 

If you liked this episode and would like to hear more, simply subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And if you have any burning number porting questions that you’re just itching to ask, then Fred is definitely the man to see. 

 

Until next time, Peace.