Voice over IP providers, rushing to steal market share away from the incumbent telephone service providers, have found themselves a step behind their facilities-based competitors in offering local number portability (LNP). The ability to port an existing telephone number to a VoIP service provider is seen as one of the key requirements in making VoIP a viable alternative to local landline. The problem facing VoIP providers in capturing subscribers is that LNP isn’t available in all parts of municipalities. For example, a customer can port an existing telephone number to Vonage Canada in downtown Ottawa. But those who live in the Orleans, a community on the eastern boundary of the city, and in Kanata, a community on the western periphery of the city, can’t port an existing local telephone number to Vonage.  Bill Rainey, president of Vonage Canada, tells Network Letter that it is the company’s goal to have "as pervasive network coverage as we can in Canada (to offer local number portability) and that’s what we’re working towards." He adds the issue is one of technical capability and that it will take time to build out. "If a customer can’t today (port their existing number), it’s because we don’t have at this point a technical capability where we have grown our network with a PRI (primary rate interface) that can connect that particular geographic area," he explains.  A PRI is a standard connection that is required to allow VoIP providers to offer LNP in a particular geographic area. If that PRI is not deployed, then the VoIP provider can’t offer LNP. Rainey says the company has suppliers currently in the process of deploying those types of facilities to "make sure that we’re connected to the PSTN."  There are also network characteristics that make it difficult to offer LNP across an entire municipal region. Within the larger municipal boundaries, there are sub central offices deployed in the outer urban areas, which are all connected to the primary hub in the core of the city. In this situation, the VoIP provider has to install network connections in the outer urban areas to offer LNP.  Making LNP available for VoIP services isn’t a difficult undertaking it’s time consuming. It takes time to integrate a municipal network that was once a series of separate networks.  "We’ve got basic services today in Ottawa (for example) and it’s just a matter of time and growing out…getting that cable connection out to different areas in the Greater Ottawa Area," Rainey tells NL.  One of the challenges associated with making this information known to potential customers is associated with the limitations of the retail environment. Sales people at the big box consumer electronics stores are trained on the benefits and limitations of VoIP service. Employee turnover, however, introduces challenges in keeping the staff well informed.  Rainey says that this does present its challenges. "As we roll out retail partners, there is an intensive training program for all of them. We understand though that with any new services that’s new to the whole marketplace, let along new to the retailers, it takes a little while to make sure that everybody is comfortable and that you get a consistent approach to the customers…A lot of those retailers have summer students or younger people, so it’s a constant refreshing of the training to make that we keep a high level of quality and consistency in our delivery of service to the customer," he says.