Friday, November 28, 2008

Mobile number portability(MNP)

Mobile number portability essentially means mobile users can now switch mobile operators, without having to change their mobile numbers.

After much dilly-dallying over an earlier Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendation, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has finally decided to go ahead with mobile number portability (MNP) in the country.

Yesterday, Communications minister, A Raja, announced the government's approval of MPN, saying the system would initially be introduced in the four metros i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. Later, it would be extended to other parts of the country.

Mobile number portability essentially means mobile users can now switch mobile operators, without having to change their mobile numbers.

Surveys have shown a majority of the population to be dissatisfied with their existing service providers. Often, the only reason which has kept them from changing operators is the hitherto lack of number portability.

The inconvenience of having to change phone numbers on business cards and other documents, informing contacts of new numbers, etc, has prevented customers from switching to the service operator of their choice.

The introduction of mobile number portability is expected to change all that.

Besides, there are many who feel that the move will keep service providers on their toes, only translating into bigger benefits for customers at large. The thinking being; operators will remain from getting complacent, thanks to the competition, and will try all they can to keep their customers within their fold.

However, the kind of number portability currently introduced does not extend to being able to switch service types (from mobile- to fixed- line) or locations (say from Delhi to Kolkata and vice versa).

Not surprisingly, CDMA operators have welcomed DoT's move, while the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that represents GSM players, is clearly not happy.

T V Ramachandran of the COAI even made a thinly-veiled reference to Reliance Communications (RComm), alleging that MPN seemed like it was being introduced to benefit a 'particular operator' seeking to enter the GSM segment.

Reliance Communications Chief, Anil Ambani, heartily lauded the move, calling it pro-competition, pro-consumer, and above all, pro-choice. He said, for the first time, operators in the four metros were going to face stiff competition.

From the industry point-of-view, MNP is expected to turn the market on its head, as it is very likely to hit bottom-lines of nearly all mobile operators. Operators might even be forced to introduce a series of incentives/schemes to tie-down their customers. Which means additional costs for them, nevertheless good for customers. On the flip side, customers might get confused with a rash of offerings (and a string of operators) to choose between.