The Final Coming of Mobile Number Portability, Not!

This must have been said a hundred times over by other bloggers, journalists, tech writers and I’m sure you’re all thinking it but here it is anyways – while the most of this planet moves on ahead from 3G mobile to 3.5G and even 4G, we’re still stuck in the dark ages of 2.5G data. But let’s just forget about 3G for the moment, that concept seems like it’s ever eluding us and honestly seems a bit futile sometimes just awaiting its arrival. It’s either sitting on our thumbs waiting or the only other option is for the whole country to simply switch over to MTNL and enjoy their range of 3G services.

There in lies the problem though. For the users who have been using a mobile phone for a good part of their adult lives, it’s not going to be easy. We’ll have to worry about printing new business cards, sending out hundreds of text messages and emails etc. just to inform everyone of the change in our number. It’s ludicrous. The solution was Mobile Number Portability or MNP. We heard this concept spoken of in hushed whispers way back in the second quarter of last year. Everyone heard of it but no one wanted to believe it was true. A Godsend it would have been, like the clouds opening up and rays of light streaking through.

But that’s enough of the melodramatics, here’s the awful truth. Like the promise of 3G that was supposed to be made available to all in 2008 and then in early 2009 and then again in late 2009 and still hasn’t reared its hiding head, MNP has also been a promise un-kept. Number Portability meant anyone dissatisfied with their mobile service provider could easily migrate to another of their choice and retain their number. A small service fee would have to be doled out, nothing’s free of course, but it would save you the aggravation of sending the dreaded – ‘ This is my new mobile number - ____’ message.

Towards the end of 2009 DoT – Department of Telcom had announced that come December MNP would no longer be just a concept spoken of but would actually be a live running system. In December we were informed that the service was scheduled for a Jan 01st 2010 launch, what a great way to start the New Year, till January came and went too. The next news from the grapevine was a possible launch in April and that’s closing in real fast. However I wouldn’t keep my hopes up. The latest from sources is talking about the launch being further delayed by another three months which means sometime in July of 2010.

It’s understandable that the technology to actually get this up and running would require a substantial amount of infrastructure; we apparently don’t have it just yet. However the country has already been divided up into sectors and - Syniverse Technologies was granted license for operating in Northern and Western India and MNP Interconnection Telecom Solutions was granted license for Eastern and Southern India according to a report.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been struggling to keep this promise to the Indian mobile user but has fallen quite short. They estimate that the cost of this service would be a minimal amount of about Rs. 20 after all dues are paid off to the existing provider. That amount hasn’t been officially announced just yet so we’ll just have to wait and see.

The bottom line is that we won’t be seeing this service for at least another two to three months and I estimate a little longer. An optimist could see this in different light. This could seriously heat up the competition with the providers who would do pretty much whatever it takes to retain their existing customers. New schemes with ridiculous rates of ‘1/2 Paise per second’ billing and apparent improved quality of voice are popping up all the time. New players offering better services are also entering the fray.

The attrition level is high enough as it is even with the only option being a change in your number. According to Nielsen survey that was conducted only last year, at least one out of five mobile users in the country would switch operators if given the chance to retain their number. The reality of it is, we just aren’t prepared or organized well enough to make this happen anytime soon. Personally though, my paranoid mind believes the delay is a conspiracy by the many operators who would definitely lose out if MNP were introduced. What’s your opinion, I’d like to know, so please feel free to leave your comments below or add to the topic in our forums.