Mobile number portability (MNP) enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile numbers when changing from one mobile network to another. Often, the only reason that keeps customers from changing operators is the lack of number portability. The inconvenience of having to change phone numbers on business cards and other documents, informing contacts of new numbers, has prevented customers from switching to the service operator of their choice.
The introduction of mobile number portability is expected to change all that.
MNP is implemented in different ways across the globe. The international and European standard is for a customer wishing to port his/ her number to contact the new provider (Recipient) who will then arrange necessary process with the old provider (Donor). This is also known as ‘Recipient-Led’ porting. The UK is the only country to not implement a Recipient-Led system, where a customer wishing to port his/ her number is required to contact the Donor to obtain a Port Authorization Code (PAC) which he/ she then has to give to the Recipient. Once having received the PAC the Recipient continues the port process by contacting the Donor. This form of porting is also known as ‘Donor-Led’ and has been criticized by some industry analysts as being inefficient. It has also been observed that it may act as a customer deterrent as well as allowing the Donor an opportunity of ‘winning back’ the customer. This might lead to distortion of competition, especially in the markets with new entrants that are yet to achieve scalability of operation. As per the policy being implemented, India will follow the Recipient-led porting system.
The time-frame for porting a mobile number can vary: unofficial estimates put the time taken from as little as 3 minutes (Australia) to 2 working days (UK). The average in the US is about 2 hours, while in Ireland, it is 20 minutes.
Interestingly, the implementation of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in India has now been given a definite time-frame. Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra and Gujarat areas of Zone 1, the implementation deadline is 20 September 2009 and for Kolkata, Tamil Nadu including Chennai, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka areas of Zone 2, the deadline is 20 March 2010. This has been set out by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in a circular dated 6 May 2009.
MNP systems shall be built, operated and owned by neutral third parties, who have been issued separate licenses for MNP service. Till now, Syniverse Technologies and MNP Interconnection are the only companies which have been licensed by the DoT to carry out the MNP implementation. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been empowered to issue regulations on the various regulatory aspects related to MNP in India.