Saturday, January 22, 2011

MNP: Mobile Number Portability in India

MNP: Five Facts About Mobile Number Portability in India

Operators have been dragging their feet on the topic of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in India for as long as anybody can remember now. What is MNP exactly and why should you care? It matters if your mobile telecom network operator is not giving you the level of service you desire or the type of call plans you want. You might have a mobile phone number that you'd like to keep – because you have given that number to everyone and changing the number will be painful, might prevent some old acquaintances from contacting you, and/or affect your business.

In such a case, you'd like to retain your current mobile phone number, yet shift to a different telecom operator. That is not possible currently. When Mobile Number Portability or MNP becomes available in India, you can finally retain your number, yet change your operator.
Here are five facts (and possible issues) that you must know about Mobile Number Portability, some relate to the operator and government, others are concerns that you as a user should know.
1. Technology behind MNP
Admittedly, porting mobile numbers is not as simple as pushing a button. There is a lot that has to happen behind the scenes to allow for it. Expensive equipment, logistics on a mind-boggling scale, and ensuring checks-and-balances by appointing a third-party company to carry out these operations on behalf of both (originating and destination) operators.
2. Operator Fear
The so-called "incumbent" mobile telephony operators have been in the space for a long time. The number of dis-satisfied users are inevitably in direct proportion. When new companies enter the mobile operator space, they have nothing to lose (atleast at first) with MNP. Those operators who have been around longer, fear losing existing customers, with good reason. Besides, prized phone number sequences (98484 84848 for example) can be lost to other operators, instead of returning to an operator's own pool of available numbers to hand-out.
3. Logistics, Verifying User Identity
Changing your telephone/mobile/internet provider has always been a "moving" experience. Ask LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) customers in UK and New Zealand about the horrors! Would you have to apply at your prospective mobile operator first, or request porting a number from your existing operator first? Would you have to submit your Proof of Identity documents thrice (old operator, new operator, portability agency)? Despite rules that say the process should complete in 4 days, how long will the porting process take? If there is an interim period when you are effectively a customer of both operators, do you have to pay monthly rental to both?
4. Lock in Period, Inter-circle Issues
After porting your phone number, you are locked in to the new provider for 90 days (three months). If you want to change again, you have no option but to wait out that period. Currently, the Indian government only mentions number portability within a circle (meaning a state in most cases). So you cannot retain the same phone number if you move from Bombay to Delhi.
5. How To Identify A Phone Number?
With landline telephones, all you have to do is look at the STD code, the initial few digits and you can immediately identify a phone number's attributes (physical location and telecom operator). Until MNP comes into effect, you can still do something similar with mobile numbers too. But after implementation, identifying operator, approximate area and age of a number will become that much harder.

MNP In India – How Would It Work For Users? FAQs

The first phase of MNP (Mobile Number Portability) in India is rolling out on 25th November from the Harayna Circle. This is how Mobile Number portability would work for a normal user.
1. Send the following SMS to 1900 – PORT <Your Mobile Number> – eg. PORT 9123456789
2. You will get an SMS with your unique porting code. This is a unique number that will be maintained along with your mobile number with a third party called  MNP Service Provider (Selected companies for this service in India- Syniverse Technologies and Telcordia). The unique code has a expiry time. You need to apply to the new preferred operator with that code within the stipulated time.
3. The new operator will communicate with existing operator and ask for permission. If approved the new operator will set a time for porting and communicate this to MNP provider and existing operator.
4. On the set date and time, the current operator will disconnect the number and pass the message to MNP provider.
5. The new operator will now claim that number and MNP would maintain a central database with the new details.
Sid's Cartoon on MNP Delay in India
1. What is the cost of switching an operator through MNP?
The max. charge can be Rs.19. This has to be paid to the new operator. The operator can choose to charge you lesser.
2. Can i change operator multiple times using MNP?
Yes. Though there is a limitation of how frequently you can change the operator. Once switched you cannot change the operator for the next 90 days.
3. Will my mobile number be disconnected during porting?
Yes. During disconnection from old and connecting to new operator you number will be dead for about 2 hours. Fortunately, this will happen only between 10PM to 5AM.
4. How much time will the whole process take?
According to rules set by TRAI, it shouldn’t take more than 4 days for the complete process from the time of applying to new operator.
5. Can i carry forward my prepaid balance to the new operator after MNP?
6. Can a postpaid user apply for MNP?
Yes. The old operator will approve only after all dues are cleared.
7. Can i switch circle through MNP?
No. The inter-circle portability has not been implemented yet.
8. Can i switch from prepaid to postpaid or vice-versa with MNP?
Yes. You can do that even without MNP.
9. Do i need to have a new SIM from new operator?
Yes. You will need to change your SIM. Apart from number retention everything is same as getting a new connection.
10. Can i Switch from CDMA to GSM thorugh MNP?