Mobile users will soon be able to retain their phone numbers while shifting to another operator in another part of the country.

On Wednesday, the telecom regulator said that full mobile number portability should be available within the next six months.

Under the existing policy, number portability is permitted only within a circle. For example, an Airtel user in Delhi can retain his mobile number if he shifts to Vodafone’s network in Delhi. But, if he moves to Mumbai, the user will have to take a new connection or end up paying roaming charges.

TRAI’s new proposal will change this and allow portability even when the user moves to another State.

This will be useful for consumers who have transferable jobs or those who move to another region for a short period but want to retain their phone numbers.

TRAI has pushed the recommendation despite opposition from operators. Telecom firms, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, had said that only a few subscribers will benefit from full portability and, hence, it did not justify the cost they would incur in upgrading their systems.

The recommendations will have to be approved by the Telecom Ministry before they are implemented. Full portability is part of the new telecom policy announced in 2012, so the proposals should go through.

The MNP was launched in November 2010 on a pilot basis and was extended to the whole country on January 20, 2011. So far, it has had a mixed response, with 93.5 million subscribers availing themselves of the facility as of May 2013.

Implementation has proved a problem, with consumers complaining of telecom companies rejecting porting requests on what they call flimsy grounds.

Analysts say that telecom companies will not lose out if full mobile number portability is introduced. “India being mostly a prepaid market, full portability is not going to impact a lot and hence operators are not worried much,” says Hemant Joshi, Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

“This will not have a major impact other than on a few people who migrate.”

(This article was published on September 25, 2013)
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