Info-tech

A year on, less than 2% of mobile users change operators

Thomas K. Thomas Adith Charlie New Delhi/Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018

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Mobile operators have successfully ganged up in ensuring that Mobile Number Portability (MNP) turns out to be a damp squib.

A year since the service was introduced in November last year, only 15.4 million subscribers, less than 2 per cent of the total mobile user base, have changed their operators.

In comparison, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in its regulation on number portability, had estimated a 10 per cent porting rate in the first 15 months.

The numbers in India are also much lower than other countries where 4-16 per cent of the subscribers used MNP to change the operator in the first year.

In Hong Kong, for instance, 27 per cent of the total user base shifted operator when MNP was introduced in 2000, according to data available with TRAI.

Stumbling blocks

According to market watchers, the low porting rate is primarily due to two reasons. First, when a subscriber puts in a request for porting, he hits numerous roadblocks in the way.

And, second, incumbent operators dish out freebies to users who put in a request for porting in a bid to stop him from moving. As a result, out of a total 20 million requests for porting by users, nearly 5 million have not been carried out.

BlackBerry services, a caller ring-back tune, lifetime validity cards, promotional STD or SMS packs are often cited as reasons for rejection of MNP requests.

Mr R.K. Verma, President of Chandigarh Telecom District Telephone Subscribers Association (CTSA), is of the view that telecom operators have formed a cartel to ensure that MNP is not a success.

“People are sick of getting their MNP requests rejected. Those who wish to change the service provider are just switching numbers or taking an additional SIM as many people today have multiple cell phones in any case,” he added.

More proactive

According to Mr Anil Prakash, President of the Telecom User Group of India, a number of porting requests are amicably resolved by the overall pro-activeness of the operator.

“It has become a common practise for operators to use their customer care agents to dish out extra talk-time, free SMS packs, etc., for disgruntled users,” he said.

The facility has, however, had positive impact on the top three GSM players. While Idea Cellular has gained 1.6 million new subscribers, Vodafone has a net gain of 1.2 million.

However, BSNL and Reliance Communications have seen more users go out of their network than what they have got.

>tkt@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 22, 2011

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