Insufficient market demand will make full portability unviable, GSM players tell regulator….
Incumbent GSM operators, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, have raised concerns against the Government’s proposal to introduce full mobile number portability (MNP) in the country. Full MNP will allow mobile users to retain their existing phone numbers even if they move to any other part of the country — shift from one telecom circle to another.
Under the existing policy, MNP is permitted within the same circle. For example, an Airtel user in Delhi can retain the mobile number if he shifts to Vodafone’s network in Delhi. But, if the user moves to Mumbai, then he has to take a fresh connection as he would end up paying roaming charges otherwise. The Telecom Ministry wants to change this and allow MNP even when the user moves to another State.
But mobile operators say that the benefits of full MNP will accrue to only a few subscribers, and hence, it does not justify the cost the mobile companies will have to incur for upgrading their systems.
“We believe that in case inter-circle porting is allowed, only a fraction of the subscriber shifting from one circle to another will actually use the inter-circle porting facility. Thus, we are of the view that there is not enough market-driven demand for this type of service (nationwide MNP), and hence this does not appear to be a commercially viable option,” the Cellular Operators’ Association of India said in response to a consultation paper floated by the telecom regulator.
Vodafone said that full MNP will not enhance competition, which is the stated objective of introducing such a system. “This type of switching is not undertaken when an individual is unhappy with his or her mobile service; it occurs when an individual moves residence. Competition can exist between operators within a service area and not across service areas,” Vodafone said in its submission to TRAI.
Idea Cellular said that TRAI should do a cost-benefit analysis before taking a final decision on the issue. “The industry is passing through stressful financial conditions and any additional costs would lead to further pressures. The TRAI needs to allow the market to evolve further before making a move to introduce something as radical as full MNP,” Idea Cellular said.
Users want it
Consumer groups, however, said that the incumbent operators had raised similar objections when the intra-circle MNP was introduced. “They had tried to block MNP for several years so they are trying to do the same again. The TRAI should not only bring full MNP but also make sure that the operators implement it properly,” said Ganesh Tyagi of Mobile Users Forum — a Delhi based consumer group.
Intra-circle MNP was introduced in 2011 but only 80 million users have so far utilised this facility. Of this, nearly 14 million requests have been rejected by the telecom companies.