Joining the Joneses


Nigerian Communications Commission launches mobile number portability, how prepared are the network service providers and subscribers for the scheme?

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 13, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AT LAST, the much-awaited moblie number portability, MNP, that allows global system of mobile communication, GSM, subscribers to migrate from one network to another without changing their old number is here. The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, finally launched the scheme on April 22. The scheme is expected to ginger competition for efficiency among the service providers.

But some questions beg for answers. How will the MNP work in Nigeria? How informed or prepared are the subscribers for the scheme?

Some subscribers, who spoke to Realnews, were worried that the implementation of the MNP may aggravate the poor quality service across networks. Jacob Okolo, a Globacom and MTN, subscriber, said it would have been better if the operators were given some more time to address the issues of poor quality service and call rates, before the implementation of number portability. “I have a feeling that the implementation of number portability will worsen the network situation and it is my candid advice that the NCC allows the operators to fix the network challenges first, before embarking on number porting,” Okolo said.

Emmanuel Okpe, who is a subscriber to MTN, Airtel and Globacom, said there was no need for the MNP because all the network providers are the same. “I don’t need to port because I currently have three lines and none holds any serious service edge over the others. All the networks offer the same terrible service. Even if I need the remaining network, I will use N100 to buy the SIM card. For now, I would rather buy a new SIM card than go through the process of porting,” he said.

But, Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC, said the service providers are responsible for maintaining appropriate records to satisfy the billing and audit requirements of MNP. The exercise, according to the NCC, would address all the problems in the telecoms industry, while guaranteeing freedom of choice for subscribers, redefining competition in the industry and allowing subscribers to use only one phone while operating on the platform of their choice.

He explained that MNP will give subscribers the options of changing service providers who offer poor services at will while retaining their mobile numbers. “MNP will definitely give consumers varieties of choice but the major issue is for us to improve on our infrastructure and improve services so that we don’t have to be moving from network to network. For the successful implementation of this initiative, the commission has developed comprehensive porting guidelines and engaged a Number Portability Clearing House managed by a reputable and neutral operator which would act as a centralised database and a unified billing system interface,” he said.

According to Ojobo, MNP will also reduce the number of handsets being used by subscribers for fear of network failure, as they have the option to migrate to the best network of quality. He noted that part of the major requirements for a number to be ported is to be registered in the SIM registration database and urged all telecoms subscribers to register their SIM Cards in order to benefit from the service.

On the porting rules, Ojobo stated that subscribers are expected to abide by certain rules to give the system a smooth take-off.  “The following are very important: As a subscriber, you can port to another operator. However, you will be restricted from porting your number to a third operator within 90 days of a previous port; you can port your number as many times as you like in a given year, but there is a 90-day restriction before your next port.”

Meanwhile, major telecom companies in the country have announced their readiness for the commencement of the MNP which has begun across the country. Mohammed Jameel, group operating officer of Globacom, said the company is fully set to activate the number portability in its system. “In terms of system readiness, Glo has completed the procurement and implementation of the network signal routing system and the porting process or gateway management system which is the first to be commissioned in the country and now completely ready for the service. The upgrade and customisation of the network systems, the IT systems, the billing systems that will handle mediation and fraud management and the value added systems have also been completed,” he said, adding that the company‘s technical and operational teams had worked assiduously to ensure that the network is in a perfect state of preparedness to enable a smooth transition for those who are interested in porting on the Glo network.

Meanwhile, Akinwale Goodluck, corporate services executive of MTN Nigeria, has expressed its readiness to flow with the NCC on the number portability. He said the company has put systems in place to make the MNP a reality for mobile phone users in Nigeria who are eager to join the country’s most expansive network. “We have made all the necessary investment in infrastructure and manpower to make the MNP a reality. We are confident that at the commencement date, we will be absolutely ready,” he said.

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