Loyalty matters in mobility!

Updated: Jul 26, 2011, 12:22 PM IST

Siddharth Tak/Zee Research Group

The mobile number portability story is headed southwards with subscriber numbers opting for this service falling every month since February when the service came into full play.

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) kicked off with 3.83 million subscribers opting for the service in February. The numbers started tapering off with 2.59 million subscribers registering for MNP in March. The fall continued unabated in April with the numbers coming down to 2.12 million. During May the southward trend firmed up with only 2.03 million subscribers going for MNP.

While India had about 840 million wireless subscribers May end, the total number of MNP subscribers during the four months stood at about 10.57 million, less than one and a half per cent of the total wireless population in the country. This means aggressive plans by top telecom players to wean away consumers from one-another, especially the new players, have yet to fructify. But top operators are not yet deterred.

Anurag Prashar, President Corporate and Wireless - Customer Service, RCom said, “Reliance has grown to over 140 million as on date from 125 million in December 2010. The net additions of 15 million in five months duly factors in the industry churn as well as MNP churn”.

“Ever since the MNP was introduced, RCom has gained high value post-paid customers largely from the corporate and SME segments expanding its high ARPU customer base,” Prashar added. Reliance gained maximum subscribers during the four-month period beginning February this year.

Vodafone was the second best gainer during the month. A Vodafone spokesperson said, “We are extremely happy with the response that we have received on the rollout of MNP. Today, customers are making an informed choice with regards to operators that deliver on quality of network, brand strength and tariffing.”

While MNP regime was introduced on January 20 this year, official data on the service was available only beginning February. MNP allows the subscribers to retain their existing mobile telephone number when they move from one service provider to another irrespective of the mobile technology.

Analysts, however, were not enthused by the response so far to the MNP service. Amit Goel, CEO, Knowledgefaber, a global consulting firm, said, “I think this number could have been much higher. The process to switch could have made a lot of difference. It should have been much simpler yet fool-proof so that people are able to switch effortlessly.”

Mahesh Uppal, Director, FirstCom, a telecom consulting firm, said, “The total MNP subscriber number is just a small fraction of the total wireless numbers in the country. The response is not encouraging at all.” Customer service, connectivity and tariff plans were among issues that blocked heavy migration, he added.

A recent MNP study by Credit Analysis & Research (CARE) said, “The impact of MNP depends on a number of factors, such as the time and ease of completion of the porting process, porting charges, penetration levels, pre paid and post paid subscriber mix and the marketing initiatives undertaken by the service providers.”

“The quicker and more seamless the porting process is, the higher is the likelihood of churn, however if the porting process is cumbersome subscribers may not want to opt for it. One of the reasons for the success of MNP in countries like Australia is that the entire porting process there is completed within three hours,” CARE argued.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has restricted the porting charges that can be charged by the new service provider to each subscriber at Rs 19. Once subscribers have switched to a new service provider, they need to wait for 90 days before changing their service provider again.

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