MNP review in India: Good or Bad?

Updated: May 07, 2012, 11:43 AM IST

Siddharth Tak/ ZRG

For long described as a dud, the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) regime is slowly but surely making a mark in India.

There has been a consistent rise in portability requests during the last five months beginning October 2011 (until February 2012). At the end of October 2011, pan India MNP requests stood at 2.54 million which mounted to 4.32 million by February end this year.

A month on month portability study showed that the numbers grew from 2.54 million in October to 2.67 million subscribers in November. The rise continued unabated in December when the request number touched 3.40 million.

During the first two months of this year too portability witnessed an upward trend with January recording 3.55 million requests and February 4.32 million MNP requests. This reflected a new emerging pattern in portability consumption in the country.

However, prior to October last year, not even a single month during the whole of 2011 witnessed above the three million MNP request level. The month of May last year witnessed the lowest MNP requests at 2.03 million.

Reflecting on the latest trend in the MNP environment, Mahesh Uppal, Director, FirstCom, a telecom consulting firm, argued, “MNP requests are very large and it shows that Indian wireless users are not happy with their current operators.”

Ajay Srinivasan, Director, CRISIL Research, however, countered, “The overall muted response to MNP can be attributed to the overwhelming share of the pre-paid segment, where churn rates were high even before the implementation of MNP and continued to be so even post MNP implementation.”

According to Amit Goel, CEO, Knowledgefaber, a global consulting firm, the MNP math did not add up. “When we do the number crunching it appears to be on the higher side as compared to the ratio of MNP done in total additions done in other countries”.

The overall MNP data analysis showed that during the last 13 months total MNP requests increased from 3.83 million subscribers to 37.11 million until February 2012. A state wise study showed that the maximum MNP requests (3.94 million) were received in Karnataka followed by Andhra Pradesh at 3.46 million and Gujarat at 3.42 million.

But how do these numbers reflect on the overall performance of MNP in India in comparison to the rest of the world?

“The international experience in MNP has been a mixed bag. It has materially impacted telecom sector in countries like Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea while it failed to make a mark in UK and France,” averred Srinivasan at Crisil.

He, however, predicted that going forward the future of MNP in India would be bright since “MNP was launched in India when the sector was going through a hyper-competitive phase with 14 operators across various circles with many offering very cheap tariffs and very little product or service differentiation across players.”

Goel at Knowledgefaber, however, argued that the portability regime would take a hit going forward.

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