MNP Regulation – Regulator’s Vision Verses Reality

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In 2009, Indian regulators came out with ambitious regulation to enforce Mobile Number Portability. The vision was centric to number series, network performance, infrastructure control, security, consumers, and competitiveness. In order to make the process quick, the regulators divided Indian geographies in two zones and appointed MNP operator to manage the MNP database. The regulation also included the stringent conditions to access MNP database to mitigate any leakage on consumer data. It also included a clause that any telecom centric service provider must host all infrastructures in India and won’t be allowed to carry out any processes related to MNP data outside India. In order to handle international traffic on the voice and SMS side, ILDOs were asked to install additional infrastructure to direct, redirect voice and SMS (complete one) to the right home network of ported mobile subscriber. The regulators also fixed the porting charges of $0.35 from mobile subscriber to offer the parity.
The regulations forced mobile operators and international long distance operator to invest millions to accommodate expected changes on the subscriber awareness, network, reporting, billing, bilateral agreements and additional resources to execute MNP porting request by subscribers.
The subscriber accountability was nothing but cleared dues in order to opt for the porting request from home to foreign network.
In an environment of stiff competition, tariff wars initiated by new entrants, subscriber acquisition and retention war acted as a blow for all mobile operators.
As of now around 78 million mobile subscribers opted for porting request and in my point of view most of them negotiated free call minutes and SMS as selection criteria to choose new home network. The Circle B and C observed maximum porting request where new entrants launched their services and offered free calling within home network to attract potential subscribers opting for MNP. The indirect user acquisition mode, initiated by new entrant, forced incumbent mobile operator to offer freebees to match with the competitor to retain their subscriber base. The unexpected dynamics impacted new entrant and incumbent mobile operators with low realization of ARPM (Average revenue per minute) and low messaging/VAS revenue.
It is expected that with the rise of tariff by incumbent and reduced freebees, the subscriber flip flop strategy to get the minimum bill will fail.
As against the regulators vision of creating QoS (Quality of Service), security and fair competition as major parameter, subscriber opted for MNP considering low billing, high usage offer.
In my opinion, the regulators must also make subscriber accountable where subscribers must offer valid and authenticated reasoning to opt for the porting service to foreign mobile network. In case, subscriber fails to provide the same then they should be charged for porting to discourage subscriber to misuse regulatory propositions.
In conclusion, the mobile operators spend at an average around $ 9 to acquire a new customer and mobile operator’s interest must be protected. The mechanism must be developed to refine and define existing porting criteria for mobile subscribers. With the rise of tariff and fall of freebees, cost and utilization sensitive subscriber base would be discouraged. Moving forward I won’t be surprised if there is a drastic fall in porting request across circles

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