17 November 2012

Tanzania: Mobile Operators Should Be Ready for MNP, Says Minister

MOBILE phone operators in the country should have in place necessary technical adjustments to enable implementation of the mobile number portability (MNP) to be introduced early next year, the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, has said.

Touted to give more freedom to consumers and enhance competition in the communication industry, through MNP a subscriber of a mobile telephone operator can switch to another operator without having to change his/her current number.

Since customers will have the freedom of changing mobile network operators as they wish, hopes are high that mobile phone companies will improve their services in a bid to retain their subscribers. MNP is, however, a voluntary service and subscribers will not be obliged to join.

"Regulations to guide MNP were finalized since November last year and we should expect it to be operational early next year," the minister said. The technology has also been stipulated in the Electronics and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010, Prof Mbarawa told delegates at the MNP implementation and management summit held in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

However, while expressing readiness to embrace the new technology, some mobile phone operators are still skeptic on response from the market given complications of the system. Vodacom Tanzania Limited's Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Mr Walarick Nittu, said taking up the technology is not a problem but rather response from the market.

"It's a good system that will make mobile phone operators improve services and products to win more customers and retain existing ones. However, there is a need to conduct massive public awareness of MNP," Mr Nittu said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Different tariffs among mobile network operators is among challenges envisaged in the implementation of MNP since customers may be made to pay more to call another customer who would have shifted to another operator, Mr Nittu said.

Presenting a paper at the meeting, Communications Commission of Kenya's MNP Project Manager, Ms Njiraini Mwende, said that MNP also has its limitations. "For instance, once you switch to another operator you will no longer enjoy some services that were provided by the previous provider.

You will only switch with your number and not services," the expert said. While reiterating that MNP would give customers freedom of choice, Ms Mwende said the technology was devised due to the fact that mobile phone numbers have almost become personal identity.

"It is a decision you have to make cautiously," she warned, noting that her country has had experience of using the system since 2011. TCRA Board of Directors Vice-Chairman, Dr Vuai Lila, said the meeting, which drew participants from various parts of the world, aims at sharing knowledge and experience on MNP.

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