3 January 2013

Nigeria: Number Portability Will Drive Stiff Competition in 2013

The much-awaited implementation of number portability in the telecoms industry will not only drive competition among telecoms operators, but will also increase value-added services across networks, THISDAY has learnt.

Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Tony Ojobo, who reiterated the commission's commitment to commence the implementation of number portability across all networks before the end of the first quarter of the year, told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that the process would ginger competition among telecoms operators because they would not want to lose their customers to another network, since number portability gives subscribers the option of migrating from one network to another at will, while in search of better service quality. "Apart from competition, which will bring healthy rivalry among operators, they will also be forced to introduce value-added services that will attract customers to their networks, and also retain existing subscribers.

NCC had told Nigerians that it would commence number portability in December last year, but few weeks to the end of December 2012, it became done on the commission that it was no longer feasible, when it realised there were no adequate preparations on the part of telecoms operators.

While the NCC was blaming telecoms companies for the delay, the operators on their part, blamed the NCC for not creating the enabling environment for the commencement of Number Portability across networks in 2012. In technical parlance, Number Portability is a process of migrating from one network to another, in search of better service quality, while the subscriber still retains the original mobile number. The subscriber is at will to choose any network from where calls would be generated and received, as long as the subscriber chooses to remain on a particular network.

In order to remove complications of migrating from one network to another and to also address the issue of bill settlement among telecoms operators, the NCC, last year, published on its website, a set of rules that will enhance number porting across all networks. The new rules exempt subscribers from paying any fee that may be charged by telecoms operators, when subscribers make request to telecoms operators, asking for number porting from one network to another

According to the guidelines, a service provider is responsible for maintaining appropriate records to satisfy the billing and audit requirements of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). Services and traffic terminated to ported numbers on an individual recipient operator's network must be charged the same as for traffic and services terminated to non-ported numbers of the same recipient operator. Neither recipient operators nor donor operators may make a charge to the customer for porting their number.

Addressing customer care in number porting, the document explained that customers who port their numbers from one mobile service provider to another should be treated in the same way as customers who cease service with one mobile service provider and begins service with another.

According to the document, where customers suffer disruption to their mobile service, and it is unclear in which network the problem lies, the mobile service providers would cooperate to locate and resolve the challenge.

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