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Mobile Number Portability scheme faces new challenge

By on June 17, 2015

Mobile Number Portability refers to the change of network by a subscriber while retaining his/her number. It is a way of restoring the customer’s status. Therefore, if one switches between service providers, he or she does not have to go through the trouble of informing friends, family, colleagues and other contacts because the number remains unchanged.

To achieve a port, the subscriber is expected to visit the customer care office, retail shop or outlet of their chosen new service provider and meet with the authorised sales person to make a request to port a number.

Currently, porting can only be done by physically going to a customer care office, a retail shop or an authorised dealer outlet of the service provider a customer wants to port to.

The telecommunications companies have consistently said that porting cannot be done over the telephone, online or other electronic means. Rather, they have continued to state that on arrival, the customer is expected to fill a Porting Request Form; and text ‘PORT’ to a number (3232). The porting request is expected to be completed within 48hours.

But then, subscribers have continuously said that there are challenges with the process, and that the more people port, the more the challenges seem to grow and further rubbish the MNP service.

Worse among the challenges listed by subscribers, is the inability to transact financial services on ported lines, either from the subscriber or from the financial institution, or even from the firm rendering the service for the financial institution to the ported line(s).

With the challenges being faced by subscribers, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, emphatically said, “Number portability as a network feature cannot improve network quality, let alone any other service.”

According to Adebayo, the project was already dead on arrival.

He had said in The PUNCH of June 16, 2014, “We have one national network and various operators form parts of the national network; literally speaking, we operate one network. So, a general problem on the national network may cut across all the networks; so porting will not solve such problems.”

However, a subscriber resident in Ojodu area of Lagos State, Mrs. Chinyere Njemanze, said despite the challenge of bank alerts, in terms of delivery failure, operators had continued to mount pressure on subscribers to port to their networks, without considering or resolving the complaints from subscribers.

Bank alerts

According to Njemanze, it is important to ensure that a newly ported subscriber is able to receive his bank alerts after porting to the new network. “But this is not the case,” she said.

“Delivery failure or non real-time delivery of bank alerts poses a significant security and financial risks to porting subscribers. The Nigerian Communications Commission should look into this and see how operators can resolve this issue among themselves,” she added.

Alternative porting channels

Depending on a customer’s location, findings from investigations conducted by The PUNCH showed that access to a point of sale might not always be convenient.

It was observed that customers with high profiles in the society might not be keen to visit a point of sale to port his/her line.

Thus, an industry expert, who preferred anonymity, said, “To ensure a more seamless and hassle-free porting experience for a desiring porting customer, the NCC should introduce alternative ways to port, e.g. the Internet, email, phone calls, etc.”

He added, “The requirement for a physical visit to a shop seems to be at variance with technological advancements which the industry is required to promote.”

Attempts to reach the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Tony Ojobo, to react to the issues raised by Njemanze and the expert failed, as he did not take his calls, neither did he respond to text messages sent to his phone.

Meanwhile, Ojobo had said in an interview with our correspondent last year that the MNP was not compulsory for subscribers. “If a subscriber sees a need for it, he or she may switch from his or her current network to another and if not, he or she remains on its current network.

“So, you don’t expect a surge in MNP uptake since it is based on the decision of the subscribers to either port or stay. Yet, I believe we are having impressive uptake, coming mostly from individuals who have seen a need to migrate,” the NCC Director of Public Affairs said.

Transferring credit balances when porting

The rules currently provide that prepaid customers won’t be able to take their credit balance with them to their new network. In that case, any credit balance must be used up before the customer ports, otherwise they lose the credit. This rule creates an artificial barrier because it prevents the porting process in a number of ways, as people who have high credit balances on their lines will be discouraged from porting because at every point in time, they will have significant credit balances that they will lose if they port.

“Some customers who want to port and have significant credit balances may lose interest if they have to wait for extended periods to first use up their balance before they can port/change network.

“Where the customer ports and forgoes his credit balance to his former network, such an operator/network will be getting value for a service that was never provided to the customer that changed networks.

“To improve the porting experience for customers, it is important to enable such customers to transfer their airtime balances to their new network. The two operators can then settle the credit balances between themselves,” an employee of one of the second generation banks said.

Despite these, MTN’s Corporate Services Executive, Mr. Wale Goodluck, said there was a level of flexibility and innovation. “We are building on our services to make them attractive to subscribers,” he said.