By Ibrahim Olukotun
The Mobile Number Portability scheme which was finally launched yesterday in Lagos is expected to open a new vista for millions of mobile phone users in the country.
There is need for telecoms subscribers and other stakeholders in the sector to fully grasp the implications of the service allowing phone users to switch network providers.
Number portability which has recorded some success in Ghana will avail Nigerian mobile phone subscribers the liberty of changing from one mobile service provider to another without losing their number.
Telecoms sector analysts believe the incessant problem of poor quality of service will be addressed by the initiative as network operators will make greater efforts to improve for fear of losing customers and ultimately market share.
The service is available only to GSM subscribers on both pre-paid and post-paid services for now. It will be extended to CDMA and fixed line networks like Visafone, Starcomm, O’net among others in the future.
Giving reasons for the non-inclusion of CDMA and fixed line networks, the telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it is adopting a phased approach to the launch of MNP in the country.
It says that ‘the process to port to CDMA networks will begin as soon as the GSM porting process is completed and launched.’
To port their line, NCC explains that subscribers must visit the customer care centre, retail or authorized dealer of the newly chosen service provider noting that the service will not available via phone calls or online.
According to the regulator, subscribers will have to fill Port Request Form along with proof of identity like Driver’s licence, International Passport or an identity card. However, for those that could not satisfy these requirements, their pictures will be captured into the service provider’s system.
To ensure that the service is not abused NCC has set a guideline that restricts porting a number to a new operator or back to the original operator within 90 days of a previous port.
Porting subscribers cannot transfer their unused credit to their new network; hence they are therefore advised to use up their airtime before switching to another network. Likewise, old voice mails, SMS and MMS on the former networks will be lost and they will require new settings for SMS and other ancillary services.
The duration for the completion of porting process has also been pegged at 48 hours by the regulator. NCC says that there are measures in place to ensure the success of number porting and says it has open channels for filing complaints to the regulator against any operator that intends to undermine the service.
Though there are areas in the service like the 90-day period a subscriber should remain on any network before they can port to other networks. This among other things will be moderated with time, says NCC