By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. April 23, 2013: Government has not mandated Nigeria’s teeming mobile telephony family to switch from their network providers, the telecoms industry umpire has explained amid yesterday’s launch of Mobile Number Portability in the country.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says that the mandate to activate number porting was issued only to mobile phone companies to widen choice available to phone subscribers.
Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who made the clarification at the formal launch of MNP in Lagos explains that the telecoms regulator implemented the scheme to offer consumer choice to mobile phone subscribers.
While the telecoms regulator has ordered the major mobile phone companies to offer the service on their network, use of the service by phone subscriber is voluntary, the NCC boss says.
With over 114 million active phone lines in Nigeria, mobile phone subscribers on GSM networks now have the freedom to switch from any non-performing operator and still retain their number with the emergence of the number porting regime emerged in the country.
The MNP scheme was flagged-off yesterday at a well-attended event organised by NCC at The Muson Centre, Onikan in Lagos.
The event attracted stakeholders in the telecoms sector, members of the National Assembly, service providers, mobile phone operators, industry associations and phone subscribers.
The ceremony gave indication that it is a new dawn for mobile phone subscribers as they now can change their mobile numbers though porting is restricted to 90 days.
Josephine Amuwa, Chair of the MNP Implementation Committee and Director of Legal and Regulatory Services in NCC told attendees at the event that, “for the mobile telecommunication consumer, the advent of MNP in Nigeria will do away with the phenomenon of lock-in which is a principal obstacle to consumer choice.”
According to her, “MNP gives consumers the choice of switching to service providers with better service.”
Amuwa explains that the Commission in partnership with the mobile operators has been working to ensure that the new regime is seamless, safe, secure and pleasurable to the consumer.
She adds that the consumers need to be aware that MNP service is neither mandatory nor impulsive but must be done on an informed decision.
According to her, experience from other jurisdictions show that MNP advances customer satisfaction and stimulates the drive by operators to improve their services, boosts innovation and widen the distribution of products and services.
On his part, Juwah says the new scheme is in furtherance of the commission’s vision of providing not only access to telecoms services to Nigerians at affordable cost, but also to continue to provide the required stimulus and appropriate environment for the introduction of innovative services that will impact on quality of telecoms service delivery.
Juwah confirms that the porting service would be provided free for mobile phone subscribers through Interconnect Clearinghouse Limited, the national porting clearing house.
Interconnect Clearinghouse has partnered with Telcordia Technologies and Saab Grintek, operator of South Africa’s number porting service, to make sure MNP service successful in the country, he adds.
Juwah says that the industry regulator has been identified MNP as one such services that could further deepen the competition in the telecoms market with the growing reliance and dependence on mobile communications for everyday socio-economic interactions.
“Our mobile subscriber numbers have become our identity and in most cases, we are required to provide our mobile (telephone) numbers while filling out forms in opening bank accounts, making hotel and airline bookings”, he explains.
According to him, with the launch of MNP today, consumers of telecommunications services will no longer need to acquire new numbers in order to move from one network service provider to another. They will simply take their existing numbers along with them to any network of their choice.
“The power and freedom of choice will, henceforth, rest with the consumer. If a consumer is dissatisfied with the quality of services being provided by a service provider, he/she can simply port out of that network to any network of his/her choice without losing his/her subscriber number,” Juwah says.
According to the regulator, with the launch of MNP, there will be no need for customers to engage in the usually painful exercise of trying to commit phone numbers to memory, neither will they need to frequently change complimentary cards, billboards, letterheads and other corporate documents.
He notes that MNP will revolutionise the way calls are being routed since the National Destination Codes (NDC), that is, the network prefix such as 0802, 0803, 0805, 0809 usually identified with operators will no longer play the role of unique identifier.
However, the EVC points out that there are rules governing the process of customers porting from one network to another and regulating the implementation of by network providers.
“These rules are contained in the Mobile Number Portability Business Rules already published and available on the Commission’s website. In addition, the commission has also developed Regulations for Mobile Number Portability. It is anticipated that these documents will provide guidance, promote transparency and healthy competition among service providers,” he said.
In his speech, Alison Madueke, Executive Chairman of Interconnect Clearinghouse discloses that MNP was borne out of the need to enhance service delivery in the telecoms sector.
Madueke says that, “this scheme is a ‘gift of choice’ to the subscriber as it gives them the leeway to move to whatever network operator that works best for them, while retaining their number”
He adds that, “it will also serve as an inducement to the network operators to provide better service to their subscribers. With this new scheme, I see not only an upgraded and more effective telecoms sector but also a satisfied subscriber base.”
Uche Onwudiwe, Chief Operating Officer, Interconnect Clearinghouse, who took the audience through the operational aspect of the scheme, said that to use the porting service, subscribers can freely change their network provider by walking into the office of any operator of their choice.
According to him, “all you need to do is to fill the port request form and send a text message to 3232 to the National Porting Clearinghouse (NPC) which will inform the former network operator of your decision. The recipient network will then give the subscriber a new SIM card and a confirmation text is sent to the subscriber. And your mobile number and biometric data will be moved to the new network within 48 hours.”
Perspective from operators
While speaking at the event, Segun Ogunsanya, Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria set the ball rolling by noting that MNP will open a new vista for consumers in the telecoms market.
“I am highly delighted that the day has come. It is a day we’ve waited for. MNP is an opportunity for everybody to move to the best network while retaining their numbers. MNP is a call for service providers to put their house in order”, the Airtel Nigeria CEO said at the event which attracted applause from the audience.
“For the consumer, you are the bigger winner in this project because from today, there is no barrier to any network. If you value quality network, you know where to go to” Ogunsanya says noting that as the telecoms sector begins to witness a significant change, the regulator can now focus more on providing the enabling environment for operators to thrive in the country.
Speaking at the event, Etisalat Nigeria, which was represented at the event by Ndidi Okpaluba, Director, PMO and Operational Strategy at the mobile phone company, says that the service has been much anticipated and, “we are delighted to have it now.”
She recalls that Singapore was the first country to inaugurate MNP in 1997 followed by the UK and the Netherlands in 1999 while Spain, Switzerland and Sweden inaugurated MNP in 2002 and United States in 2003.
“It was a success in these countries. It will be a success in Nigeria. Etisalat Nigeria is committed to making it a model around the world, she adds.
Globacom, which was also represented by Olayinka Olafimihan, Head of Regulatory Affairs in the Second National Operator describes the initiative as a game changer in the telecoms sector.
According to him, “we are going to put everything in place and change our strategy to make MNP work in the country.”
Brett Goschen, CEO of MTN Nigeria says that the launch of MNP in Nigeria is a significant milestone in the evolution of the telecoms sector in the country.
“We are at MTN have experience of implementing MNP in others countries. We are in a position to advise customers that are ready to port. We look forward to this new collaboration and look forward to welcoming new subscribers,” Goshen says.