Mobile Number Portability is a process that allows a mobile network subscriber to switch mobile networks without the need to change their mobile number.
Starting on July 7, 2011 (originally scheduled for July 1), Ghanaian mobile subscribers, both prepaid and postpaid, with registered SIM cards, can switch networks while retaining their entire original mobile phone number, including the old network code.
Worldwide, Mobile Number Portability is usually implemented in one of two main ways. It involves either starting the process by contacting your current service provider (Donor Led Porting) or contacting the new service provider (Recipient Led Porting). Ghana opted for the the Recipient Led porting system, which has been favoured by most countries to be a more efficient and smoother process for consumers.
Fears of your network frustrating you during the switch are allayed because subscribers do not need the permission of the donor network (your current network) but rather the recipient network to initiate the process. There are no limitations on the number of times porting can be done but there is a 30 day restriction between the previous and current porting request.
The process itself seems straight forward:
1. A subscriber walks into the shop of the new network provider (Recipient)
2. The new network (Recipient) contacts the old network (Donor), the request is processed and the subscriber is ported to the new network.
3. The subscriber is informed of the successful porting and starts using their new network.
Understandably, there will be slight differences in the actual process (filling of forms, confirmation messages) and other such specific details. It has been hinted that the process will be mandated not to exceed a maximum of 24 hours, with specific providers indicating in various media they will strive for a 15 to 30 minute to conclude the process in normal cases.
In order for mobile number portability to work, there has to be a technical framework for how calls and messages (SMS, MMS) to the subscriber is routed. Again several implementations exist but Ghana has opted for the use of a central database (probably the main reason for the SIM card registration exercise), which conforms with best practices worldwide.
As with any policy that involves increasing consumer rights especially for mobile and internet connectivity, its great for consumers and will increase competition. The process also seems to include agreements to curb blatant enticement of users to stay or move to a specific network. However, most operators are subtly encouraging users to switch, although all the efforts so far seem fair and legitimate. These efforts include;
- Fees: The fee for recipient networks is estimated to be $2.5, while donor networks will incur about 12Gp in costs. All the mobile networks, excluding Expresso for now, will absorb all costs for users who switch tho their networks.
Understandably as the smallest operator by subscriber number, absorbing the costs is a bigger financial decision for Expresso. It will also be an additional burden to finding ways to discount handsets (or any other mitigating measure) to reduce cost of switching to Expresso’s network.
- Contacts: MTN Ghana says it will offer new subscribers FREE SIM backup services to ensure they do not lose any number during porting. It will not be unusual for other operators with the service to match their offer.
The NCA is doing this right by ensuring the legal framework for enforcing the rules are in place, July 6 before the process commences on July 7. Mandating a specific time frame within which the process must be completed and including deterrent sanctions against networks that frustrate the process is further commendable.
So there you have it, a little more insight into the process. Feel free to share anything I may have missed.