BY PRINCE OSUAGWU
Nigeria, on Monday, joined other top countries of the world to launch the Mobile Number Portability. The scheme will give Nigerian subscribers the freedom to change from one network to another and still retain their number.
The regime which flagged off with a massive publicity event by the Nigeria Communications Commissions NCC, is expected to inject more competition among the service providers who would make massive investments on their networks to forestall migration from their networks.
Flagging the regime off in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, said that the Nigerian subscribers have been handed the power to hire and fire their service providers depending on what kind of services they are rendering.
He however admitted that the regime would bring a Win-Win situation in the Nigerian telecommunications industry. The Picture Juwah painted was that with the regime, the NCC would have time to focus on regulation and forget about quality of service because the system has a survival instinct.
For the operators, there are no more stories to tell the customer. It is either shape up or lose the customer, while the subscribers have been entrusted with unlimited choice and power in their hands.
Earlier in her welcome address, Ms Josephine Amuwa of the NCC noted that experiences from other climes, have shown that MNP has helped the operators in streamlining their operations, strengthen the customer service and helps the subscriber out of the SIM locking phenomenon. “Today, the power is entirely in the hands of the consumers” she added.
She also disclosed that a wide consultation was embarked upon before the scheme was flagged off. “We also made sure that it is totally free for the consumer. This phase involves the GSM operators but the next phase would accommodate the CDMA operators”.
In their own goodwill messages, the telecom operators who witnessed the launch of the scheme pledged loyalty to the rules of the game but charged the NCC to ensure success of the scheme like it has been in other markets around the world.
Both the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr Bett Goschen, CEO/MD Airtel Nigeria, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, Head, Regulatory Affairs, Globacom, Mr Yinka Olefemihan and Representative of Steve Evans, Etisalat CEO, expressed happiness at the take off of the scheme, revealing that they have made massive investments in readiness for the MNP regime.
But Juwah made some clarifications: “Expectedly, the service will give the telecoms consumers the freedom of choice, redefine competition and allow subscribers the opportunity to use only one phone and operate on the platform of their choice.
The service will also impose cutting-edge responsibility on the operators who will now ensure their quality of service is good enough to retain the confidence of their subscribers.
However, the subscribers should also understand that the programme is just beginning and will not provide the ‘magic wand’ to address all the problems of the industry immediately”.
The porting rules
On the porting rules, Juwah explained that subscribers were expected to abide by certain rules to give the system a smooth take off. “The following are very important: As a subscriber, you can port to another operator. However, you will be restricted from porting your number to a third operator within 90 days of a previous port; you can port your number as many times as you like in a given year, but there is a 90-day restriction before your next port”, he said.
Expectations from subscribers
He cleared that air on the suspicion that some dubious subscribers may want to port other people’s lines like it used to happen in SIM swap at the early days of GSM in the country, adding that where ever that happens the owner of the line should report immediately and have his or her line restored back instantly.
He however noted that in any case, subscribers would be required to submit certain documents proof of identity passport or driving licence or an officially-validated photographic identity document before their numbers are ported. He warned that any mobile number a subscriber wishes to port must be validly registered.
Subscribers were also informed that they can port their numbers at any customer care office, retail shop or outlet of their chosen new service provider and meet with the authorized sales person to request to port their number as porting was not available by telephone, online or other electronic means.
Meanwhile, subscribers wishing to change their operators to a preferred network are expected to terminate service with their existing service provider before initiating porting with the new service provider.
In Nigeria’s model of porting, Juwah said that both post-paid and pre-paid customers will be able to port their numbers but however, added that once the porting process is complete, postpaid customers are required to settle their outstanding bills to their previous service provider including any early termination fees.
He also warned that old service providers are permitted to use any legal measures to recover any outstanding charges from a subscriber.
In compliance with earlier directive from NCC all mobile operators had expressed readiness for the commencement of the exercise.
The Second National Operator, says it was fully set to activate the MNP in its system. The operator, it was fully ready to begin the implementation of mobile number The operator said it was set in terms of system readiness, process readiness and operational readiness for the smooth takeoff of mobile number portability.
Group Operating Officer of the company Mr Mohammed Jameel said that “in terms of system readiness, Glo has completed the procurement and implementation of the network signal routing system (STP) and the porting process or gateway management system (NPG) which is the first to be commissioned in the country and now completely ready for MNP service. The upgrade and customization of the network systems, the IT systems, the billing systems that will handle mediation and fraud management and the value added systems (VAS) have also been completed”.
Jameel added that the company‘s technical and operational teams had worked assiduously to ensure that the network is in a perfect state of preparedness to enable a smooth transition for those who are interested in porting on the Glo network. “We put in place a functional number portability gateway (NPG) and the first to ensure an all-call query signal transport point (STP) system which are major technical requirements for the successful take-off of mobile number portability on any network”, he said.
Jameel explained that in the area of process readiness, Glo’s internal processes have also been reviewed and aligned with the process and business rule guidelines released by the NCC. He added that Glo’s operational readiness currently stands at 100 per cent as awareness training for staff, operational/user training and system administration training have already been completed.
Jameel also disclosed that a series of tests on the massive network upgrade done by the company has been conducted by Huawei and ALU and an enterprise wide dry run to fine-tune the smooth running of the entire system. This is even as he disclosed that a dedicated MNP team has been trained and assigned to the day-to-day running of the MNP operation right from the Nigerian streets to the engine rooms in all of the network’s data centres.
Also, MTN Nigeria at the weekend expressed its own readiness to flow with the NCC as the MNP takes off today. MTN’s Corporate Services Executive, Akinwale Goodluck, said the company has put systems in place to make MNP a reality for mobile phone users in Nigeria who are eager to join the country’s most expansive network.
“We have made all the necessary investment in infrastructure and manpower to make MNP a reality. We are confident that at the commencement date, we will be absolutely ready. ” Goodluck added
Airtel Nigeria had also declared its readiness to absorb the influx of requests from consumers who wish to port to its network as the long anticipated Mobile Number Portability for GSM operators in Nigeria.
Speaking with journalists at the weekend in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya assured that with Airtel’s robust and expanded 3.75g network coverage, many Nigerian subscribers who had waited so long to join the “best friends network” could finally exploit the window offered by the MNP to realize their wishes.
Etisalat said it has been known as having long canvassed for the system arguing that it would benefit it more than ever before. The operator had long informed that whether scheduled or impromptu, it was ready to adapt and adopt the MNP system because it had already made investments ready for the implementation. It has repeatedly claimed not to have any fear for Mobile Number Portability.