By Prince Osuagwu
From today, the over 100 million mobile phone users in the country can now change from one network to another and still retain their numbers.
This is courtesy of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) regime which takes off today.
The regime would be flagged off with a massive publicity event by the Nigeria Communications Commissions (NCC).
However, there are concerns about how mobile phone users can effectively access and enjoy the benefits of the system after the launch.
Perhaps in anticipation of this, NCC has outlined what subscribers should do to effectively utilise the benefits of the system.
Mobile Number Portability makes it possible for a subscriber to migrate from one network – may be due to poor services – to another which he/she feels can offer better services, without losing his/her original phone number.
Already, NCC and telecoms operators as well as MNP service providers, have confirmed their readiness for the scheme while there has been excitement stemming from what MNP is able and about to do.
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 regulator has hinted the subscribers that the programme is just beginning and will not provide the ‘magic wand’ to address all the problems of the industry immediately.
NCC, at the weekend, said that technical hitches may be expected within the first few days of the service launch, but implored subscribers to show understanding. It also advised Nigerians to access its website for detailed information on MNP.
The porting rules
However, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, noted 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 (change) to another operator. However, you will be restricted from porting (changing) 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. This means there is a 90-day restriction before your next port”, he said.
Expectations from subscribers
Just like it used to happen in SIM swap at the early days of GSM in the country, subscribers may port the numbers of other people for no genuine reasons and to forestall this, Juwah said subscribers would be required to submit certain documents. “To move your number to a new mobile operator, you need to bring proof of identity such as identity card, passport or driving licence or an officially-validated photographic identity document. Also, the mobile number you wish to port must be validly registered.”
He also gave hints that subscribers 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.
He also informed the subscribers that porting is 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.
Meanwhile, in compliance with the directive by NCC that all mobile operators be ready for the commencement of the exercise today, almost all the mobile operators in the country have expressed readiness to fall in line with the MNP from take off.
The Second National Operator, Glo, says it was fully set to activate the MNP in its system. Glo said 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 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 also expressed its 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
Etisalat expresses optimism
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.