By Adekunle Adekoya
AHEAD of the take-off mobile number portability on our shores, there had been palpable apprehension that when the service goes live, some networks will witness an exodus, while others will experience overload.
Maybe it’s too early to know, but my nose tells me that we are not likely to witness porting in any manner that will impact the industry, even if slightly.
The first reason is that our market, nay, our economy, is very much unlike any other in the whole world. It is the unique market characteristics which define Nigeria that makes us different and which is also killing the CDMA sub-sector of the industry. Another reason is that all of us, who own mobile phone lines have already PORTED.
Yes, we have already ported! Because of the peculiar challenges of infrastructure here, telcos have to power their base stations. When the generators are to be refueled, urchins or area boys, if you like, demand money before they can be allowed. If that is not happening, the base stations themselves are being vandalized, such that service to a particular area by a given network is disrupted.
So, to be able to talk at any time, we buy lines from all the networks. If you dial using MTN and it is not going, as we like to say here, you take the other handset and dial using Glo, or Airtel, or Etisalat. Same thing if the call goes through and the line is “breaking.” Callers simply originate their call from another network to the one they were calling before. The end justifies the means; he/she has had the desired conversation with the desired person.
As a result, it is now commonplace to see a lot of people going about with two dual-SIM phones; MTN and Airtel in one, Glo and Etisalat in another, or whichever pairing is desired. To that extent, the average user has devised a porting system entirely Nigerian in character.
If I already have lines from all the networks, why do I have to port out of a network for another? What happens is that if the services of a network suddenly become undesirable, all I do is stop topping the airtime on that line and start recharging the one I feel is offering better service.
Same thing happens when a network is offering a juicy promo: other lines owned by the same subscriber go dormant while the promo lasts. The other thing is the tariff charged; networks rapidly grew their subscriber base using the price mechanism. Subscribers with networks charging cheaper rates tend to use lens from that network more than the others they own.
The handset makers also encouraged Nigerians to acquire lines from all the networks when they hit the market, at first, with dual-SIm handsets. Later, the three-SIM sets, and four-SIM sets came, especially from South-East Asian vendors. Thus, there are various brands of “chinco”phones in the market that can take two, three, and four SIM cards. The only down side is that if the handset gets lost or stolen, all the lines are TOS (remember NITEL?) until another handset can pe procured.
Of course, there is no scientific bases for these assertions, which are aggregates of watching how people use their lines.
Therefore, the unique nature of our market, the parlous state of our infrastructure, the offering of multi-SIM handsets by vendors all contributed to helping the average subscriber here devise his own home grown porting system.