MOBILE NUMBER PORTABILITY A FEATURE TO ENHANCE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION...

Technology for satisfaction rather than restrictions...

MUNTAZIR HAIDER
July 16 - 22, 2007

TECHNOLOGY IN PAKISTAN: THE MOBILE SECTOR

The mobile sector or the mobile industry in Pakistan is probably the fastest growing and the most profitable one, apparently, quite visible with the advertising expenses that the mobile vendors are incurring of late. Alongside, there is huge evidence with the costs dropping drastically, illustrating within themselves of the profits that the mobile vendors have made over the years with higher costs and lesser competition. With calling and SMS rates declining at a tremendous pace, the number of subscribers is increasing at a tremendous rate, with nearly 1 million subscribers added to the subscriber list on the whole every month.

QUALITY OF SERVICE

Quality of Service (QoS) has been a very important phenomenon in the studies of operations management in the academic arena; however, the QoS of the mobile sector has declined over the years, with subscribers having a number of issues with the vendors. Some of the major issues are:

*Late delivery of SMS/MMS

*Very high calling and messaging rates (mainly MOBILINK being the culprit)

*Hidden charges

*Network-down issues and connectivity problems

*Etc.

These few and many more issues led to customers having the feel of switching the service vendors. But the major issue faced by the customers was the fact that their numbers were spread out and it became difficult for them to contact all of them to have their numbers changed. This issue was addressed up to a certain extent by a couple of mobile vendors who allowed the switching customers to have the same numbers with just the change of pre-fix. Yet the issue remains unresolved.

PTA STEP: MNP

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) took a major step in this regard a step that has not been taken in many nations across the world and can be considered a major enhancement and advancement in the telecom sector in Pakistan. The step was the introduction of a network feature known as Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the local arena.

ABOUT THE SERVICE

MNP is one the key features of deregulation in telecommunication industry, ensuring that there is some healthy competition in the service industry benefiting the end-user to the maximum. In more general terms, MNP is the ability of a mobile subscriber to retain his/her subscriber number when changing network operators within a country i.e. retaining the same number and the same pre-fix which switching the service. Number Portability is not to be regarded as a subscriber service, which a subscriber can subscribe to. It is a network feature that allows the subscriber to keep a unique mobile phone number and will be imposed by the PTA and agreed upon among different cellular mobile operators. The absence of number portability may therefore give the existing cellular mobile operators a significant competitive advantage over new entrants into the market. Mobile Number Portability is one of the important mechanisms to enhance fair competition among different cellular mobile operators and to improve customer service quality.

CLASSIFICATION OF SUBSCRIBER BASE

In our region, mobile subscribers can be classified into a few distinct categories based on the satisfaction and loyalty criteria towards the service providers:

*Subscribers who are satisfied with their service provider and are loyal to them;

*Subscribers who are neither satisfied with nor loyal to their cellular mobile operators.

*Subscribers who are satisfied but not loyal at all such people tend to regularly shop around for better offerings and shift when one comes their way;

*Subscribers who are dissatisfied from their cellular mobile operators but still have to be loyal. There could be many a reasons for this `forced' loyalty such as monopoly markets and unwillingness to change numbers when shifting; and

*Subscribers who are held `hostages' by their cellular mobile operators and would be the main beneficiaries of MNP. Typically, these are business-class people who have circulated their numbers to all their contacts and who depend to a great extent on carrying out their business through the mobile phone. It is simply impossible for them to inform everyone about the change in number and MNP, when introduced, should see a major usage by this segment.

Mobile Number Portability is essential in order to introduce healthy competition, improve customer service quality among the different cellular mobile operators. Mobile Number Portability allows user to keep their mobile number when changing operator provide significant benefits.

*This feature reduces cost of informing the contacts about change of service

*It eliminates the need to consult the directory enquiries and /or change entries in their address books or computer systems by the callers.

*It also boosts healthier competition amongst the service providers and benefits all users by reducing cost of switching.

*It is pertinent to mention that before changing from one cellular mobile operator to other cellular mobile operator, customer must be satisfied that the service and the terms and conditions offered by the new operator are acceptable, because it is only the number that is being ported rather than the service associated with the number.

MNP CLASSIFICATION

There are three types of mobile number portability:

*Location Portability - This enables a mobile subscriber may move from one location to another without changing its mobile number;

*Service Portability - This enables a mobile subscriber to keep the same mobile number when changing different telecom services;

*Operator Portability: This enables a subscriber may switch mobile operator without changing its mobile number.

In most of the countries, Location Portability and Service Portability are not enforced by the regulator and only Operator Portability is implemented due to following reasons:

*Operator Portability is considered essential for fair competition among mobile operators;

*Location Portability and Service Portability are typically treated as value added services;

*Implementation and operation costs can be significantly reduced if Service Portability and Location Portability are not considered;

HOW IT WORKS?

Before analyzing how it works, following terms need to be clearly defined:

*Number Range Holder - Originally, a mobile number assigned to a particular mobile network operator that network is called the Number Range Holder (NRH) network.

*Subscription Network - The network which is currently contracted to provide service for a given mobile number.

*Recipient Network - The network providing service for the subscriber's number after porting.

*Donor Network - The network which was providing service for the subscriber's number before porting.

Suppose that a mobile phone number is ported from mobile operator A to mobile operator B; in that scenario the network A is called Donor Network and the network B is called the Recipient Network. Before the porting process, network A is the Subscription Network. After porting, network B is the Subscription Network. The 'moved' number is referred to as ported number indicates the routing information to the NRH network.

Conclusively, this is an active step towards making the public realize that technology is for the ease and comfort of individuals and to allow them to enjoy the best service rather than restraining them from the same or restricting them to the option they selected in the first place.

CELLULAR SUBSCRIBERS

 

MOBILINK

UFONE

PAKTEL

INSTAPHONE

TELENOR

WARID

TOTAL

GROWTH RATE

2000

114,272

 

80,221

112,000

   

306,493

15.39

2001

309,272

116,711

96,623

220,000

   

742,606

142.29

2002

800,000

350,000

218,536

330,000

   

1,698,536

128.73

2003

1,115,000

550,000

319,400

420,000

   

2,404,400

41.56

2004

3,215,989

801,160

470,021

535,738

   

5,022,908

108.90

2005

7,469,085

2,579,103

924,486

454,147

835,727

508,655

12,771,203

154.26

2006

17,205,555

7,487,005

1,040,503

336,696

3,573,660

4,863,138

34,506,557

170.2

July-2006

18,321,599

7,884,703

1,121,821

316,000

3,887,774

5,246,565

36,778,462

-

Aug-2006

19,181,846

8,356,668

1,458,008

302,000

4,262,599

5,632,685

39,193,806

 

Sep-2006

20,315,739

8,860,406

1,507,446

285,000

4,597,008

5,936,603

41,502,202

 

Oct-2006

21,273,333

9,032,745

1,557,418

262,000

5,172,966

7,054,115

44,352,577

 

Nov-2006

22,034,166

9,646,958

1,384,534

250,000

5,833,071

7,276,533

46,425,262

 

Dec-2006

22,375,404

10,016,897

1,327,580

329,581

6,624,896

7,614,778

48,289,136

 

Jan-2007

23,228,708*

10,556,563

1,055,134

320,208

7,607,269

7,915,591

50,683,473*

 

Feb-2007

23,882,013

10,886,123

1,030,883

314,871

8,344,570

8,425,693

52,884,153

 

Mar-2007

24,648,917

11,597,183

1,032,982

310,756

9,070,802

8,956,461

55,617,101

 

Apr-2007

25,213,320

12,488,774

1,026,544

326,855

9,629,533

9,714,131

58,399,157

 

May-2007

25,795,009

13,317,768

1,054,663

326,855

10,134,479

10,275,482

60,904,256

 

Source: PTA Website