Omobola Johnson, Communications Minister
By Emma Okonji
Nigerians will today begin to enjoy the benefits of porting their mobile phone numbers from one network to another, while still retaining their original numbers.
This will be made possible by today's launch of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) across the networks of GSM operators.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, fixed the launch of MNP in Lagos today.
Although the launch of the service is not extended to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), operators like Visafone and Capcom, which recently bought over Starcomms, Multi-Links and MTS Wireless, NCC has assured Nigerians that it will shift its attention to CDMA operators immediately after today's launch, to enable CDMA subscribers port their numbers.
In technical parlance, Mobile Number Portability is a process that allows subscribers to migrate from one network to another, in search of quality service, while still retaining their original phone numbers, irrespective of the network the subscriber chooses to migrate to.
NCC in its released guidelines for MNP, made porting free of charge for subscribers, but insisted that subscribers could port their numbers once every 90 days.
Optimistic that the portability launch would benefit both subscribers and the operators, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Tony Ojobo told THISDAY that MNP would lead to quality service and increased healthy competition among operators, in addition to the introduction of value added services by the operators to attract more subscribers to their various networks.
He said it would compel telecoms operators to be more accountable to subscribers and treat them as king, which they actually are.
He added that it would enhance billing integrity, since operators would not want to lose customers who may be willing to shift to another network if they feel short-changed by the network’s billing system.
In spite of its benefits for subscribers as listed by Ojobo, the implication for subscribers is that no subscriber is allowed to port a number more than once in three months (90 days).
Some subscribers, who spoke with THISDAY, were not satisfied with the 90-day rule.
“Suppose I migrate to another network in search of better service quality and discover a few weeks later that the network I migrated to has also gone bad, then I will not be able to port to another network or return to my original network because of the 90-day rule,” Olayinka Adesina, an Etisalat subscriber said.
But despite the fears raised by subscribers, telecoms operators told THISDAY that they had upgraded their networks in readiness for today's launch.
Globacom’s Group Chief Operating Officer, Mohammed Jameel, said the company‘s technical and operational teams had worked assiduously to ensure that the network was in a perfect state of preparedness to facilitate a smooth transition for those who were interested in porting on the Glo network.
“We have put in place a functional number portability gateway (NPG) and we have ensured 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.
Corporate Services Executive at MTN, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, said the company had put systems in place to make MNP a reality for mobile phone users in Nigeria eager to join the country’s most expansive network.
“We have made all the necessary investments in infrastructure and manpower to make MNP a reality and we are confident of today's hitch-free rollout,” Goodluck said.
He disclosed that a series of tests had been successfully carried out on the company’s systems and infrastructure without any hitch.
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, said his network had been upgraded to accommodate over 25 million subscribers from the first day of the launch.
“We are prepared to port 100 percent of our current 25 million subscribers and we have spent $1.5 billion on the expansion of our network across the federation.
“We have equally completed our 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial and have rolled out High Definition (HD) voice in Nigeria,” he said.
Etisalat, the fourth entrant into the GSM market in Nigeria, also said it was ready for today's launch of number portability.