By Festus Akanbi and Emma Okonji
As the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) operators and subscribers brace up for the commencement of Mobile Number Portability across all networks Monday, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned that all unregistered SIMs will soon be disconnected.
Giving a detailed explanation on the process of number portability, the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said in a live radio programme on Rhythm FM, Viewpoint, monitored in Lagos on Saturday that the commission would soon announce the grace period after which all SIMs yet to be registered will be yanked off the GSM network.
He explained that subscribers who port to other networks cannot change their network again until a period of 90 days, saying adequate measures have been put in place to ensure the success of the measure put in place to give subscribers the opportunity to switch to better networks.
“Both pre and post-paid subscribers can port from network to network. Subscribers can port for as many times as they like. But at any point in time they must retain their network for at least 90 days before they move and this is free,” Ojobo said.
The NCC chief said there would be Number Portability Operator to ensure a smooth operation of number portability, saying the operator and NCC would monitor the process to also ensure that subscribers are not blackmailed into retaining any network provider against their wish.
Meanwhile, subscribers to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators like Visafone and Starcomms may not be part of the revolution.
But NCC has said it will shift focus to CDMA operators after the successful launch and take-off of the MNP service within the GSM networks. Mobile Number Portability is currently operational in South Africa and some countries in Europe, but was delayed in Nigeria since the roll-out of GSM services in August 2001, for fear of unstable networks.
Now that NCC is convinced that the GSM networks are stable and robust enough to carry increased traffic that is associated with MNP, the commission, in agreement with the telcos, announced April 22, 2013 as the new date for MNP launch.
The announcement came after several postponements since 2006 when NCC first muted its intention to introduce the service.
The MNP service, according to NCC, would be launched in a colourful way in Lagos Monday at the MUSON Centre.
GSM operators, who spoke with THISDAY, expressed their readiness for Monday’s launch.
Globacom said all test-runs on its network had been successful and that the network is fully ready for Monday’s launch and implementation of Mobile Number Portability.
Globacom’s Group Chief Operating Officer Mohammed Jameel said 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 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.
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 had already been completed.
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 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 and we are confident of hitch-free rollout tomorrow,” Goodluck said.
He disclosed that a series of tests had been successfully carried out on the company’s systems and infrastructure without any hitch.
Etisalat and Airtel also said they were ready for the launch.
With the affirmation from telcos, subscribers are eagerly waiting to see the successful launch of MNP.
President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, told THISDAY that the launch of MNP had long been expected and hailed NCC for its initiative and persistence in ensuring that telcos come on board with the service, which he said, would impact positively on subscribers and the networks.
Speaking on the importance of MNP, Ojobo told THISDAY that it would lead to better service quality 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 kings, 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 felt short-changed by the network’s billing system.
In technical parlance, Mobile Number Portability is a process that allows subscribers to migrate from one network to another, in search of better service quality, while still retaining the original phone number, irrespective of the network the subscriber chooses to migrate to. Subscribers will be allowed to port their numbers once in 90 days.