Indian Union Minister for IT and Communication A Raja has said in a statement that the government aims to bring mobile number portability in the market in major Indian cities by August 2009 and in the remaining cities by the end of this year.
Customers would not need to change their mobile numbers when they wish to change their operator. “Mobile number portability, enabling customers to retain their old number while shifting from one operator to another, would be launched in major cities by August this year,” Union Minister for IT and Communication A Raja told reporters here on the occasion of the launch of BSNL’s 3G services.
Mobile number portability has been a hot topic in Indian telecom circles for a long time. Mobile service providers in India were generally opposed to the introduction of portability. Understandable, as customers who were not satisfied with their current service provide could easily switch to another service provider without changing their numbers. Obviously, this is a feature that puts more power in the hands of the mobile consumers, while high charges or bad service would not be easily forgiven once customers have mobile number portability.
The process of transferring a mobile number from one provider to another would involve a break in service when a number is detached from one provider and added to another. TRAI has said that this period should not be more than two hours.
Initially, mobile number portability would work only within a city. Moving to another city means getting a new number. This may change in the future, though.
Mobile number portability would also work for Indian pre-paid mobile phone connections. In this case, the balance in the existing pre-paid card would be exhausted, or would be lost. Credit transfers to another provider do not come within the purview of mobile number portability. However, whether this also would be offered initially is unclear.
Bids have already been invited for providing the MNP switches.
The decision to introduce Mobile Number Portability was taken in 2007, and later TRAI’s suggestions were taken into consideration. The roadmap for MNP is now ready.
In other news, BSNL which currently has 43 million 2G connections is all set to role out 5 million 3G lines. The Indian government is aiming at 700 million telephone connections by 2012.
BSNL CMD Kuldeep Goyal also said that the comapny would be upgrading the mobile data speeds to 2mbps from 144kbps. Other than this, BSNL is all set to offer services like Live TV, video screening of calls, movie downloads and mobile surveillance.
BSNL has tied up with Nokia, Sony and Samsung for handset bundling, the cheapest of which is priced at Rs 7,000. Voice tariff schemes begin from a fixed monthly charge of Rs 350 for pre-paid and Rs 500 for post-paid connections. Data subscriptions are available starting at Rs 250.