Queries over mobile number portability

March 24, 2011

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – With a week to go to the roll out of Mobile Number Portability (MNP), serious doubts are emerging from consumers over how effective the service will be.

This comes as only two operators have conducted interoperability tests for the porting service, ahead of the April 1 deadline.

Safaricom on Thursday said that only they and Essar Telecom\’s Yu had conducted the tests adding to the claims made by Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Mickael Ghossein that operators were not yet ready for MNP.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said that while the operator had spent $10 million (Sh849 million) to build the porting platform,  operators need to test the service for at least three months as opposed to the two weeks set out by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to guarantee seamless porting from one operator to another.

"The customer experience is going to be very poor and customers need to understand that because there has not been enough time to test the platform," Mr Collymore said.

The country missed the initial December 31, 2010 deadline in what operators said was due to logistical issues.

Under number portability, the subscriber will be required to surrender the SIM card to the current provider and acquire another card from the new service provider.

The service will be activated within a maximum of two working days after paying a fee of Sh200, which will be remitted to the company facilitating the switch.

Mr Collymore revealed that during the two-day waiting window, a customer would be unable to enjoy mobile phone services including calling and SMS.

"For two days, you are not going to make any phone calls and any service that you had from the old network you can\’t take with. So all you are doing is taking a number with you and essentially start afresh on a new network," he said.

Industry players suppose that the switch will up competition in Kenya\’s mobile telephony market, which has been gripped by a price and market share war.

The cost of voice calls fell by 50 percent in August to Sh3 per minute and the number portability regime is expected to tilt the market landscape further.

Mr Collymore however said that number portability is not going to have the desired effect some operators were yearning for.

"Most people have more than one SIM card so what advantage is there? You are better off keeping your multiple lines," he said.

He said that while some people might opt to switch from Safaricom, he was not worried that it would have a major impact on its customer base.

"We are not worried about it because the people facilitating the switch are targeting 100,000 customers within the year but we add close to 10,000 new customers a day. So it\’s a move that will not affect not that many people," he said.

Follow the author at https://twitter.com/MjKaranja

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