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Bid to untangle Mobile Number Portability

NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 4 – The company appointed to carry out Mobile Number Portability (MNP), is calling on mobile operators to develop directories of their customers to make the porting process more convenient.

Porting Access Chief Executive Officer Dr Patrick Musimba says the company is currently constrained on making the service more automated, as it does not have a database to establish the validity of those porting.

Dr Musimba told Capital Business that the service has caused a buzz in the telecoms market, but admits it could be received much better if the customer experience was to make it convenient.

"The service can be developed once we can ascertain that these numbers are real and that the customer actually wants to port and that no one else is doing it on their behalf," Dr Musimba said.

In 2009, President Mwai Kibaki ordered all mobile operators to create a registry of all their customers.
Under number portability, the subscribers are required to go to the operator they would like to move to and wait two days before being switched to the new operator.

Dr Musimba said the automation process could also improve the turnaround time for porting from two days to just a few hours.

"It\’s possible but it\’s also important for customers to remember to settle any outstanding debts they have with their current provider for the process to move faster," he said.

A number of players in the telecoms industry believe MNP will up competition in Kenya\’s mobile telephony market, which is already gripped in a price and market share wars.

There are however challenges to the MNP such as losing all the benefits accrued with the current operator as well as losing contacts saved on the SIM card.

To mitigate the effects and sweeten the pot for those willing to port, Airtel Kenya waived the Sh200 fee for those choosing to join its network. The firm is also offering 1,000 free Airtel Zawadi points and another 25 percent bonus on airtime top up of any amount for a period of three months.

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Market leader Safaricom is offering 50 Bonga Points and 10MB worth of data monthly for four months in an effort of wooing customers.

Dr Musimba however said that value added services by operators was going to be the key determinant of whether people want to port their numbers.

"It will boil down to how much the customer is worth for an operator. Therefore, innovation and value added propositions will be the major determinant in this space," he said.

He added that the current Sh200 porting fee could come down as the service takes root in the country and once they recoup their €2.5 million (Sh296.8 million) investment.

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