VENTURES AFRICA – Testing would re-commence next week in Nigeria for the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) scheme which would enable subscribers to retain their mobile phone numbers should they choose to migrate from one mobile service provider to another.
The scheme which had begun testing in December though was delayed by the holidays, is expected to drive down tariff on mobile services and improve the quality of service by telecom operators in the country, in order to retain and attract subscribers.
According to BusinessDay, Mr Osondu Nwokoro, a Director at Airtel Nigeria, a telecom operator in the country, while commenting on the development, explained that one of the benefits of the scheme is that “it will drive competition in the industry because if an operator fails to provide good quality of service, a telecoms subscriber has the freedom to switch to another network,” without the fear and all the inconveniences that come with losing phone numbers.
According to him, “it will definitely encourage all telecoms operators to provide services at an optimal level” and “also throw up fresh opportunities for value added service providers, as networks with poor service quality will have difficulty retaining customers when the scheme takes off.
Recently, complaints have emerged from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry’s regulator, over poor services from telecom operators, with no significant improvement so far.
Analyst say the MNP scheme would assist NCC in regulating the industry properly.
“Number portability Number portability will make it easier for the regulator to manage anti-competition practices. A lot of such practices are cropping up in the industry,” says Nwokoro.
In the last quarter of 2012, news emerged that Nigeria’s telecommunications service providers were in disputes over an estimated 20 billion naira ($128 million) interconnectivity debt.
According to reports, CDMA operators and fixed line operators owed larger portions of the debts to the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators though arguments have persisted over the actual amount of the debts due to disagreements over the method for determining interconnection rates.
With over 100 million subscribers, Nigeria stands as one of the largest mobile markets in Africa. MTN, Airtel, Globacom, Etisalat and Visafone are the five major telecom operators in the country.
In March 2012, a consortium of three firms won the bid to operate the MNP scheme. The firms that constitute the consortium are Interconnect Clearing House Nigeria (ICN), Telecordia, and Saab Grintek of South Africa.