The government unveiled the much awaited mobile number portability on Thursday.
“It is the open season now,” declared telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the long-awaited nation-wide number portability regime in the capital. Chandrasekhar, a recent entrant to the telecom ministry, seemed to almost echo the feelings of millions of telecom subscribers in the country as he heralded ‘a new era’ in telecom services. “So long operators were spending all their energies in acquiring new customers.
“They knew that a person who is already their customer could not leave them without losing their number. Now, both existing and new subscribers are both fair game,” he pointed out.
Mobile number portability, which lets subscribers change their operator without changing their phone numbers expected force telecom operators to focus on quality and not just quantity in a market where dropped calls are considered normal.
Under the new regime, subscribers can initiate a change of operator simply by SMSing ‘PORT’ to the number 1900. The number will be moved an operator of his choice within just 7 days.
Indeed, the initial trends seem to re-emphasize the issue of competition. No sooner had the announcement been made that some of the new operators — eager to lure customers away from incumbents — announced novel schemes.
For example, Mumbai-based Loop Mobile has announced that it will reimburse the cost of any call that is dropped due to congestion on its network, pick up calls to its helpline within 10 seconds and provide a free ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ voucher if any new service is not activated within 15 minutes.
Similarly, Russia’s Sistema, which runs the CDMA-based MTS brand has tied up with many banks to offer a unique EMI facility to new customers. Perhaps with high-end customers in mind, the company also unveiled three new phones including one with very high end features such as 3G and a large capacitive touch screen.
Incumbents, however, did not betray any signs of worry. “High value customers are extremely wary of changing to the new lot of service providers that have limited or untested network coverage and quality,” said Samaresh Parida- Director of strategy at Vodafone Essar.