Private operators sabotaging Mobile Portability Scheme?

A month after the much bandied number portability was introduced, telecom firms have started accusing each other of using underhand means to prevent subscribers from leaving them.

The accusations have come even as consumer complaints grow that some operators are just not letting them move out of their networks.

The system is being hijacked by the operators due to a flaw in the process design, pointed out an official linked to one of the two portability (MNP) operators.

“The issue is that the first step for the person to move out is to be taken by his current operator. Unfortunately, his current operator is not always very keen to see him go,” he pointed out, preferring to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.

According to the MNP rules, the first step of the porting or transferring process is to obtain a unique porting ID or PIN number. This number, unfortunately, can only be given by the consumer’s existing operator. And most mobile companies simply refuse to give the number.

“They are all private businesses. They will try every trick to hold on to their revenues,” pointed out an official with a British mobile operator with a Pan India presence. The operator, known for its high governance standards, has been caught in a sticky situation because their standards don’t allow them to employ such ‘under-hand’ means, the official pointed out.

“Unfortunately, that means that consumers are free to leave our network, but when they try to join our network from others, they cannot do so,” he added.

Among those that he blamed for artificially blocking subscribers from moving out is a network owned by the ‘star’ of Indian telecom industry and other prominent telecom operators.

He points out that some of the huge outflow seen from state-owned companies such as BSNL and MTNL may be because of this ‘one way’ traffic, as they let their subscribers go, but others don’t let theirs join them.

The MNP operator official quoted above also said that both operators have been getting many emails from hassled consumers who tried to port unsuccessfully. “We are not sure what to do with them because our role starts only if the operator generates a PIN number for the subscriber on the way out,” he pointed out.

The government too agrees that not all is well.

“Some problems have been noted in porting the numbers,” said Sachin Pilot, junior telecom minister last week.

He pointed out that operators have been allegedly rejecting porting requests on a number of false reasons such as that the connection is less than 90 days old, failure of their computers meant to generate the porting PIN and “contractual obligations” associated with their accounts.

“A close watch on the matter is being kept by Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cells and based on the feedbacks received from TSPs/subscribers, the TSPs have been called for meetings to resolve the issues. In addition TRAI has also sought compliance of various provisions of ‘The Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability Regulations, 2009 as amended’ from the TSPs,” he added.