Mobile Number Portability...commonly known as MNP is the fervor of the telecom industry at the moment. When the concept was first introduced and the word spread out that such a facility is to be launched in our country, tremors were created. Many queries generated simultaneously.A long awaited project since a few years is finally rolled out. Q. What is MNP? A. MNP is a facility that allows you to retain your own number while you switch to another operator. In simple words, I can keep my number which I had from Airtel, and switch to Vodafone for further services....if required. Earlier in the absence of this facility, a customer had to change his number along with the operator.   Q. What does portability mean then? A. Changing your operator means porting your number. The operator who receives your number is called the Recipient Operator and the earlier operator is called the Donor Operator. Citing the example above, Vodafone would be the recipient and Airtel the Donor Operators respectively.   This is followed in almost all European countries and is a popular facility used around the world. It gives the customer the liberty to choose amongst different mobile operators. Earlier customers even though not satisfied with a mobile operator would not want to change the number he owned. Why? For simple reasons like: (i) His/her number was widely distributed with business and personal contacts. (ii)He would have to surrender this number and take a new one wherein the surrender procedure took time. (iii)He would have to take a new connection before surrendering his old number so that he would stay in contact.   So how does a common man benefit from MNP? Well he has more freedom now. The logic on which MNP works is pretty simple. A customer has to walk in to the recipient operator and tell that “I want to change my number."The operator then does the rest and within the specified time mentioned by the operator your services will be rendered to the new operator. Again in simple words taking the above example, An Airtel customer who is not satisfied would walk up to Vodafone and ask them to change the services, the number then would remain same but now Vodafone will port the number and provide further services. Vodafone would inform Airtel for the same that their customer wants to use the Vodafone services from now on and the procedural transfer would happen. What’s the benefit to the common man we ask?.. (a) There is no running around involved. (b) Your number stays the same and you will be given services by a new operator you chose. (c)All other documentation would be taken care by the recipient ( In this case, Vodafone) and the services will not be interrupted in between except for a short span of few hours.( as specified by TRAI). (d) Most importantly, the customer gets to choose from now on and thus his satisfaction is the primary focus for the operator, he doesn't have to stick on with the same company if he is not satisfied with his rates, plan, call charges, VAS charges or any hidden charge etc.   So how does this actually work? Well it’s not simple; TRAI has made a Central Database (CDB) wherein all the mobile numbers are registered. The recipient and donor have to inform the team handling this database. So, for example as taken above, Vodafone has to inform the CDB team about the customers intent and will also inform Airtel. Airtel team will verify if any dues are there for the customer to clear and will prepare for the transfer. In the meantime the customer has to submit his documents to Vodafone and clear his outstanding. The customer’s number would be put on hold so that Vodafone can now provide the services. In a few hours Vodafone will assign the customers number in its own database and inform CDB when it is ready. As soon as it gets ready, CDB will register the number previously mentioned as Airtel; as now a Vodafone number.   The common man is to benefit, but will the operators enjoy the same? This is a tricky thing here. When MNP was proposed to TRAI, it wasn't a concept embraced with open arms by many operators for simple  and obvious fact......the loss of customers.But it was not only that, there was more a company was going to loose. They would loose a NUMBER  as well. In telecom, every number had a value. There are special numbers and premium numbers as well that defined a customer. When Idea introduced the advertisement  " Ab har koi apne number se jaana jayega" that is everyone would be recognised by his number not his name.... it was based on the same sentiment people have for owning a special number that becomes his or her identity in some sort of way.For an operator now, the number could not be owned completely. They would also have to work extra hard to satisfy the now powerful customer post MNP for the fear of churn or disconnections. Not only operators, even TRAI had a lot of questions to answer. (i) Logistics: How can a system be designed to centralise such a huge database of customers. (ii) Security: How to create a secure system to handle payments, documentation, transfer of the numbers. (iii) Legal: How to legalise the whole concept to avoid defaulters to take advantage and to empower the common man with a seamless system?   It sounds simple here, technically it’s a humongous task.To just port a number is no child's play.The software's have to be updated,the site for the number to function has to be prepared.The new service provider has to check the feasibily of taking the number,call routing adjustments have to be made,whether it has the coverage span or the technical capability to service that number.Apart from that huge finances are involved and are at stake as well. The logistics involved here are massive. Its  a concept on which teams from all operators have been working on for years to develop software’s that are compatible and simple. To come to a common platform has taken time but finally the result was worth waiting. When all the brain power came in together, operators then realised that MNP would be beneficial in a few ways to them. Firstly,the defaulters of these operators might want to shift .So has to clear all the dues in order to get the services from a new operator. Secondly, TRAI has created a Central Database (CDB) where in all the customers would be registered and would be verified by the recepient.Which means ( again taking the same example) Vodafone team will verify the customer and would take i its details from Airtel as well. Thirdly ,the customer will have to pay a portability charge to the recipient operator. Well all that running around that the company will do for you to give you their services does come at a price. You didn't think this was free did you? But the charge for portability is pretty nominal and affordable. There are many technical glitches to this concept and there is no doubt it will take time to streamline the technical bit of it. Overall it is a pretty cool concept that is loaded with consumer power. However TRAI has taken measure to ensure that people don’t misuse this concept. There are some steps to ensure the customer does not jump around operator to operator every day. A lock in period of 90 days from the first move or date of activation the customer makes is there. He can't shift until that period is over. In a country like India; where the mobile subscriber base is 706 million approx; And the population that makes this base is only 60% of the total population of India....Imagine the subscriber base growing everyday...MNP is a challenging project that has been rolled out that has to take gigantic steps to maintain seamlessness. Right now, lets keep our fingers crossed that the this facility would bring in better services and lets hope, let’s just hope after all this we might get value for the money.          

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