by Solomon Osadolo
Have you ported? That’s easily the cliché question making the rounds in the Nigerian telecom universe lately. “Port” is the new cool word. The term has also found use as a suitable metaphor for describing events in other sectors of our national life (like when a politician changes party, he/she is said to have ported).
While we all bask in the port number frenzy and as the network operators jostle for our SIMs by working up all manner of ads, from the dazzling to the outright ridiculous, we all have to really take stock of the issue we’d have to deal with.
The Mobile Port Number service was adopted by the Nigerian Communications Commission on Monday, April 22, 2013 and it’s only presently available among the GSM mobile operators. The CDMA networks would eventually be phased into the service as soon as the GSM porting process is completed – at least that’s the plan.
Many have hailed this new development as the cure for poor network service delivery experienced by subscribers across the country. Only hypothetically, I think. Of course, creating a system that affords the subscriber the option of ditching their operator due to unsatisfactory services and porting to another network can only (eventually) bode well for us all in terms of quality of service delivery. This would naturally be a by-product of the fierce competition that’d ensue between the various operators in a bid to lure more subscribers from their competitors.
The issue with the MNP is that it is a tricky deal. It is too early to tell if it will bode well or ill in the long run. The scalability of the network service providers would be severely tested in the coming weeks that their frailties would come to the fore.
Imagine a scenario where a large number of subscribers port out of a particular network A due to poor services and they are received into another [competing] network B which seems to be experiencing a bout of good service delivery. Odds are that the network operator B may start to experience a jam due to the surge in subscriber base. Eventually, people’s irritation would have the better of them and then the cycle would continue.
Since the service launched in April, there have been a few complaints by customers who attempted to port out of a particular network regarding the irregularities fraught with the MNP service. There have been reported cases of people who keyed in the porting codes only to have their SIMs still unusable on either of the donor or recipient network well after the supposed implementation period had elapsed. The frustration is practically unquantifiable.
It may not exactly be a long shot to expect some degree of false starts with the MNP concept as it is a new service. But how the network operators conduct themselves in the long run would determine if NCC’s goal is achieved and whether the service lives out its billing. Instead of rushing to the studios to craft superfluous adverts to woo more subscribers to their various networks, the network providers can go up a notch and reinforce their networks by investing in infrastructures that’ll help their networks’ capacity for robustness and scalability. Adverts can only do so much before subscribers realize they’re being toyed with.
The network operator that eventually wins the porting race will be the one that plans ahead by focusing on the part of their entity that matters most: their network. Not PR or fancy promos or ads – which aren’t unnecessary too, by the way. Now may be a good time for the CDMA operators (Starcomms, Visafone, etc) to reinforce their networks in preparedness before the NCC grafts them in while taking the MNP service across the entire country.
NB: The technicalities surrounding the MNP service, as well as the governing legal undertones, are available as a downloadable draft on the NCC’s website.
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