LIRNEasia research brought to bear on mobile number portability question

Posted on July 13, 2009  /  1 Comments

Pakistan did it, with supposed good results. The Maldives studied it and decided it was not worth it. Sri Lanka is supposed to be thinking about it. It is mobile number portability (MNP).

None of them had the benefit of the teleuse@BOP results. Back in October 2008, 25 percent of mobile owners at the Pakistan BOP had multiple SIMs. Why did they go for multiple SIMs if they had the benefit of MNP? Why do they go through the contortions of switching SIMs, described in the ToI article that quotes our qualitative research, if they have the benefit of MNP? What relevance do issues such as cost of redoing business cards and letterhead have to the 90 percent plus prepaid customers of most mobile operators in the region? Is MNP another concept that makes sense in the postpaid worlds inhabited by Western consultants, but makes no sense at all in the predominantly prepaid worlds we live in?

Good research is supposed to make people rethink what is taken as common wisdom. I also partook in the common wisdom on MNP. But questions such as the above have started a rethinking process, caught (bad spelling and all) by a journalist who called to ask about something else:

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is increasingly becoming useless in the current Sri Lankan context, a telecom industry expert in the country said.

“I don’t see a need for number portability because most of the mobile phone users currently are using multiple sim cards” Professor Rohan Smarajeewa, Executive Director of Lirneasia told The Nation Economist.
As he pointed out, the price war among the telcos during the last year or so has created this situation.
“After the entrance of Bharti Airtel to the local market as the fifth mobile operator 25 to 30 % of mobile users became multiple sim card users” Samarajeewa added.

According to telecom analysts the arrival of dual sim card handsets also has contributed towards this.
“There are dual sim handsets in the local market made in China at amasingly low prices. These handsets have become very handy for multiple sim card users” an analyst said.

He also said that the ample availability of pre-paid sim cards throughout the country, hassle free connection and amasingly cheap tariffs by all the five mobile operators within each ones network have given the incentive for people to buy more than one sim card.

1 Comment

  1. Prepaid has killed the business case of MNP. A postpaid customer is perceived to be in “Catholic marriage” with the provider, as the phone’s number becomes personal treasure. That was the case before commencing prepaid fireworks. Dumping an operator and switching over to another is now business as usual. The dumped operator comes back with free air-time and other goodies if the dead connection is reactivated. Consumer is the King. And commercial Darwinism now rules the mobile world. Let MNP roam in the Jurassic Park.