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Dual SIM takes fizz out of portability

Analysts are sceptical about the relevance of mobile number portability — which will start from November 25 — because of the growing popularity of dual and triple SIM cards. “In the current environment (of dual SIM phones), people do not worry about numbers as was the case few years back, when they were reluctant to change their numbers,” Hemant Joshi, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, India, told The Telegraph. Mobile number portability (MNP) is a facility that allows customers to switch service providers without changing their numbers.

 While a new SIM card costs around Rs 40, the cost of changing a service provider under MNP will be Rs 19. Besides, one would have to make an application to the current service provider and wait for 15 days on an average. According to India Quarterly Mobile Handsets Tracker, dual SIM phones have grown to touch 38.5 per cent of total shipments in July-September 2010 from less than 1 per cent in the April-June 2009 quarter.

Number portability was scheduled to be implemented from January this year — a deadline postponed many times. Syniverse Technologies, one of the two joint ventures selected by the department of telecom to implement MNP, is expected to complete the first phase by December 20. Trial runs in Haryana will begin by November 8. Joshi said voice tariff would no longer be the main criteria for customers to change service providers. “3G data tariffs and the type of service offerings by a certain service provider would be more of a reason for customers switching operators.” With call tariffs currently the lowest in the world, MNP is unlikely to bring in another round of tariff war. “The operators are likely to take customer retention route by concentrating on brand loyalty and better quality of service offerings rather than enter into another cost war,” said Joshi.

Analysts are also of the opinion that number portability should now be extended to fixed lines. “Implementing MNP in fixed line phones will ease the subscriber as they can retain the same number without surrendering the existing connection and applying for a new one. It may also give rise to competition and customer retention and lead to decrease in (fixed line) tariffs,” said Joshi. The country is divided into two zones of 11 circles each for portability. Start date Number portability will start from November 25, according to PTI. Operators’ networks are ready and have been tested fully. Applications from subscribers will be accepted from November 25, sources in the department of telecom (DoT) said, adding that the government will come out with detailed guidelines and advertisements in this regard in the first week of November.
Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will come out with a regulation to curb unsolicited calls and messages before November 15, its chairman J.S. Sarma said today .
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