Pan India mobile number portability (MNP) is now a reality for consumers in India, after several successful attempts at blocking the service from going live, allegedly by a cartel of the biggest telecom companies in the country, informally termed as AVoID, which is play on the names of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. The three companies have long dominated the wireless landscape in the country along with state-run BSNL and MTNL, who typically enjoy a higher subscriber base in rural areas. With nationwide MNP coming into effect, the biggest private players potentially stand to lose the most, with high levels of customer dissatisfaction, with allegations ranging from dropped calls, painstakingly slow data connections, to outright fraudulent billing.
The service will allow people shifting base from one city to another, to keep their original phone number by just porting over to their new operator of choice across circles. The facility was thus far only available to people switching operators within the same circle. Shifting from one telecom circle to another necessitated a change in the mobile phone number if you didn’t want to keep paying exorbitant roaming rates for the duration of your stay in the new city. Domestic inter-city roaming charges are still imposed in India, much along the lines of international roaming, albeit at significantly cheaper rates. However, the current scenario is expected to aid in the reduction and eventually, the elimination of domestic roaming charges in the country, according to observers. State-run BSNL has already announced it is doing away with domestic roaming charges from the 15th of last month. India has 23 telecom circles currently including 19 regional ones and 4 Metropolitan ones. All the aforementioned companies, along with others like Reliance, Uninor and MTS etc. have all conveyed their preparedness for a deluge of applications that are expected to follow.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had originally set May 3rd as the day for full MNP to be implemented across the country, but the implementation had to be pushed back by two months, ostensibly to aid the carriers to be better prepared. The process, according to the regulator, will remain the same as intra-circle portability, which itself was only introduced in 2011. The Indian telecom sector has been seeing an ongoing boom over the past several years, and the country is currently said to have over 973 million wireless subscribers. Overall, there have reportedly been over 157 million MNP requests from wireless customers in the country in the four odd years the facility has been operational, according to information from the telecom regulator TRAI.