Mumbai: If numbers are anything to go by, mobile number portability (MNP) has not made much of a dent in the fortunes of most telecom companies, as only about 4 million out of 771 million users have dumped their operators in the first five months of the much-vaunted initiative.
While Vodafone, Bharti and Idea gained significantly from the roll-out of MNP on 20 January, Reliance Communications (RCom) bore the brunt of the switch. But the Anil Ambani Group firm claims it is focused merely on adding numbers, but adding high value customers.
“It is true -- initially, we lost big time. And even now, the net numbers are in the red. But we are happy with that. Most of the numbers we lost (port-outs) are small value customers, while our gains (port-ins) are mostly high value (high ARPU (average revenue per user),” RCom president (corporate & wireless customer service) Anurag Prashar told PTI.
“Also, our MNP strategy is to get corporate customers and not small changes, which our rivals are focusing on. And we have been fairly successful in this too,” he said.
In April, RCom evened out the port-in and port-out numbers, Prashar claims. “So far, we have ported in a good 10,000 corporate customers,” he said.
As per GSM body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) data, as of 28 April, RCom is the biggest MNP loser, with a combined net loss of 10,70,747 users, out of which its newly launched GSM operations took the worst hit with 7,45,877 port-outs, while its port-ins stood at a low 1,30,167.
RCom’s CDMA services fared better, with a loss of just half the number of GSM users that switched, at 3,68,588, and a gain of 13,551.
Despite these massive drop-outs, RCom had an overall user base of nearly 130 million as of April, making it the second largest mobile operator.
Vodafone is the biggest gainer from MNP, with a net gain of 5,13,259 consumers (14,35,101 port-ins and 9,21,842 port-outs), followed by Bharti with a net gain of 5,06,828 (15,72,682 port-ins and 10,65,254 port-outs). Idea was third with a net gain of 4,70,986 (11,62,594 port-ins and 6,91,608 port-outs).
State-run BSNL cuts a sorry figure with a net loss of 4,09,028 users -- the second highest -- shows the COAI data submitted to sectoral watchdog Trai.
About the number game, Prashar alleged that rivals are doling out “hefty commissions” to retailers, a policy he is opposed to. “We don’t offer a single additional penny to our retailers in the MNP game,” he said.
SIM card retailers are the biggest gainers from MNP, he said. Earlier, retailers used to get Rs50 from the operator for every port-in. But some operators have hiked this to Rs150 to gain customers, even if these are Rs0 to Rs 50 ARPU customers.
“But our average ARPU of port-ins is Rs700. So though these companies gained in actual numbers, they did not gain in value. RCom, as a strategy, has always stressed on value,” he said.
“Our focus on value resulted in a gain of over 10,000 corporate customers of high value,” Prashar said.
Asked whether RCom is offering any incentive to retain customers, he said the company does not believe in stopping a customer from switching, as it is a short-sighted approach.
“We believe that our network quality will bring the customers back to us,” Prashar said, adding that RCom expects a turnaround by the seventh month of the MNP regime.