Mobile phone users in the four metros will have to wait a little longer to change their telecom operators without having to change their numbers, but now their peers in four large states will also be able to do so around the same time.
Call-waiting: After mobile number portability is introduced, up to 30% of customers could switch from their existing service providers in the first few months.
India’s department of telecommunications (DoT) had originally set December 2008 as the deadline for the so-called mobile number portability that allows customers to change operators without changing their numbers. It had mandated that this deadline would apply to the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
This deadline has now been extended to April 2009, but will also apply to the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, which are called A category circles.
“We have now decided to extend number portability to the A category circles, apart from the metros,” said a senior DoT official, who did not wish to be identified. Within six months of introducing number portability in these areas, the government could also introduce the scheme to category B and C circles such as Bihar, Assam, Haryana and Kerala, the DoT official added.
Up to 30% of customers could switch from their existing service providers in the first few months after mobile number portability is introduced, as reported previously in Mint.
Meanwhile, a steering committee formed by the government last year will submit its interim report in the first week of April and urge “the government to at least start the process of inviting vendors who would set up a number portability gateway”, according to a senior official at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), who did not wish to be identified.
The committee has representatives from Trai, the Telecom Engineering Centre, Centre for Development of Telematics and telecom associations such as Cellular Operators Association of India and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India.
The number portability gateway could be set by firms such as Telcordia Technologies Inc., which has already established a similar one in neighbouring Pakistan. Other firms that could bid to establish the clearing house include Florida-based Syniverse Holdings Inc. and Neustar Inc., according to a committee member, who did not wish to be identified.
“The gateway, when set up, will be used by Indian phone firms for updating their database and clearing phone calls,” said another member of the steering committee, who did not wish to be named. He added that the cost of establishing the gateway would be around Rs100 crore.
Mobile phone firms such as Bharti Airtel Ltd and Reliance Communications Ltd will have to pay the gateway operator a subscription fee.
Apart from recommending a central gateway, the steering committee will also suggest a three-day porting period for a subscriber wishing to switch operators. “Customers having prepaid connections will not be able to carry forward the remaining balance in their phone accounts while changing their operators,” the Trai official pointed out.