New Delhi: Starting 31 March, you can shift to any place in India and continue using your mobile phone number with any operator of your choice, with the country’s top telecom policymaking body clearing a long-pending proposal in this regard.

So far, the facility of retaining the mobile number while choosing a new operator—called mobile number portability (MNP)—was available only in the same telecom circle. Using the same number in another service area would attract roaming charges.

The Telecom Commission’s green light for national MNP comes almost two years after the facility was first deployed.

“The Telecom Commission has accepted Trai’s (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations on full MNP," an official with the department of telecommunications (DoT) said.

At the end of August, out of India’s 924.32 million mobile subscribers, as many as 129.56 million had availed of the facility, Trai’s data showed.

The date of 31 March comes after Trai suggested that the MNP service providers and operators be given six months to prepare their systems.

Telecom Commission’s decision needs further approval from the communications ministry.

Analysts don’t expect the move to have much of an impact on the market, since even at the circle level, less than three million subscribers avail of MNP every month.

“The facility gives users much-needed freedom and allows them to ensure quality service from telcos. The telcos can also use it to target high-value customers of other telcos, thereby improving the quality of service," said an analyst from a Mumbai-based brokerage. He declined to be named.

The Commission’s approval has taken longer than expected, after it requested Trai for further clarifications relating to entry fee, performance bank guarantee and financial bank guarantee related to the existing MNP operating companies.

Trai had initially submitted its recommendations in September 2013 and the Telecom Commission last met in July to discuss the approval.

“We shall ask Trai for further recommendations on these issues. Based on Trai’s response, a final decision will be taken. It would then go to the communications minister for approval," said a member of the Commission.

MNP providers and telcos would need around $10 million to deploy necessary infrastructure for national portability, which is insignificant given the number of subscribers in India.

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