Number portability looks elusive as operator’s licence revoked

Number portability looks elusive as operator’s licence revoked

New Delhi: It was supposed to be a facility that would allow customers to shift their mobile telephony company without changing their number, but so far, the only shift that has happened is in the deadline for ringing in mobile number portability, or MNP.

Now, it appears that MNP will be delayed by at least a fortnight from the latest deadline of 1 November (itself a year after the original deadline) because the department of telecommunications (DoT) has to address issues that have emerged after it revoked the licence of one of the MNP operators, Telcordia Technologies Inc..

“There is a possibility that it (number portability) may get delayed by at least two weeks due to some procedural issues," a senior DoT official said on condition of anonymity. “We have to make sure that once the service is launched, there will not be any new issues cropping up that may cause difficulties to the subscribers."

US-based Telcordia holds 74% in joint venture firm, MNP Interconnection that was one of the two number portability operators selected by the government to offer services in the country; the other was Syniverse Technologies Inc.

Delhi-based Deepak Talwar Consultants holds 26% in MNP Interconnection.

In August, DoT had issued a show-cause notice to MNP Interconnection asking it why its licence should not be cancelled, after its security clearance to operate in India was revoked.

The firm received Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance in March 2009, but the home ministry revoked clearance earlier in August on security grounds. Telcordia has to respond to DoT’s notice by the third week of October.

The home ministry’s move was driven by the fact that Telcordia Technologies had significant operations in Pakistan. It revoked the security clearance despite an explanation by Telcordia’s India arm that the firm was only a software vendor in the neighbouring country and had no other business there.

As a consequence of this, Syniverse was asked to manage number portability across the country, prompting a discussion within the DoT whether this could be done or a new tender called for.

Meanwhile, testing of the infrastructure set up for the roll out MNP began on 25 September 25. DoT has already said that the firms involved need around two months to test the systems completely.

“Technically, we are almost prepared for the roll out but there are a number of other issues that are important," a second DoT official said.

The date for roll-out of number portability in the country has already seen three extensions amounting to a delay of almost a year.

The earlier delays were due to state-owned telephone service providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) not being prepared with their gateways and systems.