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TRA reports high subscriber demand for MNP service

Dubai: The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE reported on Thursday that 61,000 mobile number porting requests were received by both telecom operators — du and etisalat — since the official launch of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service in December 2013.

“So far the MNP has been good. It is a new start and it will take time to gain momentum. This has generated good attraction by operators and consumers. The operators are trying to retain their customers by good offers and customers have a choice,” Mohammad Nasser Al Ganem, Director General of the TRA, told Gulf News.

The TRA is responsible for monitoring the service mechanisms, ensuring all the necessary documents and information is submitted to complete the transition and ultimately, ensuring that the switchover process runs smoothly.

TRA had said that 5,000 requests to transfer mobile numbers were received in December.

Asked whether MNP will make a difference as many people have SIM cards of both telco operators at the same time, he said it doesn’t matter. “Even I have both etisalat and du numbers. If users have a number regardless of the network operators, they can switch the operators at ease. Sometimes, a du number is more famous than an etisalat number and vice-versa. Some people have two numbers but they receive calls only on one number. So it is better for the users to change operators and retain the same numbers,” said Al Ganem.

The strategy behind the MNP was aimed at promoting strong competition between the two providers and enhance the quality of services offered to consumers, and in turn drive levels of performance upwards.

Osman Sultan, CEO of du, said that MNP is good for customers but it will “not be a game changer.”

He did not disclose the number of end users ported out of du, but said that it is more convenient for end users to shift operators.

“Every day there will be a flow of consumers from one operator to the other and that is the way it has happened in every other market. That does not mean it is not important, it is extremely important but it will not be a game changer,” Sultan said.

Given the fact that a large majority of subscribers prefer prepaid payment plans, Bhanu Chaddha, senior telecom analyst at research firm International Data Corporation, believes that MNP will only be a limited success.

He said the sweet spot for telecom operator is the mobile data, so it is going to be commoditised.

“Prepaid subscribers have higher propensity to churn than postpaid customers, and are generally not worried about changing their numbers, which puts a question mark on the need for MNP,” Chaddha said.

Conversely, he said, MNP is likely to result in operators becoming more customer-focused and offering need-based and micro-segmented tariff plans. One direct benefit could be an improvement in the quality of customer service, which remains a key pain point in the region.

TRA’s Al Ganem said that to date, more than 23,000 mobile numbers have been ported out of the total requests, while many requests were resubmitted in order to obtain the required documents for the switchover.

The TRA also stated that the subscriber has the right to return to the original telecom operator during the first three days of the number transfer. After three days, the subscriber can still return to the original operator, but within one month at least after the transfer date.

“We have received a small number of complaints about the delay in number porting from some subscribers which were anticipated given that the MNP service is relatively new in the UAE,” Al Ganem said in a statement.

He added that all complaints received were resolved through close cooperation with the licensees and the concerned customers.