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Number portability: How you can gain

Last updated on: January 31, 2011 14:46 IST

Number portability: How you can gain

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Katya Naidu & Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai

Punit Manik, an Airtel pre-paid subscriber, tweeted about his intentions of switching his service provider after Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was rolled out in Mumbai two weeks ago.

Within 24 hours, he was approached by Vodafone, Idea, Uninor and Aircel representatives on the micro-blogging site, offering him discounts and customised data plans.

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Image: Telcos woo customers.

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"It was as if they (the telecom operators) had sales executives scanning Twitter to identify prospective subscribers after the MNP rollout in Mumbai," says Manik.

CHANGE TO GAIN

Operator

Offers for users who port to a new network

Vodafone

Get 100MB of data transfer for six months free

Tata DOCOMO

Additional talktime on recharge vouchers of Rs 100, Rs 200, Rs 300 and Rs 400; 100 MB free download per month for six months

BSNL

No porting charges of Rs 19; free additional talktime of Rs 100; free unlimited GPRS for 30 days

Idea Cellular

A dedicated MNP pack that costs Rs 37 (includes Rs 19 towards the MNP porting charges and also the new SIM cost); free talktime of Rs 5 with new SIM

RCom

To unveil customised tariff plans, which include free talktime, discounts over the billed amount and free SMS packs for frequent SMS users

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Image: A tough game for telcos.

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He applied to port his number to Aircel. "They allow posting voice-to-text status updates on Facebook and it's a feature that I wanted to use on my smartphone," he reasoned.

Reasons are many, but users are taking a well-informed decision while switching operators. Subscribers like Manik are seeking those who would give plans that best serve their purpose.

With a subscriber base of 750 million, competition is taking its toll on the telcos.

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Image: Mobile subscribers rise.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Retaining the right customers is now critical. Reliance Communications (RCom), which has reportedly seen high demand since the MNP rollout, will come up with special offers this week.

However, RCom officials refused to share details on their new tariff plans. Sources confirmed that the company will try to retain customers with customised plans depending on their monthly usage.

For instance, customers who pay Rs 200 per month will get discounts of up to Rs 50 and those who SMS a lot will be offered an SMS pack for three months by RCom.

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Image: Retaining the right customers is now critical.

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Number portability: How you can gain

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Industry sources said around 200,000 porting requests were received from across the country. Yudofud Public Strategies Vice-President Arun Singh Shekhawat, who runs a public interest portal www.changemynetwork.com to facilitate MNP for users, reasoned: "Our research shows that expensive tariff-rates is still the primary reason for porting numbers with 36 per cent of subscribers citing this as the primary reason for moving between networks."

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Image: Subcribers look for cheaper rates.

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Airtel seems to be the biggest loser, said Shekhawat, with 36 per cent of their subscribers are considering a change in operator. The biggest winner reportedly is Tata DoCoMo with 17 per cent of mobile subscribers of other networks wanting to move in.

Mumbai-based Manisha Lakhe is one such subscriber who has given a port in request to Tata DoCoMo. Lakhe, a Vodafone subscriber with a monthly average bill of over Rs 2,000, is hoping to cut down on her expenses.

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Image: Airtel seems to be the biggest loser.
Photographs: Reuters.
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"They have post-paid diet plans which suit me. The Rs 1,099 plan offers 2,500 local minutes, 1,200 STD minutes and 5,000 SMSes. This switch should slash my bill by at least 35-40 per cent." The operator is also offering her free itemised billing and missed call alerts for six months.

Explained Shekhawat: "Since price sensitivity still seems to be a major reason and pre-paid users generally contribute one-tenth of their ARPU (Average revenue per user) of a post-paid user, the approach that seems to be adopted by most mobile operators for now is more that of a wait-and-watch than an instant panic reaction."


Image: A man walks past a signboard of Japan's biggest mobile phone operator NTT Docomo Inc.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Idea Cellular Rajat Mukarji said: "MNP was conceptualised to offer freedom of choice to the consumer. However, its relevance is diluted in today's time as the Indian consumer already enjoys a choice from up to 14 operators offering low tariffs."

The operator has also launched a micro-site called www.getidea.co.in, an information portal on MNP for digital users and a dedicated helpline that helps users with information on the processes and procedures of availing MNP and porting requests from mobile subscribers who wish to switch to Idea.

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Image: Idea Cellular's advertisement.

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Almost 32 per cent subscribers are motivated to shift for various other reasons - recommendation from friends and family, campaigns, reputation of service providers and a curiosity to try a new network operator as they would have the option to revert back to their existing operator after three months.

This was reflected in what Shubrojeet Deb, an MTNL user, thought while migrating to Vodafone. "I travel a lot and Vodafone is offering me a cheaper roaming plan, in addition to better network and data coverage. If I am not impressed then I can always switch back to MTNL after three months."

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Image: Mobile users curious abt MNP.
Photographs: Reuters.
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"Many consumers, who do not want to seriously shift operators, are also sending port out requests and when customer care centres call back, they are using it to air grievances. For example, if consumers say that they are having issues with the network companies are offering temporary discounts on bills etc, to stop them from leaving the network," said an official of a leading telecom company.

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Image: An Airtel customer.

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Naven Ravindran, an Airtel subscriber, got a call from the operator asking him to reconsider his decision after he sent a port out request last week. As an incentive, he was offered free pizza coupons. "This was unexpected. I have temporarily shelved my plans to port out."

Experts said these are initial days for MNP and many operators are playing the wait-and-watch game to have a better understanding of subscriber behaviour. More plans and offers could come from operators as the initial rush of the first few weeks settles down.


Image: Telcos offer freebies.

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