Mobile number portability slowly begins to take off in Ghana – Need for high profile MNP awareness schemes

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Mobile number portability schemes in Africa have not yet been a real success. There are a variety of reasons, including multiple phone ownership. But Ghana’s NCA has been running a scheme for a year now and has done a review of how well it has worked. Russell Southwood looks at the winners and losers.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) introduced Mobile Number Portability (MNP) on 7 July 2011. It allows Ghanaian mobile customers to move from one mobile service provider to another whilst retaining their entire mobile number. This kind of ability to move from one operator to another is essential to getting more competition, particularly in markets where one operator is dominant.

What usually makes MNP schemes fail is the time taken to port the number to the new operator. At the inception of MNP, customers were promised a maximum porting time of 24 hours. Very quickly, the average time to complete a porting request reduced to 5 hours, 21 minutes in the first month of MNP operation, and subsequently to 2 hours, 37 minutes by April, 2012.

By June 2012, average porting time had dropped to 1 hour, 24 minutes. The most recent data available to us today shows typical porting times between 2 to 22 minutes, with average in the range of 7 to 8 minutes. This means that a request can often be submitted and the entire process completed while the customer is at his new network’s premises.

Mobile customers who wish to change networks without changing their number need only bring their mobile phone (with SIM) and an ID to a shop or agent of the network they wish to join. It is important, however, for the customer to understand that they will be leaving their current network. Any remaining credit in that account will be lost, and their old SIM will stop working. Customers are also reminded to copy any contact numbers they have stored on their old SIM, though it is usually possible to do this even after porting was completed and the SIM deactivated.
NCA has received complaints about agents in the field, acting on behalf of various mobile networks, misinforming or deceiving customers regarding the porting process.

One of the biggest problems has been phone agents trying to mislead customers. For example, they have tried to tell customers that they can have the same number on both networks or that the networks have merged. Worse, agents have been charging switching customers for a new SIM when that is not needed. It does not say much either for agents’s honesty or for their ability to help customers with technical issues.

Regulator NCA, which is responsible for the scheme, has set up a complaints procedure for those who are unable to get their number ported. Web site:  Email: complaints@nca.org.gh Phone: 030 701 1419 Facebook: MNP Ghana (group page)

In the first year of MNP operation, 370,107 mobile numbers have been successfully ported by customers in Ghana. This represents 1.6% of the total active mobile numbers in Ghana. The success rate of porting requests in the first year was 75%.

Whilst all operators gained and lost subscribers, the biggest net loser was MTN which lost 125,361 subscribers, 1.13% of its overall base. The biggest net gains were recorded by Tigo (68,230 net new subscribers) and Vodafone (43,492 net new subscribers).

African mobile subscribers have proved extremely reluctant to move from their existing provider, particularly the dominant provider. Even in those countries where Quality of Service surveys show the dominant provider has below average service quality, consumers rarely act on this information. Until now, the main reason has been the fear of losing the number that most people contact you on. With MNP that barrier has now been removed.

However, like all major changes, it will require a major consumer awareness programme on radio and television before consumers take advantage of this new route to getting best service.

 


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