Consumer enthusiasm over Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is on the wane as the procedure of switching one's network operator is turning out to be a cumbersome exercise for many mobile users and not the smooth transition it was projected to be.

While subscribers wanting to change operators complain that the process is a hassle, whether it is acquiring a unique porting code (UPC) or maintaining a “zero-balance” account to get the porting request cleared, consumer activists say that the existing procedure that allows an operator to create hurdles to an exiting user is organically flawed and defeats the very purpose of MNP which was rolled out nation-wide on January 20.

Requests turned down

There are also complaints that many porting requests are being turned down on flimsy grounds by incumbent operators. Users are also finding that the entire porting process is taking longer than a week and the downtime (the “no service period” during transition from one network to another) is also longer than the two hours stipulated by Telecom Authority of India (TRAI), says consumer activist T. Sadagopan.

Telecom sources say some of the grounds on which porting requests have been rejected include wrong UPC, “violation of contractual obligation”, subscription to lifetime validity or special plans and outstanding bill amounts, or “negative balance” in the case of pre-paid users. “The systemic flaw is the space and scope enjoyed by Donor Network Operators to create hurdles and frustrate an exiting user,” a Telecom Department official said.

Another problem is that once a porting request, valid for 15 days, is rejected due to an error, there is no room for correction and the entire purpose has to be re-initiated from scratch.

While TRAI figures indicate that the Tamil Nadu service area recorded 1.14 lakh porting requests, officials believe that the actual number of completed porting would be much less.

“The technical capability to smoothly implement MNP is very much in place. But, operationally, the scenario is quite hazy,” Chennai Telephones Chief General Manager A. Subramanian told The Hindu. TRAI, which has been monitoring the implementation of MNP in the country, has processed preliminary consumer feedback to instruct service providers to strictly comply with the provisions of MNP Regulations.

Real impact

While all operators have been playing down the fallout of MNP on their respective subscriber bases, especially as new additions far outstrip the port-out requests, some believe that the real impact would be felt when the mechanism is more streamlined and the stiff penalties proposed by TRAI on operators for each wrongly rejected porting request get enforced.