Mobile phone number for keeps
Mobile number portability (MNP), which allows a mobile phone subscriber to retain an existing mobile number when changing service providers or the type of subscription from postpaid to prepaid or vice versa, would be available in the country by the end of this month.
This was announced recently by Telecommunications Connectivity Inc. (TCI), a joint venture of Smart Communications, Globe Telecom and Dito Telecommunity, with a request for understanding from their subscribers that some birth pains may be experienced during the rollout.
The shift in service providers and type of subscription will be free of charge. The implementation of MNP is in compliance with Republic Act No. 11202, which was enacted in 2019.
Earlier, the practice of telcos of disallowing or making it difficult for consumers to keep their existing numbers when changing service providers or subscription plans was the subject of numerous complaints.
In response to those complaints, the law gives consumers the “… freedom to choose and to respond to quality, price and other relevant considerations without the consumers having to change their mobile numbers whenever they change mobile service providers or subscription plans.”
The concept of portability of fixed and wireless numbers originated from the United States and was implemented in 2003 by the Federal Communications Commission, the counterpart of our National Telecommunications Commission. From then on, that scheme has gained international acceptance.
With MNP, mobile phone users can maintain their existing numbers with their relatives, friends, associates and entities they do business with, especially those that send confirmatory messages before concluding certain transactions, even if they change service providers.
In the latter case, it is standard operating procedure for banks, credit card companies and other finance-related businesses to send those messages as part of online security measures.
At the same time, MNP would put telcos on their toes to provide quality services and charge reasonable fees to their subscribers so they do not shift service providers.
Every subscriber who leaves represents lost revenues to the ditched provider that may not be easy to recover if the new provider turns out to be more efficient.
Note that there are now three players in the mobile phone arena. Until Dito Telecommunity came into the scene in 2018, the duopoly of Globe Telecom and Smart held sway in the Philippines.
With the expansion of the field of choice for mobile phone users, the telcos would have to compete with each other in terms of quality of service and fees to maintain the patronage of their subscribers.
Although it took some time for the three telcos to implement the law, they should be commended for organizing the TCI joint venture specifically to meet its requirements.
According to reports, they pitched in P120 million to purchase the facilities and put in place the systems needed to ensure the smooth operation of MNP among themselves.
As presented to the public, TCI has a corporate personality that is separate and distinct from the three telcos. Meaning, it is not an adjunct or part of their existing organizational structures.
If TCI goes true to form and intent, it would, in effect, act as the body that would handle or manage all matters relating to the implementation of MNP.
The work is cut out for TCI and the three telcos in meeting the objectives of the law.
That’s not going to be a walk in the park because they are, after all, still competitors in the same market and there could be issues on, among others, interconnection of facilities that may arise in the future.
Hopefully, the launch on Sept. 30 of MNP would proceed without any hitches. If it does, and in fairness to TCI and the three telcos, let’s hold off complaints or criticisms about its implementation until, say, six months. That would be a reasonable learning period. INQ
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