Traditionally, Nigerian consumers of mobile telecommunications services had to lose their telephone numbers and adopt new ones when switching from one mobile network provider to another. However, as the mobile telecom market in Nigeria continues to blossom, with about 121 million active phone lines as of September 2013, the government is shifting its policy from “supply-side” incentives for service providers to “demand-side” measures that seek to focus on consumer interest and empowerment. This is evident in the launch—on April 22, 2013—of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) by the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC).
Mobile Number Portability is a service that enables mobile telephone users to switch from one mobile network operator to another, in search of better service quality, whilst retaining their original telephone numbers. This service, according to the NCC, would empower consumers, stimulate competition between the major telecom service providers and enhance the delivery of their services in the country .
MNP Post-launch Report
According to NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, about 4,000 Nigerians switched networks within the first 48 hours following the launch of Mobile Number Portability in the country .
It was also stated that MTN Nigeria lost the most subscribers within the first month of the launch of the service, when the company recorded 49% of all off-network switches. Etisalat Nigeria, however, recorded the biggest gain, attracting 44% of all consumers who opted to switch networks within the period .
Additional reports made available by the NCC revealed that 7,164 consumers switched networks in May 2013, and the number dropped to 5,759 in June 2013.
Effects of Mobile Number Portability on Telecoms Network Providers
So far, the effects of Mobile Number Portability on telecoms network providers in Nigeria have been very significant.
MNP, to a large extent, has motivated telecom network providers in Nigeria to increase the efficiency of their services in order to retain their existing customers and attract new ones from other network providers.
More importantly, the service has mounted pressure on network providers to differentiate themselves in the market through continuous introduction of new and attractive product and service packages.
Effects of Mobile Number Portability on Consumers
While the NCC is enthusiastic about the MNP service, it seems most Nigerians are not. The telling proofs of this are the facts that a meagre 4,000 Nigerians (out of the several millions that use mobile phones) took advantage of the service within the first 48 hours, and less than 15,000 subscribers switched networks between May and June, 2013.
The lack of interest of most Nigerian consumers in MNP can be attributed to the following reasons:
- The service came too late; it came at a time when most Nigerian consumers had already embraced other alternatives such as the abandonment of one network provider for another, and purchase of multiple SIM cards and multi-SIM phones.
- Some unfriendly conditions accompany the porting process. These include the conditions that consumers must wait for 48 hours to complete the process, that consumers must wait for 90 days after porting to a network provider before they can switch to another, that all outstanding call credits and data balances on the previous network must be forfeited during the porting process, and that a customer service agent must be involved in the whole process (i.e. consumers cannot port on their own from the comfort of their location).
- Consumers are unable to determine the perfect network provider, since the upside of one provider is the downside of another. So, consumers would rather stay on their networks rather than get stuck with a new provider—which may be worse—for 90 days.
Nevertheless, the few Nigerian consumers who have switched networks are enjoying the benefits of the MNP service. These benefits include the following:
- Consumers no longer have to pay the various costs that accompany change of numbers. These include the cost of informing others about the change of number, the cost of having cards, stationery and signs that display the number reprinted, and the cost of lost business (e.g., lost new orders) resulting from lost calls to the old number.
- Call and SMS rates have reduced drastically, as all the four major telecom providers now charge less than N15 per minute for calls and N5 or less per text message. The same runs true for the various value added services offered by these providers.
- Consumers no longer have to tolerate poor service delivery by telecom service providers, as they can easily switch to other providers without the fear of losing their original phone numbers.
Mobile Number Portability in Nigeria has fuelled healthy competition among telecoms service providers in the country, but the acceptance of the service by consumers is still very low.
However, with increased awareness about the service and its benefits, and with the erasure of the discouraging conditions that accompany the porting process, more consumers will use the service.
- Nigerian Communications Commission (2013). Monthly Subscriber Data Report. Retrieved from: http://ncc.gov.ng/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=125&Itemid=73
- Premium Times (2013, April 11). NCC Says It Is Set For Mobile Number Portability. Retrieved from: http://premiumtimesng.com/business/129203-ncc-says-it-is-set-for-mobile-number-portability.html
- Channels TV Online (2013). Reasons Why Some GSM Subscribers Cannot Port. Retrieved from: http://www.channelstv.com/home/2013/05/16/reasons-why-some-gsm-subscribers-cannot-port-ncc/
- Okonji, E. (2013, August 1). Porting: MTN Is Biggest Loser, Etisalat Biggest Gainer. This Day Newspaper Online. Retrieved from: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/porting-mtn-is-biggest-loser-etisalat-biggest-gainer/155048
- Okwuke, E. (2013, August 13). Mobile Number Portability: All Motion Little Movement. Daily Independent Newspaper Online. Retrieved from: http://dailyindependentnig.com/2013/08/mobile-number-portability-all-motion-little-movement