New Delhi: Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday unveiled a new scheme that
permits mobile phone users to change their service providers
without having to forgo their numbers in what in industry jargon
is called mobile number portability.
The service, which was initially launched in Haryana is being
taken nationwide in a bid to ensure that people dissatisfied with
the quality of service of the existing telecom providers are given
a choice while being able to retain their phone numbers.
The prime minister launched the scheme by making the first call
from a ported number to Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, at
the Vigyan Bhavan official convention centre here also attended by
two ministers of state -- Sachin Pilot and Gurudas Kamat.
"It is believed that mobile number portability, besides enabling a
subscriber to change operators without losing his or her original
number will also trigger competition," said the prime minister.
"The telecom service provider will seek to improve the range and
quality of their services in order to retain their existing
subscribers. This should further spur the growth of the Indian
telecom sector," he added.
India currently has over 700 million mobile phone users, making
the network the largest in the world after China but ahead of the
US. The country has been adding 15-18 million new mobile phone
connections to the network every month.
"This service is a boon to the customer. From our point of view we
consider the mobile number portability as a positive step," said
Mahesh Prasad, president for marketing in the wireless business of
Ahead of the pan-India launch of the scheme, some companies had
already started their advertising campaigns to woo dissatisfied
customers from other networks. Idea Cellular was the first to
start the campaign, followed by Vodafone recently.
The scheme was delayed several times in the past. Initially, it
was to be implemented by Dec 31, 2009, in all the metros along
with Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil
The deadline was changed to March 31, 2010, and then to June 30
and subsequently again to Oct 31. But these were again deferred as
operators were not ready with the infrastructure to provide the
On Nov 25, finally, the scheme was launched in Haryana and
Minister Sibal said it would be made a pan-India offer from Jan
"Overall, my hope and expectation is of improved service level,
features, and customer service: simply because now there is more
choice, with mobile number portability making it easier for the
customer to exercise it," said Prasanto K. Roy, chief editor,
To avail of the service, a customer will have to pay a maximum of
Rs.19 to the new operator for "porting" the numbers. The customer
then has to remain with the new operator for at least three
The customer has to send an SMS from the existing phone to 1900.
Based on this, a unique porting code will be sent by existing
provider. The customer has to file an application then with the
new service provider mentioning the code for transferring the
Officials said the maximum waiting period fixed for porting is
seven working days. But the number will remain out of service for
just two hours.
The technology is widely prevalent in most parts of Europe and
North America, as also in countries like Singapore, Taiwan and