MNP brings competitive advantage to small operators
6?s with Uche Onwediwe, Chief Operating Officer of Interconnect ClearingHouse Limited
What is the role of Interconnect Clearing House in mobile number portability?
They are responsible for the managing of the porting processes, once a subscriber goes to any of the operator network to move from one operator to the next, the SMS that they sent and the port request that the operator sent come to us, we verify it and then forward it to the donor operator, once they respond, we send it back to the recipient operator and inform everybody that this number has now ported to this other network. After that, we send a broadcast to everyone and mange the database where other information is.
Now that mobile number portability is launched, what is likely going to change in the Nigerian telecom space?
You will definitely see an improvement of telecommunication services by all the operators, you will see more focus on subscribers because right now they know that are able and willing to move from one operator to the other without any restriction. So they have to improve their services, the subscribers will gain the most, and the smaller operators who have been trying to win subscribers, will now see an easy opportunity for them to get subscribers to their network and show those subscribers what really services they can offer. That is what is going to happen, a lot of movement back and front by the operators and subscribers.
Why do I have to get another SIM card when porting from one network to the other?
If you think about it, all the networks you are on, they give you their own SIM card. So you need their own SIM card which recognizes their network and all the capabilities of their network. What we have done is when you give them that new SIM card; your number is allowed to work on that new network. But you need a SIM card to be part of that network but you don’t have to pay a fee for it. So either way, it is a free service for you.
What are the likely challenges subscribers and operators are going to face?
The challenges we may face as service is being launched are we may still have issues like maybe you send a text to port and it doesn’t go through, or maybe you try to port and the second operator hasn’t send the port request. So we may have some of those issues but really as time goes on, we will be able to move back and front freely and the service is going to improve around all the networks.
How transparent is it for an independent company like yours to effectively manage porting processes?
It is very transparent for us since we don’t generate traffic or have our own subscriber base, our sole business is to transit from point A to point B and the total we receive has to match the total we send. That being the case it is very easy for us to reconcile who sent what. This capability is what gives the Clearinghouses the ability to mediate issues and assist in reconciliation in the industry.
What level of infrastructures and processes do you have in place to ensure efficient porting process?
We are constantly investing in our infrastructure to upgrade its capability and capacity while at the same time working with the operators and service providers to make sure that our solutions are compatible with where they are now and where they plan to be in the future. We currently have major switching centers across the country and are expanding with smaller switches in strategic locations to meet our clients and partners where they need us so that porting will be easier and technically more efficient
Now, the customer is truly king
Mobile number portability (MNP) is finally here and the maxim that the customer is king may truly come to berth in a market notorious for ignoring the customers’ right to good services. In the pre MNP years, subscribers were locked into networks that they subscribed to with practically no chance of opting out of the ‘telecom jail’ should they desire to try another network. But MNP has opened a wider vista for subscribers to switch to any mobile network operators (MNOs) as they wish. Porting means ability to make a choice of network but in a much practical competitive sense, it means the licence to poach subscribers once a network is able to bring more carrots to the market to win over angry subscribers of another network. The pressure is, therefore, high on the operators to sustain customers’ loyalty by investing on network optimization. Poor quality of service has been the most defining and recurring minus in Nigeria’s much talked about telecom revolution of 115 million frustrated subscribers. MNP may as well mark the beginning of the real change. Networks must invest more frequently on network upgrade to keep the pipes wider for easier and seamless communication. They must also focus on the subscribers and their needs. Making money would still remain crucial but money will be best earned when the customer is satisfied. The fear of mass migration is real. The necessity to keep the customers satisfy at all times is critical than ever. Now, the customer is truly king. MNP may just be the beginning of that much desirous self-regulation by MNOs. Who knows!