Jan 14, 2009

India - Mobile number portability launch too delayed by a yr

Anandita Singh Mankotia

New Delhi: Not only 3G services but also another customer-friendly measure announced with much pomp and show by communications and IT minister A Raja on August 1, 2008—mobile number portability (MNP)—which has got delayed by almost a year.

While as per the department of telecommunications (DoT), MNP was to begin functioning in metros from this month and in the rest of India by June, the revised draft puts metro launch around September and pan India only by January 2010.

With the 3G spectrum auction now in all certainty looking like taking place not earlier than April and MNP delayed, Raja’s two major initiatives would not see the light of the day in the tenure of present government. Another measure, the announcement of the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) policy has already been delayed with the DoT referring the matter back to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) as it differing with it whether licences should be given to them prior to their tie-up with a service provider or post it.

MNP enables users to change service providers while retaining their mobile numbers.

DoT officials told FE that they had held the pre-bid conference last month and decided to issue clarifications on queries of the operators on the issue. The successful bidders would then become clearing houses and manage the database for MNP operations.

The government was supposed to announce clarifications to the queries by January 5 but it was later extended to January 22. Among the queries of the prospective bidders was what would be the amount charged as porting fee and how would the two clearing houses co-ordinate.

According to the MNP policy announced by Raja in August 2008, the country would be divided into two MNP zones, with two metros in each zone for managing the porting exercise. There would be one licensee for each zone, which would manage the entire porting exercise. Existing telecom service providers cannot directly or indirectly have any stake in the MNP clearing agent, and vice-versa, in order to avoid any clash of interest.

The licence holders have to have at least 26% of the equity invested by a company, holding a prior experience of number portability in one or more countries, and it must have an experience of servicing at least 25 million consumers for at least two years.

The all query method would also be implemented in India, which means that all the consumer queries regarding portability would be handled by these two agencies in the country. While the total time to port from one service provider to another would not exceed two days initially, it would be upgraded to much faster levels. The user would have to approach the recipient operator for porting his/her number.

The eligibility criterion for the applicant specifies that the company must have a minimum paid-up capital of Rs 10 crore on the date of the application. The applicant company must also have a combined net worth of Rs 100 crore ( in proportion to their direct equity). The foreign entity must have a minimum of 26% stake and a maximum of 74% stake (in line with the FDI regulation for the sector). A minimum lock-in period of three years has been specified by the government.

Also, a one-time entry fee of Rs 1 crore has been marked by the government for the MNP licence, and subsequently, a 1% charge on the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) would be levied by the government as the annual licence fee. However, there would a moratorium of two years on the license fee from the effective date of licence.

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