The much awaited Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is finally here after a delay of more than 1.5 years. Under the scheme one can have the same number across mobile networks by paying a very small fee of Rs 19 to the existing operators. A lot of people regard it as a positive change for our telecom industry which has for long had complaints of saturation, very low tariffs, poor customer services and congested networks. So the biggest question is “Can it herald the change it promises?”

More than anything it would give the general public an option to voice their opinion and give them all the power to tell a service provider that he / she isn’t happy with the services provided. CUSTOMER IS KING! A number of companies such as Idea with its “No Idea? Get Idea” commercial and Vodafone’s ad “Everyone’s Welcome” and even Tata Docomo’s ads show that service providers know the importance of such an initiative and catching the customers eye first. Many companies like BSNL, Uninor are also providing freebies and special schemes for the expected incoming subscribers.

Since tariffs are almost similar across networks, people would be looking at the value – added services, customer services, billing etc. before deciding the network of choice. Obviously the congestion and quality of the call would be of paramount importance. This is what service providers will have to concentrate on if they don’t want to lose their customers in the near future.

With the launch of 3G services, we could only see many customers going for service providers which provide a better 3G experience than many others.

But there are also a couple of problems. MNP which has been introduced earlier in Pakistan, Dubai, China and some other countries hasn’t really been successful. First things first you can move from one provider to another only in your circle. Another problem is the fact that you can only change an operator after tolerating its service for at least three months.

As already pointed out by Ernst and Young, only about 6-7% churn rate is expected from the MNP scheme. The postpaid and high end prepaid customers would want to shift to other networks. Others like me would be pretty happy with what I have.

PS – In Haryana where MNP was introduced 2 months back in November only 0.75% users have opted for MNP!