Friday, April 1, 2011

MOBILE NUMBER PORTABILITY

Do you Remember?

Do you remember the days when there was no mobile phone technology in Kenya? All we could worry about when we could want make a call is where to get enough coins from so that we could use in the telephone boot. Those days are long gone, and are followed by the mobile phone age. This age has experienced tremendous and rapid development, from the days when the only names in the industry were SAFARICOM and KENCELL.

Today there are four major mobile phone service providers in Kenya: Safaricom, Airtel, Yu and Orange. Come to think of it, this has really helped eliminate monopoly and we have seen price wars that have resulted to reduced call rates to the consumers’ advantage. However, this package of reduced rates comes together with some confusion: Which is my favorite Service Provider (SP)? This has seen most, if not all of us turned into SP prostitutes. Taking myself as an example, I have four sim cards in my wallet and with one mobile, these sim cards have to be given turns staying in my phone. Does this irritate anybody like it irritates me?
However, 2011 may be the year we say goodbye to bulky Sim Cards in our wallets

MNP?


Yes. It seems the issue of having many sim cards in a wallet didn’t bug the consumers only. The SPs were irritated too! (Who would be at peace knowing that their fiancée is being wooed by other suitors?) The consumers have seemed to follow the price war trend very well, always going for the lowest price. Due to this, there arose the need among each of the SPs to improvise ways to retain their customers and if possible fish more from the other. Price wars have proven ineffective and the SPs have finally agreed to introduce Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service. This service is to be introduced today (April 1st, 2011).

What is MNP?
According to About.com’s blog, Mobile Number Portability or MNP helps mobile phone users to change from one mobile network operator to another, without having to change their mobile phone number.
The system of MNP is incorporated differently in various countries across the world. Most countries follow the system of Recipient-Led porting, also known as Donor-Led porting. Here, customers wanting to port their numbers will have to contact the Donor in order to obtain a Porting Authorization Code or PAC. The customer has to then give this to the Recipient. On receipt of this PAC, the Recipient proceeds to contact the Donor. For example, if we were talking about Kenya, and one wanted to port from Airtel to Safaricom, the person would have to obtain a PAC from Airtel (the Donor) and give it to the Safaricom (Recipient) who will then proceed to switch the person.

MNP enables mobile telephone users to retain their existing phone numbers when they change from one mobile network operator to another. In other words, what this means is that if a user moves to another mobile network, the new network operator would issue him a SIM card that has the same telephone number (including original network code) as his original network's code. The user's number is then said to have been "ported", in MNP dialect.

MNP in Other Countries

In order to be familiar with the service, let us look at its adoption in different countries:
Kenya joins three African Countries, namely: Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa to become the fourth African countries to embrace Mobile Number Portability service. Ghana is also scheduled to launch the service within 2011.
This technological facility has been available and implemented in several countries for almost 10 years now. Here is a link to the Wikipedia Article that gives a detailed list of countries that have embraced MNP service across the world.

Japan

In Japan, fixed line portability began in March, 2001. 番号ポータビリティー制度 (bangō portability seido - commonly referred to as portability or MNP) began on October 24, 2006. Users are able to change cellular phone carriers without changing their number for a fee of 5000 yen. However, e-mail addresses are subject to change, and music/data downloaded may not be used.
The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) spent three years to put mobile number portability into practice, since its initial workgroup started in November, 2003. As a result, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank accelerated the price battle, but it was of little effect due to already competitive price plans and customer loyalty. Overall, mobile number portability in Japan was not very successful, because of high transition costs for the customer due to SIM lock, the long time it took to establish mobile number portability, allowing operators to fence in subscribers with price plans, and the significance of mobile Internet mail.

Malaysia

In Malaysia, mobile number portability plan to start by mid 2008, according to an article on the National News Agency Bernama

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, MNP was launched in 8 July 2006, to be the first country to launch this service in the ME region. A centralized number portability clearing house (NPC) solution was implemented by CITC(the telecom regulation authority) and the two mobile phone operators were obliged to implement the MNP solution in their networks and to interface with the NPC. the service was provided to the mobile subscribers for free.

Europe
In the European Union, all telephone providers are required to provide number portability under the Universal Services Directive (2002/22/EU).

Austria

In Austria, number portability was implemented in Oct 2004.

Belgium

In Belgium, number portability was implemented in Oct 2002.

Cyprus

In Cyprus, geographic, non-geographic and mobile number portability is required as of July 12, 2004.

Denmark

In Denmark, portability of fixed line numbers and ISDN was implemented on January 1, 2001. Mobile number portability was implemented on July 1, 2001. In 2006, 238,293 fixed lines were ported, along with 456,159 mobile lines. Considering that the number of fixed lines by the end of 2006 was 2,974,000 and the number of mobile lines was 5.828.000, roughly 7.9% of lines were ported in 2006.

Estonia

In Estonia, number portability is required from fixed operators since January 1, 2004 and should be required from mobile operators as from January 1, 2005.

Finland

In Finland, mobile number portability was implemented on July 25, 2003. The impact of mobile number portability in Finland exceeds that of other countries. In one year (June 2003-June 2004), the combined market share of Telia Sonera, Elisa and DNA fell from 98.7% to 87.9%.

France

In France, geographic number portability has been available since January 1, 1998. As of January 1, 2001, it became possible to change geographic location or operator while keeping the same number. Mobile number portability was introduced on June 30, 2003. However, due to its lack of effectiveness, a new system was launched on May 21, 2007 with two objectives: having a single contact for the customer (the new operator should take all the steps towards mobile number portability) and a maximum period of ten days for mobile number portability to have effect.

United States

In the United States, the FCC first mandated LNP among wireline carriers in 1997, as well. LNP was first implemented in the U.S. upon the establishment of the original Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC) in Chicago, Illinois in 1998. This service covered select rate centers in the Ameritech region. Thereafter, as switches and telephone networks were upgraded with Local Routing Number (LRN) capability, LNP was deployed sequentially to the remaining RBOC areas. The U.S. FCC since has mandated Wireless Local Number Portability starting November 24, 2003 (in metropolitan areas), and allowed operators to charge an additional monthly Long-Term Telephone Number Portability End-Use Charge as compensation. On November 10, 2003, the FCC additionally ruled that number portability applies to landline numbers moving to mobile telephones and, on October 31, 2007, the FCC made clear that the obligation to provide LNP extends to VoIP providers.

Mexico

Mexico is the first Latin American country to have number portability in both mobile and local telephony. The Federal Commission of Telecommunications (COFETEL) applied this law, in defense and regulation of the great monopoly that Telmex has. It was also one condition for Telmex, if the Mexican company wanted to enter to the video market Triple play (telecommunications). The number portability is available since July 5 of 2008. The handling of the service is handled by Telcordia Technologies.
India
India is the latest country to launch the service on 20th January, 2011.
This is just a sample of the many countries that have installed MNP service. See more details here.
HOW DO WE GO ABOUT IT?
You are wondering: Where do I start? This whole MNP thing looks like a mistery!! I won't port because of that. Don't worry. CCK got your questions all answered.
Technicality Behind MNP Service
So you know how you are supposed to do it: Could you be interested to be a little curious to know what kind of technical stuff goes behind the scenes?
As I may had mentioned earlier, a significant technical aspect of MNP (Mobile Number Portability) is related to the routing of calls or mobile messages (SMS, MMS) to a number once it has been ported. There are various flavors of call routing implementation across the globe but the international and European best practice is via the use of a central database (CDB) of ported numbers. Network operator makes copies of CDB and queries it to find out which network to send a call to. This is also known as All Call Query (ACQ) and is highly efficient and scalable. Majority of the established and upcoming MNP systems across the world are based on this ACQ/CDB method of call routing. One of the very few countries to not use ACQ/CDB is the UK where calls to a number once it has been ported are still routed via the Donor network. This is also known as 'Indirect Routing' and is highly inefficient as it is wasteful of transmission and switching capacity. Because of its Donor dependent nature, Indirect Routing also means that if the Donor network develops a fault or goes out of business, the customers who have ported out of that network will lose incoming calls to their numbers. The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom completed its extended review of the UK MNP process on 29 November 2007 and mandated that ACQ/CDB be implemented for mobile to mobile ported calls by no later than 1 September.
What is all this CBD and ACQ??
Portability Schemes
There are four main methods to route a number whose operator has changed:

*      All Call Query (ACQ)

The operator that originates the call always checks a centralized database and obtains the route to the call.

*      Query on Release (QoR)

The operator that originates the call first checks with the operator to which the number initially belonged, the donor operator. The donor operator verifies the call and informs that it no longer possesses the number. The operator that originates the call then checks the centralized database, as is done with ACQ.

*      Call Dropback

Also known as Return to Pivot (RoP). The operator that originates the call first checks with the donor operator. The donor operator checks its own database and provides a new route. The operator that originates the call then uses this route to forward the call. No central database is consulted.

*      Onward Routing (OR)

The operator that originates the call checks with the donor operator. The donor operator checks its own database and obtains a new route. The operator to which the number was designated routes itself the call to the new operator. This model is called indirect routing.
In number portability the “donor network” provides the number and the “recipient network” accepts the number. The operation of donating a number requires that a number is “snapped out” from a network and “snapped into” the receiving network. If the subscriber ceases to need the number then it is normal that the original donor receives the number back and “snaps back” the number to its network. The situation is slightly more complex if the user leaves the first operator for a second and then subsequently elects to use a third operator. In this case the second operator will return the number to the first and then it is assigned to the third.
In cellular communications the concept of a location registry exists to tie a “mobile station” (such as a cellular phone) to the number. If a number is dialed it is necessary to be able to determine where in the network the mobile station exists. Some mechanism for such forwarding must exist. (Wikipedia explains examples of such systems in the article on the GSM network.)
In the US, for example, there are standards for portability defined by the FCC and the LNPA, as well as NANPA and the ATIS which are agreed upon by all member providers to help make LNP as cost-efficient and expedient as possible while still retaining a healthy level security for all providers and in respect of the highest level of customer service. These rules, first defined in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reports and Orders by the FCC (publicly available at fcc.gov), are further detailed by the LNPA in order to ensure any provider can successfully port numbers to any other provider. NeuStar provides a national database called the NPAC (National Portability Administration Center) which contains the correct routing information for all ported and pooled numbers in the US and Canada. The NANC maintains detailed documentation of the procedure common among US carriers to port numbers as described here.
Providers use SS7 to route calls throughout the US/Canada network. SS7 accesses databases for various services such as CNAM, LIDB, CLASS and, of course, LNP. Calls to ported numbers are completed when a customer who calls a ported number sends the dialed number to a provider's SSP (Service Switch Point), where it is identified either as a local call or not. If the call is local, the switch has the NPA-NXX in its routing table as portable, so it sends a routing request to the STP (Signal Transfer Point) which accesses a local database that is updated by an LSMS (Local Service Management System) which holds all routing for all ported numbers to which the carrier is responsible for completing calls. If routing information is found, a response is sent to the "query" containing the information necessary to properly route the call. If it is not a local number, the call is passed on to the STP and routed until it gets to a local carrier who will perform the "query" mentioned earlier and route the call accordingly.
The routing information necessary to complete these calls is known as an LRN (Local Routing Number). The LRN is no more than a simple 10-digit telephone number that resides in the switch of the service provider currently providing service for the ported telephone number.
When a provider receives a request to port a telephone number from a new customer, that provider sends an industry-standard LSR (Local Service Request) to the existing (or "old") provider. When the Old Provider receives this request, it sends back FOC (Firm Order Confirmation) and the process of porting the number(s) begins. Either provider can initiate the port using a SOA or LSOA (Service Order Activator) which directly edits the NPAC database mentioned before. Providers can also make these requests within the NPAC database directly. If the new provider initiates the port, it is called a "pull," and if the old provider initiates, it is a "push". Once the number is pulled or pushed, the providers must concur the request, and the new provider must "activate" the number using the LRN of the switch serving the customer on the agreed due date. At the point this is completed, the number is ported.
Much of this process is duplicated in intermodal portability (porting between wireline and wireless providers). There are a few technical differences, however, in WLNP—Especially with concern to the time intervals allowed.
NOTE: Wireless Number Portability is available in some parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and most European countries including Britain; however, this relates to transferability between mobile phone lines only. Canada, and the United States are the only countries in the world that offer full number portability transfers between both fixed lines and mobile phone lines [2] because mobile and fixed line numbers are mixed in the same area codes, and billing wise are identical for the calling party, the mobile user usually pays for incoming calls; in other countries all mobile numbers are placed in higher priced mobile-dedicated area codes and the originator of the call to the mobile phone pays for the call. Hong Kong also fulfills the criteria listed above (no area code in Hong Kong, call billings are identical no matter for calling to fixed or mobile, and mobile user pays for incoming calls). Although Hong Kong government approved for fixed-mobile number portability, this service is still not available
The Effectiveness of MNP Service
So now Kenya is joining the rest of the world in mobile number portability. The big question however remains: How will people welcome the service???
Some industry analysts in other countries have severely criticized this form or porting, as it is long-drawn out, breeds inefficiency as well as diluting competition. (So will this mean the end of the ever reducing calling rates in Kenya? L )
The major detriment of the MNP service is the switch time, which varies from one country to another, depending on the infrastructure installed in the country. Prior to March 2008 it took a minimum of 5 working days to port a number in the UK compared to 2 hours only in USA, as low as 20 minutes in the Republic of Ireland, 3 minutes in Australia and even a matter of seconds in New Zealand. On 17 July 2007, Ofcom released its conclusions from the review of UK MNP and mandated reduction of porting time to 2 working days with effect from 1 April 2008. On 29 November 2007, Ofcom completed its consultation on further reduction to porting time to 2 hours along with recipient led porting and mandated that near-instant (no more than 2 hours) recipient led porting be implemented by no later than 1 September 2009. Let us see how well Kenya can do on this.
Advantage:
However, looking on the brighter side, the ability of end users to retain their telephone numbers when changing service providers gives customers flexibility in the quality, price, and variety of telecommunications services they can choose to purchase. Number portability promotes competition between telecommunications service providers by, among other things, allowing customers to respond to price and service changes without changing their telephone numbers. The resulting competition will benefit all users of telecommunications services.
Indeed, competition should foster lower local telephone prices and, consequently, stimulate demand for telecommunications services and increase economic growth. (So after all we are not going lose the ever beneficial mobile operator competition in Kenya!!! J ).
Remember not to do anything stupid before you examine it carefully. Just to let you know, the charges for porting from one network to another will be Ksh.200.
Don’t forget to shift your eyes briefly to the bottom of the left pane where we have this poll: In your opinion: How effective is the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service to you? Would you, have you already or would you never ever bother to embrace it? Let me know your thoughts.

I hope this is not one of the big fat April Fools’ Lie, see you when your number is ported J

2 comments:

  1. After all it wasn't April Fools joke, MNP is real!

    ReplyDelete
  2. MNP allows a mobile phone subscriber to migrate from one service provider to another without having to change his/her mobile number. Mnp Airtel is better then going for other operators.

    ReplyDelete

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