This is my second post on Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in Pakistan. After the first post on portability a number of readers asked about the status of MNP in Pakistan. According to recent news  MNP is likely to be implemented in the first quarter of 2007.

MNP is the ability of end users to change service providers, without changing their mobile numbers. MNP is considered a major achievement for any mobile market and it is anticipated to shake things up in the already heated mobile market. Research from Japan and India indicates that about 30% of subscribers would switch providers if they could keep their numbers. MNP poses many technical and administrative challenges for the operators but provides a competitive landscape for consumers and operators. Usually MNP increases the potential of churn (loss of customers) thereby forcing service operators to work hard to retain their customers. MNP helps the best company to win.

Here’s a timeline of how MNP evolved in Pakistan. Source: PTA website.

2004: Cellular Telecom policy requires MNP implementation by Jan 2006.

January 2005: PTA asks for Request for Proposals on Mobile Number Portability

May 2005: All the six cellular mobile operators agree to form a Supervisory Board to implement Mobile Number Portability with the help of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Initial expenses on the implementation of MNP to be shared by the operators. Tore Johnsen, President of Telenor Pakistan is elected as Chairman of Supervisory Board to implement MNP.

June 2005: The Mobile Number Portability Regulations are placed for the information of all concerned and comments are requested from all stakeholders including general public

July 2006: Chairman PTA announces that MNP will be implemented in October 2006

Sep 2006: PTA sets first Quarter 2007 as the new target for MNP implementation 

March 2007: Latest date announced for MNP launch!

On December 12 The News reported that all the six operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Warid, Telenor, Paktel and Instaphone – have reaffirmed their commitment to meet the deadline of January to implement the MNP after five-time extension offered by the authorities concerned. The article mentions that “MNP requires more than $500 million investment, which is contributed by the operators at the ratio of their subscribers base share”.

If you are interested in the details of how MNP works PTA has published a good paper here. The supervisory board owns the whole process and is responsible for numbering aspects, routing using centralized databases and for making sure that the portability is completely transparent (no dialing changes) to the end users. The press articles mention a “Pakistan Mobile Number Portability Database (Guaranteed) Company Limited” which appears to be the organization responsible for portability system.

If history is any guide, there will be issues when MNP is introduced.  The administrative processes for handling portability requests can be complex and hard to track at times. I hope that the companies provide an easy-to-understand guide for their consumer to get through the portability process. I’m sure most consumers will ignore these teething pains for the larger reward of retaining their phone number and for getting quality service!

Added on Feb 27 2007:  As reported in DAWN, March 23 is the next target date for MNP launch.