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Mobile number portability to see improved level of competition between operators

Dubai: Almost one fourth of subscribers in the UAE expressed interest in utilising mobile number portability (MNP) in near future, according to a new study by Dubai-based research and consulting firm AMRB.


MNP is the process of taking a mobile telephone numbers to another network operator without changing the numbers.

“The success of MNP will ultimately depend on the porting time and charges — however, in most markets where MNP has been introduced, it has led to some immediate churn and then the market tends to settle down at lower levels of churn, as operators start matching each others offers, making it more of a zero-sum game,” Sukhdev Singh, associate vice-president at AMRB, told Gulf News.

As per the study, he said around 22-23 per cent of users of each operator has claimed an interest in using the MNP option, but the actual levels are likely to be much lower, at around 5-10 per cent, due to consumers’ inertia, unless either operator comes up with a game changing offer.

He said there is now an “improved level of competition” between the operators. This in turn will put pressure on operators to improve their service levels.

“End users are going to benefit as price competition has come into the picture. A telecom operator who can provide better value-added features and service will benefit from MNP,” Bhanu Chaddha, senior telecom analyst at research firm International Data Corporation, told Gulf News.

Since a large majority of subscribers in the UAE prefer prepaid payment plans, Chaddha believes that MNP will only be a limited success in Gulf countries.

Key elements

“Prepaid subscribers have higher propensity to churn than postpaid customers, and are generally not worried about changing their numbers, which puts a question mark on the need for MNP in GCC countries,” Chaddha said.

“Implementation of MNP globally has been driven by three key elements — decrease in market prices, to facilitate market competition and to increase consumer welfare,” Singh said.

He said better network coverage was the single most important factor for du users to consider etisalat, while better packages was the main reason for etisalat customers to think of moving to du.

About 56 per cent of the du subscribers are considering changing to etisalat for better network coverage while 47 per cent of etisalat subscribers are considering shifting to du for better prices and packages for voice calls.

The “customer service” is the second key reason for subscribers from du as well as etisalat, with 46 per cent and 39 per cent of the subscribers respectively claiming to be unsatisfied with the current service provider.

Though marginal, about seven per cent of the subscribers want to shift just for the sake of experimenting.

The survey revealed that 60 per cent of the mobile users are aware of MNP being introduced in the market.

Sing said that 10 per cent have already registered with the competing telco for MNP.

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