Finally, you can chuck that mobile service provider you detest but can't risk abandoning because it would entail the whole rigmarole of getting a new number and informing all your contacts about the change. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended a nationwide deadline for implementing complete mobile number portability.
In other words, once you get a mobile phone number, it is yours for life, irrespective of the service provider catering to it. Of course, this is subject to the condition that you remain in the same telecom circle and pay your bills regularly.
However, don't rush to give your service provider the boot just yet – the deadline is still some time away, June 2009 as a matter of fact. This latest deadline has been suggested by TRAI in a letter to the department of telecommunications (DoT) secretary Siddhartha Behura. This recommendation comes after DoT indicated last November that the facility would be available in the metropolitan cities by December 2008. The new deadline covers the mobile phone population of the entire country.
TRAI has also suggested the creation of a Mobile Number Portability Clearing House Administrator which will be entrusted with the task of controlling and managing mobile number portability in the country. It has requested DoT to issue a licence to neutral or third parties to set up such an administrator, the establishment charge for which will be borne by the company which can charge porting or transfer fees from the service providers.
It also added that this company should not have any substantial equity directly or indirectly in any of the Indian service providers, or vice-versa, with ''substantial equity'' defined as ''equity of 10 per cent or more''. ''Foreign direct investment (FDI) limits for this neutral third party will be as per service licence conditions, that is, 74 per cent, which is consistent with the existing policy of the government,'' TRAI said.
The letter also specified certain limitations for pre-paid users under this scheme, in the sense that such a subscriber won't be able to transfer unused balance from one service provider to another even as the existing number is retained.
''There will be 'break-before-make' arrangement for completion of porting process, i.e. connection from donor network to be disconnected first and then connection with recipient network will be made. However, efforts should be made so that break period should not be for more than two hours,'' TRAI added.
Number portability is all about shifting to another service provider while retaining your phone number, within the same service area. This move is expected to increase competition and offer better quality of service for subscribers, who will now have the option to switch operators without the associated costs of changing numbers.
Surveys indicate that as many as half of India's 250 million-odd mobile phone users are unhappy with their service providers and willing to switch operators if allowed to retain their existing numbers. Number portability has so far been introduced in the US, UK, Australia, Korea, Japan, Canada, most of Europe and even Pakistan, among other countries. According to reports, its introduction has been followed by up to 50 per cent subscribers switching operators in some of these countries.