GSM Subscribers Seek Reduction In Porting Time

TRUE to predictions, an avalanche of complaints now trails the mobile number porting that was kicked-off in Lagos seven days ago.

Subscribers, expressed angst Saturday as many of them could not vote out their non-performing mobile operators as promised by the Nigeria communications Commission (NCC).

Former President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, a lawyer, said he did not have confidence in the integrity of the process, especially as all the operators still grapple with poor quality of service.

Saying he subscribes to all the networks — MTN, Airtel, Glo and Etisalat — due to poor network quality, Unegbu noted that, contrary to what obtains in other climes, the process of porting out to a new network in Nigeria remains the most cumbersome.

According to him, “it is like going through the eye of a needle,” a situation that discourages subscribers from making any real attempt to “port out.”

“Those trying to port now simply do it for the fun of it, because there is no better offering in any alternative network.”

A senior management staff in one of the major GSM service providers yesterday also confirmed that the process “is challenging, as this is not something you can do on your mobile phone.” He also disclosed that the network was yet to receive any subscriber migrating from a competing network.  “You need to visit our office before you can really port, and this takes time. The disadvantage is that even if you succeed in porting out, you are stuck with the new network until after three months. There could be network challenge and you are stuck for three months,” he warned.

Seven days after the kicked-off of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in Nigeria, the atmosphere looks gloomy, as challenges of process sustainability, adaptability and awareness stirs it in the face.

The Guardian, last Sunday, reported exclusively that the major challenge for the process could rest with interconnectivity as the operators expressed dissatisfaction with the “ politically favoured warehousing agent” is said to lack the capacity to drive it “at the moment.” This reason, according to at least, two major operators, was the reason for the delayed take-off of MNP in the country.

A Lagos banker, who simply gave her name as Abimbola, said she actually sent a message to the preferred code of 3232 as stated in the procedure. “I waited to get response for about 36 hours, nothing happened. I was not actually expecting it to be seamless at first like that. My concern is that no text or call from the operators and those managing the process — both the donor and the recipient to know whether they are working on it or not.

“Someone, however, said I should go to one of their services centre. But I have not gone; no time for that now.”

Another subscriber, Samson Akpan, a Technician, said his major challenge would be having to wait for 48 hours before switching or porting to another network.

“The 48 hours is too long. I don’t think that is obtainable in other climes. If within the 48 hours, there was an emergency or someone wanted to give me a contract and they couldn’t get through to me. Am I not going to lose much”, he stated.

Another subscriber, Mrs. Adetoun Ojo, a retired Director of Education in Lagos said: “I won’t port because I am afraid that if I port to any other network and then discover that the network is worse than where I’m coming from, I’ll have to wait for three months to re-migrate. It is better I remain where I am. Can’t we do it within a day or less than 48 hours?

Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, had said the process is expected to encounter some hitches at the beginning. He stressed that those challenges would be overcome as the scheme moved on.

Juwah explained that any porting process that didn’t go through within 48 hours “is failed one,” which could be done again.

“We actually don’t expect the process to be smooth, seamless at the beginning like this. The technology is new in Nigeria. However, going by our level of preparation, we are sure of overcoming those challenges. Any porting process that didn’t sail through within 48 hours of launching it means a failed one. Another process will be required”, he stated.

Meanwhile, in an Interview with The Guardian, a telecoms industry analyst and Information Technology expert, Akin Akinbo, welcomed the development, but was quick to say that the market segment for MNP in the country was less than 10 per cent.

Akinbo, who based its estimate on the fact that 90 per cent of the market in Nigeria is occupied by prepaid users, “this means that only 10 per cent of the market are loyal to a particular network. It is easier for the 90 per cent to get on another network. They can easily by a N200 SIM, register it and they are on.”

Speaking at a post-event interview in Lagos, the Group Chief Operating Officer of Globacom, Mohammed Jameel also admitted that there would be slight challenges at the early stage, but stressed that the challenges would be overcome.

The Chief Operating Officer of Interconnect Clearing House (ICH), the clearing house for MNP in Nigeria, Uche Onwudiwe however, assured of seamless transactions as the process gets more awareness, saying that ICH would ensure subscribers enjoy the number porting regime in Nigeria.

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