In Brief: Kenya Introduces Mobile Number Portability
Friday, 01 April 2011
It took years of planning and several delays, but from 1 April 2011, mobile number portability (MNP) is now available to Kenyan subscribers. The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), in co-operation with the porting company, has launched a media campaign to explain the mechanism to a still fairly uninformed public, and also provided a detailed list of frequently asked questions on their website:
  • Number portability is available only to mobile subscribers, i.e., it does not apply to fixed and CDMA lines.
  • The one-time fee for porting is KES173 plus VAT.
  • Subscribers need to make the written request to port with an agent or outlet of their intended network, and it has to be accompanied by identification documents. After paying the fee, the subscriber has to send a porting request by sms.
  • After signing the number porting request form, the subscriber will obtain a new SIM card from the new operator, which has to be registered in line with the existing SIM card registration requirements. Porting should take a few minutes, but can take up to 48 hours, especially if the request falls on a public holiday or a weekend.
  • Subscribers need to draw down their airtime balances (in case of prepaid numbers) and withdraw any funds from their mobile money account before porting, or they will forfeit these.
  • After changing the network operator, a subscriber needs to wait at least 60 days before being able to change again – and the previous provider is not allowed to approach him/her to return within that period, whether directly or indirectly. CCK is still determining how many times a subscriber can change providers.

Experiences in Emerging Markets
In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa introduced MNP in 2006. Nigeria has been postponing the launch date, but is talking about May 2011. Porting XS, the parent company of Kenya’s Porting Access, has just won the contract to manage MNP in Ghana. However, there are some indicative figures from other emerging markets:
  • India: MNP was launched in India in January 2011. The number of ported connections has risen since the first month, but based on the data so far, only 4% of subscribers are expected to have changed operators by the end of the year. However, Pakistan’s experience shows that the number of ported connections rises over time:
  • Pakistan introduced MNP in March 2007. From its launch to mid 2009, around 1.1m subscriber had changed their operator. To put this into perspective: In 2009, Pakistan had more than 90m mobile subscribers. Once a number is ported, Pakistan’s MNP regime is not very flexible: Subscribers have to stay with their new operator for at least six months. But even if no large numbers switch, MNP can render a market more attractive to new entrants: In Pakistan, two new mobile network operators, Telenor and Warid, insisted on MNP before investing in the country.

Kenya: Incentives to Port?
Kenya’s telecoms sector is dominated by prepaid subscribers and an estimated 40% of the subscribers already have two numbers. SIM cards are easily available – in fact, buying a new SIM card is cheaper than the porting fee, although operators are trying to attract new subscribers with the offer over covering the porting fee. Remembering numbers may also less of an issue, market research firm TNS RMS point out: with numbers saved on phones, multiple entries per subscriber are easy to manage. And of course the network effect persists: Not all operators offer the same rates for on and off-net calls. When subscribers make an off-net call, they will receive an alert, but the alert will not tell them which network they are calling.

And a final stickiness factor, unique to the Kenyan market, will be mobile money: Safaricom can expect that many of its 13.5m mobile money clients will retain their line to avoid losing their M-PESA account – and this service has become more attractive with the timely launch of international remittances into M-PESA accounts through a co-operation with Western Union. All other operators offer mobile money services as well, but none of them has the same agent network and outreach that Safaricom has built. In March 2011, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) decided against forcing Safaricom to open up this system, arguing that other operators would have to invest in a comparative network of their own first.

MNP is not expected to lead to mass migrations – if anything, the price wars of the past months will have had a stronger impact on subscriber figures. And it does little to grow the overall market: MNP makes operators chase after the same pool of existing subscribers – it will not encourage targeting new subscribers. However, this is not to say that subscribers will not benefit from the availability of the service: Companies need to try harder to retain their customers, which will make the market more competitive. And from an industry perspective, this will offer a similar conundrum as the aggressive price cuts: voice revenues will remain under pressure. Great news for subscribers, but a headache for operators. 

Share this article with others:
Digg!Reddit!!Facebook!Slashdot!Netscape!Technorati!StumbleUpon!Newsvine!Furl!Yahoo!Ma.gnolia!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment