In Brief: Are Mobile Network Operators Pushing MNP on Social Media?
Friday, 15 April 2011
Mobile number portability got off to a slow start. Partly, this is not surprising: experience shows that numbers will increase gradually over time. In emerging markets, where pre-paid subscribers dominate, the response is limited as well. In Kenya, many subscribers already have at least two SIM cards and a new SIM card is effectively cheaper to acquire than paying the porting fee of KES200, although Airtel, for example, have offered to cover the porting fee. Still, buying a second SIM is faster than the porting process – and makes sense if you want to hang on to an operator’s mobile money services. So there are several reasons why a stampede of clients was unlikely in the first place (In Brief: Kenya Introduces Mobile Number Portability), but the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) also sensibly emphasised that the objective was not to trigger mass migrations of subscribers, but to give them choice.

Port This Way?

Kenyans are known to be one of the most active African countries on the internet. Do companies take the battle for clients online? Here is a quick snapshot of the companies’ use of digital and social media:
  • Safaricom have the instructions how to port in the MNP FAQs on their website, but their Twitter and Facebook pages barely acknowledge this. However, anyone who asks them about it online will be answered just as another query and given directions and/or necessary assistance.
  • Airtel: The MNP is their main selling point for the season. Most their recent updates are about it and it is one of the products they are pushing hardest. They even set up a separate website for this purpose ( that anyone searching for MNP information on their main website is redirected to automatically. They include information on MNP on their Facebook page as well. Twitter is a little more confusing – there are a number of copycat accounts and a pan-African account that does not promote Kenya’s Nikuhama. However, the hash tag #nikuhama is used in Twitter exchanges by supporters from both major networks.
  • Yu does not seem to consider online marketing as important. There was a brief mention on Facebook in the first week of after the MNP launch: “Your number Our network ... join yu today FOR FREE.” But they provided no details, and the Twitter account is equally inactive on this issue. They have a page on their website, but it is not easy to find as it is buried behind numerous links.
  • Orange do not seem very concerned about the introduction of MNP either: There is nothing about it on their website nor on their Twitter account or Facebook page .
Clearly the real battle to entice subscribers to port is between Safaricom and Airtel – Orange and Yu do not convey much social media confidence that they can get anyone to move.

Paperwork and the Fine Print
To submit a porting request, subscribers need to visit an agent of their intended network, so the online and social media information only serves as information – it is not possible to submit a porting request online.

With just two weeks of experiences in MNP, subscribers in general still seem very unsure how this service works, and what it entails. The CCK website has a comprehensive list of FAQs that are also repeated on both the Safaricom and the Airtel website – with a subtle difference: Safaricom lists them immediately in the section on MNP , whereas Airtel lists them in a separate FAQ section on the Nikuhama website where the landing page lists the benefits of joining Airtel.

This is crucial information, and with some basic search skills, it is not difficult to find out. But not everyone has a smartphone or bothers looking it up before, and not every mobile subscriber spends a lot of time on social media. So consumer education is still a concern. And this week, Safaricom accused Airtel of omitting the section where subscribers need to acknowledge with a signature that they have fully understood the implications of porting, including losing access to their previous operator’s mobile money service and forfeiting loyalty points. CCK actually requires all operators to include it in the porting form as stipulated in the annex no. 1 of the porting guidelines.

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