Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiated a process to overhaul mobile number portability (MNP) - which allows mobile phone users to keep the same phone number anywhere in the country - so as to remove inconveniences faced by subscribers under the present system.
In a consultation paper issued Friday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought stakeholder views on the framework it has suggested on the issue of porting codes by MNP service providers when consumers want to move from one network to another or from one circle to another.
It has also asked for views on the pre-paid balance of subscribers being transferred to their accounts, and has asked for an alternative mechanism for delivering porting codes in case of large scale disruptions or sudden shut downs of networks.
"Consequent upon closure/discontinuation of services, Trai has received large number of complaints related to the difficulties faced by subscribers of these service providers in porting their mobile numbers," the regulator said in a statement on Friday.
India's telecom regulator said it is initiating a consultation paper covering all the existing issues with a view to "review and revamp" the existing process and make it more efficient and convenient for telecom subscribers. Till January 2018, approximately 344.59 million porting requests have been processed.
Trai has sought written comments from stakeholders by May 3, and has set May 17 as the deadline for counter comments on the issue.
MNP was first introduced in India in 2011, but was restricted to within a circle. It was expanded to users moving to another circle in 2015.
Telcos say the upsurge in India’s wireless subscriber base has led to “a 1,600% jump in the volume of MNP requests” between August 2011 (18.6 million) and October 2017 (315 million). The jump in annual MNP requests has also been sharp from a modest 6.4 million in FY11 to nearly 64 million in FY17, according to COAI data.
Trai had recently also slashed by nearly 80% to a maximum of Rs4 the fee charged to consumers for porting from one service provider to another.
In its consultation paper, Trai has suggested that the MNP service provider becomes the go-between or coordinator between the donor and receiver carriers for processing the porting requests. It has also asked whether new technologies, such as blockchain, be helpful for facilitating faster and transparent MNP process, and the possible advantages and challenges.
Phone companies backed the telecom regulator’s bid to review the MNP process to make it more efficient but cautioned that the porting scenario in India with over a billion users spread across 22 service areas is far more complex than the rest of the world.
Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said “It is of utmost importance for the sector, that any changes in the regulatory regime should be done only after an effective cost-benefit analysis. The ultimate goal of any regulation is to facilitate the subscribers, while not putting any extra financial or operational burden over the operators”.