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Telecom nirvana: Will MNP help?

By Sunil Jain
May 07, 2009 10:43 IST
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Look at regular reports from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the message is clear: India's mobile phone firms are providing pretty lousy service to their customers.

That's also a perception you get from talking to customers -- who doesn't have his/her call-drop stories?

While the established telcos deny their service is that bad, or blame it on the lack of spectrum, the question is whether the service is bad enough to get subscribers to leave.

It is for this reason that TRAI decided Mobile Number Portability had to be introduced at the earliest.

In return for a fee, subscribers can retain their existing number but use the service of another mobile phone company -- so, you can have an Airtel phone but actually get your service from Vodafone, or vice-versa.

The Cellular Operators Association of India regularly gets sample surveys done to get a fix on the 'churn,' or the rate at which subscribers leave and get their services from rival networks.

The 'churn,' COAI surveys show have been falling -- it rose from 6 per cent in 2002 to 7.3 per cent in 2004 and fell to 3.4 per cent last year.

Assuming the sample is representative, does it mean consumers will not change their numbers when MNP comes into force? Depends.

One reason for low 'churn' could be that the service is uniformly bad across all providers, so subscribers haven't shifted.

But now, with new players coming in, the picture could be different. Now is when you'll get to know the real 'churn.'

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Sunil Jain
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