Mobile number portability in Kenya a failed project

Mobile number portability (MNP) remains very low in Kenya even after mobile service providers and the government carried out mobile subscriber education, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

CCK in its recent report says the uptake of MNP services has continued to show mixed signals in the mobile market segment since its inception in April 2011.

The report states that there have been close to 48,000 MNPs carried out since the launch of the service, with about 680 imports recorded for the second quarter of 2012, the lowest ever recorded figure, and a decline of 89.9 percent of an estimated 6,650 imports recorded during the previous quarter.

“The low uptake of the MNP service could be attributed to the reduced tariff differentials among operators; long porting duration experienced by the porting customers; club effect in the mobile telephony which is enhanced by the subscription to mobile money transfer service coupled with consumer preferences and choices,” the CCK said.

MNP was introduced in Kenya as a factor in enhancing competition in the multi-operator environment. Number portability is a telecommunications network feature that enables end users to retain their telephone numbers when changing service providers, service types and locations.

The Kenyan government, through the CCK, noted that customers are reluctant to consider changing their network operator if it means changing telephone number, something that can be a major inconvenience and a barrier that prevents them from exercising their right of choice and taking advantage of growing competition in telecommunications services.

Since its launch, mobile operators have traded counter accusations, accusing each other of hampering the smooth migration of customers from one network to another. Airtel has accused Safaricom of sabotaging MNP.

Some customers also went to court accusing Safaricom of the same, and wanted to be paid for damages for loss of business and an order directing Safaricom to activate their ported numbers without hindrance.

Other African countries have been more successful in the uptake of MNP services. Ghana embarked on a similar exercise last year, and within one year reported 370,107 successful ports. The country is set to reach 500,000 ports later this month, and reliably completes between 30,000 and 45,000 per month.

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