India May Delay Mobile Number Portability Again

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The roll-out in India of mobile number portability (MNP) is likely to delay beyond a March 31 deadline, because operators have not yet upgraded their infrastructure, the country's minister of state for communications and IT, Gurudas Kamat, said on Thursday.

MNP will give mobile subscribers the option to retain their mobile numbers even if they change service providers. India had 545 million mobile subscribers at the end of January, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Under guidelines proposed by TRAI, mobile users will be allowed to use the same mobile number even if providers use different mobile technologies like CDMA (code division multiple access) or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).

This will be the second time that the roll-out of MNP has been delayed. The service was originally scheduled to be offered in December of last year, starting with four large cities and some key service areas.

Networks in the country have to be ready and tested before the MNP service is implemented, Kamat told the Rajya Sabha, the country's upper house of Parliament. After operators upgrade and test their networks, India's Department of Telecommunications has to carry out an acceptance test across all networks in all the service areas, he added.

All the networks in the country are not likely to be completely ready for MNP by March 31, Kamat said.

The introduction of MNP is expected to increase competition in the Indian mobile services market as new entrants try to attract customers from established players. However, after an initial churn, there will not be significant shifts by subscribers from one operator to another, analysts said.

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