India Delays Mobile Number Portability Again

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India has postponed for the third time the implementation of mobile number portability (MNP), thus delaying for users the opportunity to retain their mobile numbers when changing operators.

MNP will now be introduced in India by Oct. 31, the country's Department of Telecommunications said on Wednesday.

The change is expected to increase competition, and help new mobile operators who are rolling out their services, as users will find it easier to move from one operator to another. However after an initial churn, there will not be significant shifts by subscribers from one operator to another, analysts said.

Under guidelines proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (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). GSM is currently the dominant technology used by providers in India.

The MNP service was originally scheduled to be offered on Dec. 31 last year, starting with four large cities and some key service areas. It was postponed to March 31, and later to June 30, though the scope of the rollout of MNP was by then extended to cover the entire country at one go.

The government said it has taken the decision to delay MNP to October, after reviewing the readiness of the various access providers and long distance service providers, and keeping in view the complexity and enormity of the testing involved before MNP is implemented.

The country had 617.5 million mobile subscribers as of May 31, according to TRAI. The market is dominated by Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, and Vodafone's Indian subsidiary, Vodafone Essar, which together have a 56 percent share of the market. There are currently about 14 players, including the Indian joint venture of Telenor which started rolling out services less than a year ago.

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