After several delays, November 25th was decided on as the date when Mobile Number Portability would roll out in India. Starting in Haryana, a state in the Northern circle users can now opt to change their mobile carriers while keeping their numbers. The terms of switching operators as defined for Haryana and in all likelihood for other cities, are:
User will have to obtain a unique porting number by sending a SMS.
The code along with filled forms and valid identity proof documents need to be submitted to the new operator.
Rs 19 is the switching fee.
A user can switch after 90 days of a new connection being activated.
Postpaid users need to clear all dues before applying to switch.
Prepaid users lose any remaining talk time after switching.
MNP request can be cancelled within 24 hours and a new request should be processed within 7 days.
With 3G services starting to roll out, the mobile space should get competitive with operators having some time to announce lucrative deals to attract and retain consumers in the metropolitans. According to the latest statistics about the mobile market size in India, Airtel leads by quite a margin. There are about 509 million users according to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) report for October 2010. The breakup for some operators is:
Vodafone – 118 million subscribers
Uninor – 13.7 million subscribers
Idea Cellular – 76 million subscribers
BSNL – 75 million subscribers
Airtel (market leader) – 146 million subscribers
The number of users will only increase and there will not be a lot of loss for one carrier since everyone is frustrated with their respective carriers. I see two outcomes:
We will no more be able to determine what operator is the incoming call from. (Each operator had their own set of first 3 digits that made easy to identify the operator.)
The market will see a consumer round robin with users moving to alternatives.
India has been divided into two zones with Syniverse Technologies managing Zone 1 comprising of North and West while an Indo-US joint venture called MNP Interconnection Telecom Solutions India Pvt Ltd handling Zone 2 comprising of South and East.
Update: Operators have started wooing customers with IDEA cellular starting an advertisement campaign called "No Idea, Get Idea" featuring their brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan: