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Mobile Number Portability: Operators say No to Refunding Balance

At an open house discussion held by TRAI, mobile operators like Jio, Airtel and Vodafone objected to refunding the unspent balance to outgoing users. In the open house discussion, which MediaNama attended, Vodafone said that average prepaid balances of consumers porting to other operators was very low. Other operators used this logic to object to the suggestion that unspent balance should be refunded to users. Jio said that the cost to transfer account balance would be very high while the amount itself would be low. Two TRAI officials, including chairman RS Sharma, called that logic into question. Sharma said that “these five-ten rupees” that operators got from consumers was a primary source of revenue for them. A telco responded, “Sir, we’re in losses. The industry is in losses.”

India has only two companies that are authorized to process mobile porting requests, and they have a ten-year contract. Those companies, Syniverse and Telcordia, sent a sizeable delegation to the discussion. For every port, those companies are paid ₹4 — Syniverse said multiple times in the discussion that this tariff was ‘unsustainable’ and would have to be increased.

Issues and responses

— Generating UPC by MNP provider: The Unique Porting Code, which serves as subscribers’ one-time password to port to a different operator, is currently generated by the operator who the subscriber is originally with (the ‘donor operator’). TRAI has proposed to move that responsibility to the MNP service provider — in India’s case Syniverse and Telcordia, the latter of which does business in India as MITS — and both the service providers and telcos agreed that this was okay. However, they said that actually delivering the SMS to subscribers should be left to the donor operator.

— Operators interrupting MNP process: TRAI pointed out in its consultation paper that many telcos are interrupting the MNP process by rejecting requests by users. Telcos maintained that most users did not go through MNP in the first place because half of all customers who generated porting codes were persuaded to stay with the network. “We can deal with some tweaks here and there, but a sea change is not required,” a telco said, referring to TRAI’s proposal to significantly alter the MNP system. Vodafone said that Quality of Service (QoS) monitoring should be done by TRAI instead of changing the system.

— Transferring KYC: Under the current MNP process, KYC information is not transferred between operators, and users provide it afresh. The UPC alone is considered as sufficient proof of SIM ownership. Airtel said that UPC was just a surrogate for the existence of KYC, and that the process should work on the assumption that the holder of a SIM is its owner. I argued that transferring KYC data during MNP can be burdensome for customers, especially those who got a SIM as a minor, or through a spouse’s ID proof. Syniverse said, “If any KYC information is transferred from one operator to another, it should be encrypted. We do not want to have any of that information stored on our database. That’s the customer’s information and we shouldn’t hang on to that.” – Medianama

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