6 Jan 2009

MNP remains a hot topic across a number of regions

Late last month, I received the notes put together by the Sao Paolo-based research team who have been busily preparing for this year's Americas Com event (30 June & 1 July, Rio de Janeiro). My Brazilian colleagues have been asking which hot topics should form the basis of the conference agenda, directing their questions to managers and strategists from telcos across Latin America.

One suggestion from respondents is that we include a round table session on the practicalities of implementing Mobile Number Portability (MNP). MNP was officially launched in Mexico in July last year, following a number of delays. In Honduras, the national telecoms regulator Conatel launched a public consultation on MNP in September, initially allowing operators Tigo, Claro, Hondutel and new entrant Digicel to consider proposals and offer comments. As of September 2008, Conatel had not yet made public a timetable for MNP. In the region's largest market, Brazil, the regulatory agency required the country's MNOs to go live with MNP by September 1 2008.

The roundtable suggestion seems to be a good one - we could have the optimum mix of participants with recent experience of MNP and others with a pressing need to anticipate the business and technical challenges.

Meanwhile, MNP appears to be causing some degree of controversy in India. Yesterday's Global Mobile Daily had news of the country's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) planning to begin accepting bids from applicants hoping to act as MNP clearing houses by mid-January. Bids are due to be opened on February 5th, according to local reports. The GMD piece goes on to say that "the DoT still faces key questions before it introduces MNP, most notably whether CDMA
operators will be able to automatically transfer their subscribers across to GSM services, a move strongly opposed by GSM players who say that CDMA players will transfer subs en masse to try and secure additional GSM spectrum."

I imagine that one CDMA player that could seek to gain from this alleged wheeze would be Reliance, which has finally launched its GSM services in the blue-chip market of Mumbai and has launched into the market with an aggressively priced plan offering subs free airtime worth NR10 S$0.21) per day for the first 90 days of a new subscribers' contract after an initial charge of just INR25. Reliance is offering new GSM subs local call rates of INR0.01 per minute and STD call ates of INR1.50 per minute with subs able to top up their accounts with prepaid packs offering NR10 to INR500 of value once they have used their daily free allowance. In addition, Reliance SM subs will get free unlimited talk time on the company's GSM and CDMA networks between 2200 and 0600 throughout Mumbai, Goa and Maharashtra. Reliance says it will be announcing additional prepaid tariff plans over the next three months.

In case you're surprised by the amount of detail in the above paragraph, I should admit to having grabbed most of it from the same edition of Global Mobile Daily. I won't pretend suddenly to have become an expert on the Indian mobile scene. That said, I did enjoy a (too) short stint in charge of our India & South Asia event and it was with regret that I ceded the territory to a colleague as part of a reorganisation in the Com World Series team last year. It was an exciting part of the world in which to make contacts and do business and I maintain an interest in developments there. For other readers who can say the same, I do recommend attending this year's India & South Asia Com, held once again in Mumbai - 12-13 May are the dates for your diary.