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After 3G, MNP heads towards uncertainty
Mobile phone users would have to wait anywhere from three to six months for the freedom to switch operators without losing their existing number, as companies are yet upgrade their networks.

At a meeting between the Department of Telecom (DoT) and mobile service providers here today, operators expressed their inability to ring in Mobile Number Portability (MNP) from December 31, this year, as was scheduled.

The facility was to come into force in the four metros -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata -- to begin with.

Private operators aside, even the two state-run telecom firms -- BSNL and MTNL -- have said they would not be able to get their networks MNP-ready by December and have indicated they may need time till March next year.

When contacted, a senior DoT official said MNP can be implemented only if the network is upgraded 100 per cent. In case some operators are not ready with their networks, it will not be possible to have number portability.

"Hurried implementation (without 100 per cent upgradation of all networks) may be counter productive," the official added.

The meeting was chaired by Telecom secretary P J Thomas with the operators including the PSUs, BSNL and MTNL, as well the two MNP service providers -- Synverse and MNP Interconnection Telecom (MITS).

MNP is expected to help expand competition between the service providers, besides acting as a catalyst to improve quality of service. According to industry sources, a fourth of mobile users would like to shift to a new service provider.

This is the second major initiative after 3G mobile telephony from the DoT that has been facing uncertainty. The 3G auction is scheduled to start on January 14, but has been plagued by problems ranging from lack of spectrum and also interest from operators.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that MNP was expected to be introduced early next year which would force operators to improve the quality of services.

Sources indicated that it may take up to six months to implement MNP services in the metros, and then the rest of India.
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