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Country-wide rollout of No. portability likely by April ’10
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With number portability, the facility that allows mobile users to change their telecom operator, but retain their cellphone number, being delayed to April 2010, the department of telecom (DoT) now plans to implement this facility across the country simultaneously.

Earlier, the plan was to rollout this facility in two phases, where customers in metros and category A circles will first have access to this, followed by the rest of the country. As per the original plan, mobile users in metros and category A circles like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were slated to avail this provision from January 1, 2010, while the rest of the country would have had access to mobile number portability (MNP) from April 1, next year. But this deadline could not be met after many telecom companies had informed the DoT that they would require more time for upgrading their networks.

A DoT official told ET that the communications ministry now planned to ask telcos rollout this facility simultaneously across the whole country from April 2010. The DoT plan also address concerns from certain sections of the industry, which feared that a two phase rollout would lead to massive logistical complications for telecom operators.

For instance, the Cellular Operators Association of India, the body representing all GSM operators had recently, in a communication to the DoT, had pointed out that a phased rollout could lead to a scenario where a subscriber calling a ported number from a service area where MNP is not implemented in the first phase may not be able to get through. “Hence it is important for all networks to be MNP ready in the first phase itself so as to ensure successful call completion,” COAI’s officiating director general T R Dua had said in his communication to the DoT.

Meanwhile, the DoT will also carry out comprehensive testing that is critical to ensure correct call routing post MNP implementation. This issue too has been raised by telcos. The DoT’s technical arm, the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), will carry out these tests. This body will also identify and put in place the processes required to address security concerns in the post MNP scenario.

But, another move that could derail the implementation of MNP in the country is that the home ministry has pointed out that minority shareholders of US-based Telcordia Technologies were only a front, and had no experience in running telecom operations. The home ministry has also raised concerns regarding Telcordia’s presence in Pakistan and has sought that India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) review its clearance granted earlier to the US-headquartered company to operate in India.

When contacted on the issue, the Telcordia spokesperson said, “We would like to confirm that we are not in receipt of any communication from the ministry of home affairs. Telcordia is a leading provider of software services and solutions including mobile number portability software which is sold and installed in many countries around the world.”

Telcordia has set up a joint venture in India, complying with the laws of the land. Telcordia are in full compliance of DoT’s conditions stipulated in the MNP licence. DoT’s requirements had stipulated that the Indian entity should have a foreign partner with relevant expertise in mobile number portability.

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