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MNP not before April, says BSNL, MTNL - Mr.Bhat - 12-06-2009

Both BSNL and MTNL are set to miss the mobile number portability (MNP) deadline of December 31.

The state-run telcos have informed the government that they will not be able to implement the system before April for a variety of reasons such as lack of time to tweak the technology, tariff plans and billing among others.

The government had set a December 31 deadline for implementing the MNP regime for the metros and June 2010 for the non-metros.

Last week Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that the MNP--the facility that allows customers to change their operator but retain their mobile number--would be implemented 'early next year'. It is expected that MNP will force operators to improve the quality of their services.

Sectoral regulator TRAI chairman JS Sarma said the operators should try to implement the facility within the deadline lest they be labelled as anti-consumer.

At a recent meeting chaired by the DoT secretary on MNP, both MTNL and BSNL had said they would not be ready to offer the facility before April.

Following this, the DoT set up a coordination committee with BSNL and MTNL and two MNP service providers-- MITS and Synverse so that the proposal will not be derailed.

While MTNL said its fixed line network being a legacy network requires a lot of time, effort and cost to upgrade it to make it MNP-compliant, BSNL cited a slew of impediments, ranging from lack of a draft interconnect agreement to the issues regarding tariffs for off-net and on-net, as its network will not support differential charging.

Technically, MNP is applicable to all types of telecom offering, be it mobile, WLL (wireless in local-loop) or fixed line services.

The largest telco also said billing is a problem for them in the post-MNP scenario as well.

BSNL said its basic service network, spread across the country, consists of different technologies and it has taken considerable time to find implementable solutions for all types of switches.

The PSU said it is still awaiting compensation of the expenditure worth Rs 1,000 crore for implementation.

Being a PSU, it pointed out it has to procure equipment through open tenders which takes time and due to lack of clarity on certain issues the comprehensive bid document could not even be prepared.

BSNL further said that the DoT is yet to issue some clarifications regarding the procedures to port those numbers which are under observation of law enforcement agencies.

MTNL operates only in Delhi and Mumbai--the largest two mobile markets-- and BSNL operates in the rest of the country.