EAC plan for number portability hits a snag

Friday March 15 2013


Efforts by the East African Community to introduce mobile number portability (MNP) have hit a snag following the failure of member states to raise the required mass numbers.

This development means subscribers will have to wait longer for a platform that will allow them to switch their networks without changing mobile numbers.

The governments had hoped they would promote effective competition in the mobile telephony market if the mobile number portability had been adopted.

However, the targeted subscribers have not shown optimism about the mobile number portability.

In the region, Kenya and Tanzania had gone a step ahead to implement the mobile number portability but the countries have also slowed down the roll out programmes after failing to recruit the required numbers.

“Kenya embarked on the MNP project, however subscribers did not move,” Hodge Ssemakula, executive secretary of East African Communication Organisation (EACO) told a seminar in Kigali last week.

It lacked numbers

EACO is a regional body for ICT regulators, bodies, operators and service providers in the communication sector.

“Everyone wanted to know whether the MNP project in Kenya will work. It lacked numbers. In Europe it has worked because they have the numbers,” said Ssemakula.

Since the Kenya one failed to get the required numbers, other East African countries shelved plans to introduce the services which would have enhanced competition in the industry.

In Rwanda, the industry regulator has penalised some operators like MTN Rwanda and took action against Rwantel’s licence for poor services.

However, despite the poor services, Rwanda has held back the MNP rollout programme after realising the current telephony penetration rate currently at 55 per cent is still low service.

The country aims to reach 60 per cent before they implement the MNP.

Experts however, say MNP has not only failed in EAC, as global trends indicate that in many countries where it has been implemented, not more than 5 per cent of mobile subscribers adopt number portability.