Business News of 2014-08-28

Porting pain for four telcos

The National Communication Authority (NCA) has released a report suggesting that four mobile phone network operators have lost more customers than they have gained from porting since mobile number portability was implemented in the country three years ago.

So far, more than 1.65 million porting request – representing 6% of the country’s 29.2 million mobile phone subscription population- have been completed as at the first week of July this year.

B&FT analysis of the report released on Wednesday shows that MTN, Airtel, Glo and Expresso all recorded net losses in the race to attract mobile phone subscribers who want to change network providers for various reasons including, but not limited poor service provision.

Two other providers: tiGO and Vodafone posted net gains with the former recording the highest gain in porting request.

According to the report, MTN- which is the biggest network provider commanding almost 46% share of the entire market- lost a little over 400,000 subscriptions while Airtel subscription numbers also dropped by nearly 59,000. Glo and Expresso- the two smallest operators- also lost 16,119 and 858 subscriptions respectively.

On the other hand, tiGO boosted their subscription numbers by more than 249,000 while Vodafone gained a little over 228,000.

According to the NCA, the report is inconclusive about the reasons driving subscribers to change from one network to the other as there are myriad of factors that inform customers to change network providers.

“It is important to avoid drawing conclusions that cannot be supported by this data. There are many different factors that can lead customers to port their numbers. Also note that the cumulative porting for any given network is not sufficiently large to have been the sole cause of changes in market rank for that network,” the regulator explained.

As at the June this year, the average time to complete the porting process after request submission was 4 minutes, 16 seconds with 91% of the requests being completed in 5 minutes or less while 67% were completed in 2 minutes or less.

The efficiency in the porting process is considered to be best in sub-Saharan Africa, which has excited the regulator, market operators, consumers and policymakers.

“The rate of porting is entirely consistent with expectations for a market such as in Ghana and a porting system that is consumer-friendly and operating efficiently. The performance to date far surpasses reported results in other MNP implementations in Africa,” the NCA added.

The NCA in 2011 deployed the mobile number portability system- a facility that allows for consumers freedom of choice to change network providers without having to change their numbers- in a bid to deepen competition in the market and also force operators to focus on satisfying the needs of customers or lose the “consumer-cedi-vote” when they move to other networks.

This followed a wave of complaints from mobile phone subscribers resulting from continued call-drops, cross-calls, speech mutation, and wrong voice prompts among others.

After three years of MNP in Ghana, the quality of service provision has not improved significantly, which periodically pushes the regulator to step in and sanction operators whose services fall below the set quality of service benchmark.