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On Reliance GSM And Mobile Number Portability

A few weeks ago, a senior exec working with a mobile operator gave me his take on when Mobile Number Portability (MNP) would be implemented in India – not a date, but “Once Reliance Communications has established its GSM network in India.” The reason, according to him is that RCom wants to free itself from the royalty it pays to Qualcomm on handsets, which make them more expensive than the GSM handsets available in the market. This issue was reportedly resolved last year, but according to this particular exec, it isn’t over yet.

RCom soft-launched their GSM service in Delhi and Mumbai circles last week (via ET), and is testing the network in “parts of UP, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and the four southern states” – in cities that currently have around 45 percent of the subscriber base. The network has been live in Delhi for a while, and Presstalk wrote about it first a couple of weeks ago.

So the network for a GSM-CDMA switch is being readied, and it appears that the policy will allow a switch as well: ET reports that the MNP norms have been modified, to allow consumers to change from CDMA to GSM, remain with the same operator offering both platforms, and yet retain their mobile number. This is being called Internal Mobile Number Portability. I thought that was a given, since the policy should not differentiate between technology, and if an operator wants to switch users to a different technology, its his choice.

In this context, it’s very interesting to note the COAIs (GSM lobby) reaction to a proposal for Internal MNP: the headline to this story in BS is misleading, but they’re essentially against allowing Internal MNP before allowing users to switch mobile operators. Why is that? Obviously because once RCom starts switching users from CDMA to GSM, the GSM operators want to acquire some of RCom’s users. For the mobile operators, it’s all about the mobile subscriber base right now.

In this entire switch from CDMA to GSM, it’s Qualcomm that loses out.

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