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TRAI proposes changes to network porting process; emphasis on third-party facilitators

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has initiated the process to make changes in porting mobile numbers to make the mechanism easier and more efficient.

It released a consultation paper on April 6, saying that closure of telecom service providers in recent months has brought new issues to the fore. The last date for sending comments is May 3 and that for counter comments is May 17.

In the paper, the TRAI said that it had received a large number of complaints related to the difficulties faced by the subscribers of these service providers in porting their mobile numbers. As telecom service providers such as Aircel and Reliance Communication, among others, have shut their mobile services, it has led to large-scale porting.

Some key problems were:

  • Non-generation of unique port code (UPC) by the current operator or its non-receipt of UPC by the subscriber.
  • Rejection of porting requests multiple times by original operators using provisions in regulations. Some such grounds of rejection are fraudulent porting, pending bills, non-completion of a 90-day active period in the network.
  • Non-refund of pre-paid balance and post-paid security deposits

In India, third-party Mobile Number Portability Service Providers (MNPSPs) Telcordia and Syniverse facilitate the process of changing networks. In their analysis report, said TRAI, 40% of all rejection of porting requests were on the grounds of “Unique Porting Code (UPC) Mismatch” and “Unique Porting Code (UPC) expired”. TRAI pointed out some gaps in the mechanism:

  • There is no method available with the receiving or new operator to confirm the correctness and validity of the UPC entered by the subscriber. Thus, if the code has expired or is mismatched, the subscriber can only find out after rejection, which takes four days or more.
  • Current service providers tend to reject MNP request on false grounds: they generate a bill for postpaid customers when MNP is requested, and disqualify porting; or they cite non-completion of 90 days on the network, even if it has been completed.
  • In cases where a porting request is rejected, there is no process to inform the subscriber instantaneously. The subscriber gets to know only after 4-7 days of submitting the request and has to re-initiate the entire process thereafter.
  • The receiver or new operator obtains fresh KYC/e-KYC from the subscriber while porting. However, there is no mechanism to verify whether the subscriber intending to port his mobile number is genuine and the legitimate owner of the mobile number. The TRAI observed that sometimes retailers get involved in seeking UPC for subscribers fraudulently and the mobile numbers are ported without the knowledge of the rightful owner.

Proposed changes

Further in the paper, the authority proposes changes to prevent fraudulent activity and other problems to users. A big change is an increase in the role of third-party MNPSPs in the porting process, while the reduction in the role of current operators. The new process also plans to cut the time it takes to change the provider.

It proposes that the request for generation of UPC should be routed to the MNPSP. The third party will check the two conditions—completion of 90 days on the network and earlier porting request not being in the process—from the current provider. If these conditions are not satisfied, the MNPSP will inform the user about not generating UPC. If satisfied, the MNPSP will check nine information points with the original network and provide the code.

Then, the user will have to submit KYC details to their new desired provider, along with the port code. The provider will have to send these to the MNPSP. After matching the port code, and checking its validity, the third-party will have to approve porting instantaneously and schedule it in two hours. If the port code cannot be verified, the MNPSP will immediately inform the user.

This process, suggests TRAI, will allow smooth functioning of the centralised monitoring system and so the validity of a porting code can be reduced. In this shortened validity period, the TRAI, also suggests removal of the provision where a user can withdraw their portability request.

To avoid fraudulent porting, the TRAI points to a need for verifying identity credentials of the subscriber through some robust mechanism where information available with the original operator can be matched with the information submitted to the new operator.

The authority also suggests adding regulation for returning unspent pre-paid balance to users, which does not exist currently. This leads to loss of balance once a customer decides to change their network. Provision to return post-paid security already exists.

The TRAI seeks comments on all these proposals, through 20 questions. Responses can be e-mailed to advmn@trai.gov.in with a copy to trai.mn@gmail.com

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