Communications markets are not the same worldwide. That sounds like an obvious statement, but sometimes it is enticing to try to look to the experiences of other markets to make informed decisions about change or continuity in your own market. However, a recent white paper by Dr. W. Bruce Allen from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that “[c]ommunications markets are not the same worldwide, and the experience of one communications market with portability is not likely to produce anything transferable to another market.”
In his paper, India’s Experience with Mobile Number Portability [pdf], Dr. Allen examined the implementation of mobile number portability in India—the world’s second largest and fastest growing mobile market in the world. He also compared India’s number portability infrastructure with the one that exists in the United States and found that the two are significantly different. It’s also worth noting that the paper finds that India’s MNP system, which launched in January of 2011, has sparked a high volume of consumer complaints related to porting delays and rejections.
Fundamentally, the differences in India’s market create different standards and consumer expectations for number portability there, as compared to the United States.
For example, India’s mobile subscribers are predominantly prepaid. They like to pay-as-they-go, are extremely price sensitive and have a high propensity to switch carriers at the first hint of financial benefit. In the United States the opposite is true. Our mobile market is predominantly postpaid and subscribers generally stay with a single carrier for longer once they choose it, resulting in lower churn and higher monthly revenues. Most critically, subscribers in the U.S. have a higher affinity for their telephone numbers when they do switch providers.
These factors combine to create a number portability system environment in India that is vastly different from that in the United States. In addition to supporting a best-in-world porting experience, the U.S. NPAC serves as a network management platform for the industry, an emergency preparedness vehicle, and the way to preserve numbering resources.
So, what is the bottom line according to Dr. Allen? The experience of administering number portability in the U.S. is unique – there’s nothing else like it.