It’s now 4 years since the NCC introduced Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the Nigerian telecoms sector. Back in May 2013 when the NCC introduced number portability, it was seen as revolutionary and one that would give power of choice to consumers. 4 years after, nothing much has changed.
Data from the Nigerian Communications Commission reveals only 764, 281 mobile numbers have ported since the program was introduced. This represents a paltry 0.55% of the 138.7 million GSM customers across the major networks as at July 2017. This compares to Ghana and South Africa that have recorded over 7% and 6% within 3 years and 7 years of operating MNP respectively. The Nigerian data is quite disappointing suggesting that much of the hype has amounted to zilch.
So why did number portability fail to live up to its hype? A number of possible reasons comes to mind.
Similar Quality of Service
Analysts often point to the fact that GSM operators in Nigeria offer fairly the same quality of service. The nuanced nature of their service makes it difficult to identify who the clear winner is. Service disruptions are recorded across all networks and none is immune to drop calls.
Various Strength in service
It is also opined that the GSM Service providers have their unique area of strength. While some are very strong with data services, some are better with voice services. Some providers also offer cheaper rates either across data services or voice services. There are also networks who are better with roaming services.
Incentives not strong enough
There is also talk that there are no strong incentives to dump one network for another. GSM service providers in Nigeria are fairly competitive and offer near similar deals making it difficult to dump one network for another, despite being unhappy with the service. Besides, there are no strong incentives specifically provided for MNP prospects to latch on to.
It is also well known that some mobile networks operate better than the other in some locations across the country. This is perhaps why most users will rather buy a new line from another service provider, instead of swapping their existing line for another provider. This brings us to the next point.
Multiple SIM Cards
Due to some of the points raised above, most Nigerians will rather own multiple SIM cards than port from one provider to another. They see this as a solution to most of the points raised above.
Requirements for Porting
Flexibility of porting is also often cited as a possible reason for the weak numbers posted by Nigeria. The requirements, though not onerous, are considered stressful by upwardly mobile Nigerians. For example, to port in Nigeria, you would have to visit a GSM touch point or friendship center, fill forms and provide any other detail that is required. Nigerians would rather do this from the comfort of their bedroom.