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Mobile Number Portability is the way forward for Zimbabwe

15 Aug 2013 at 08:52hrs | Views
LAST week Zimbabweans watched haplessly as their right to communicate was being violated after Econet, the biggest cellphone service provider, switched off Telecel, the second largest mobile phone network, because the latter was not licensed.

True to the adage that when two elephants fight it's the grass that suffers most, subscribers have suffered with some Telecel subscribers being forced to buy Econet lines to stay in touch with associates.

Sadly, the bruising battle was happening right under the noses of the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

It took Potraz exactly 13 days to respond, suffice to say that by then the damage had already been done.

For many, it was a case of de javu as it brought back memories of the fight between Econet and NetOne last year.

Econet switched off NetOne after a protracted wrangle over interconnection fees amounting to US$20 412 109 excluding interest as at July 31, 2012.

Again Potraz was found wanting as it took a ringside seat preferring to be a spectator in the unfolding drama.

The regulator has proved to be clueless on how to solve such problems neither has it created an environment under which subscribers are protected from such eventualities.

The turf war among service providers, prompted by aggressive promotions, seems to be too much for the regulator.

Naturally, Econet will feel compelled to protect its lead and hold on the market, hence its reaction to the heat that is being turned on by its smaller competitors.

However, natural dictates of business are that competition is healthy and should be encouraged.

Potraz should, therefore, in the interest of competition ensure that all players are allowed to compete fairly without flexing of muscles or bullying tactics.

Potraz should be able to come in at the first sign of trouble to stem the tide.

It should be proactive rather than reactive because at the end of the day it is the subscriber who is propping up these companies, hence their rights should be protected at all times.

The rights of subscribers should be the overriding element regardless of the reasons behind service termination, whether justifiable or not.

It's not just about how the mobile operators make their money but also to a greater extent, our well-being as subscribers has to be prioritised before any decision is made.

One very simple measure Potraz should consider is the implementation of Mobile Number Portability.

MNP is a system which allows every mobile phone subscriber to easily switch from one network to the other without any need to change one's phone number.

This allows subscribers to circumvent network crisis, complacency and poor service delivery.

With Mobile Number Portability no network service provider will own subscribers at all.

This of course will require Potraz to build lots of base stations instead of having to leave the obligation to mobile phone operators themselves.

Regrettably, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe to date has invested millions of dollars to get their network where it is today and other players should not easily ride on their investment in the interest of fair play.

Potraz collects money from all telecoms service providers through the Universal Service Funds and it should use this money to build more base stations.

Last year, Potraz was reported to have constructed only 11 base stations around the country and was targeting 43 more in the coming two years.

With Mobile Number Portability, your mobile operator only act as a basic service provider while your SIM card number automatically behaves like your own hardware.

Any network will be your service provider while you still keep your number.

The mobile number itself no longer represents the network but merely acts as a medium to identify a subscriber.

The mobile operator simply acts as a platform to allow subscribers to communicate freely.

Those mobile operators who offer poor services will definitely suffer from loss of revenue.

MNPs are the only solutions that will solve our local telecommunication problems while adding value to the subscribers.

In most developed countries, mobile operators are now focusing on value added services like giving out latest slick handsets to their subscribers for a certain period at a very reasonable payment terms, which is a much smarter way to compete.

As a regulator, whether easy to implement or not, Potraz should not be found wanting.

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The writer is the Founding Editor of TechnoMag. More on Tech on www.technomag.co.zw or join us on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/technomagzw and enjoy free airtime quiz games. Email: ictarticles[at]technomag.co.zw


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