When the CCK introduced mobile number portability (or MNP) in Kenya’s telecoms sector in April 1 2011, the move was meant to “deepen the level of competition in the mobile telecommunications market and enhance consumer choice” according to then CCK Director-General Charles Njoroge.
But more than two years since its introduction, the number of subscribers adopting MNP keeps decreasing leaving one to wonder how this was exactly expected “to enhance consumer choice and deepen the level of competition” in the sector.
The just-released CCK quarterly Sector Statistics Report for January to March 2013, on the section dealing with MNP notes thus: “The Mobile Number Portability (MNP) has continued to record mixed growth over the period. During the period under review, the number of in-ports went down by 26.1 per cent to stand at 277 in-ports from 375 in-ports during the previous quarter. In comparison with the same period of the previous year, a significant decline of more than 23 times was recorded.”
The report further states that: “The decline in MNP service is an indication of the low uptake of the service among users of mobile services. This could be attributed to consumers’ preference and choice owing to the narrowing of tariff differentials among the operators. Moreover, long porting duration and the prevalent use of multiple SIM cards could have equally contributed to this low uptake.”
The CCK’s previous report – the Quarterly Sector Statistics Report for the first Quarter of 2012/2013 (July-September 2012) – did not return a different verdict on MNP either. The document stated that the “performance of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service had continued to decline since March 2011,” adding that during the period under review, a total of 217 in-ports were carried out down from 678 during the previous quarter, representing a decline of 68 percent.
An earlier report – the CCK’s Quarterly Sector Statistics Report for Quarter Four 2011/2012 (April-June 2012) was the first to report this decline in uptake of MNP when it reported that: “The uptake of MNP service has continued to show mixed signals in the mobile market segment since its inception.” This specific report stated that during the quarter, there were a total of 678 in-ports from 6,646 in-ports recorded during the previous quarter, representing a decline 89.8 percent.
The number of in-ports recorded since the establishment of the MNP service in April 2011 is shown below.
|Table 4: Number of Inports Period||Apr-Jun-12||Jan-Mar-12||Oct-Dec-11||Jul-Sep-11||Apr-Jun-11|
|Number of Inports||678||6,646||2,407||1,929||36,224|
This trend should be a clear indication that MNP has been a non-starter in Kenya, even though by introducing the service, Kenya joined 62 other countries globally that had implemented MNP by April 2011 – including Egypt, and South Africa.
That the number of ports – which currently stand at just 277 lines – is far below and cannot be compared to the target of 300,000 ports mentioned by Porting Accesss MD Patrick Musimba while signing the MNP agreement at CCK offices in December 2010 clearly show that the service is just not popular and has no hook to attract new users. This is even evident from the fact they keep going down every three months when the CCK releases its sector stats.
Even though Musimba has accused Safaricom of sabotaging MNP in the country – a matter that is before court – the truth is that the service has just failed to catch on in the country and attract a significant number of users.
So why exactly is porting not attractive to subscribers? Is it because the process of porting is too elaborate; tedious and involving to mobile users? Is it because the Kshs 200 fee is above the reach of most people? Or is it because the cost of cross-network calls and SMSes has drastically come down over the past 2 years? Or is it because we now have multiple-SIM devices which make it easier to choose which line to use to communicate just from the same single handset? Or was (is) it just because the service has never been marketed properly and the necessary awareness among consumers created to make them understand its benefits?
The CCK may want to include more reasons and answers as to why MNP requests are decreasing every three months it releases its sector statistics report. Otherwise, why report on the falling numbers every three months when indications are that the numbers could even reduce to zero by end of 2013?