Mohamed H. Zakaria, Jeddah published Sunday 1 January 2006 (01 Dhul Hijjah 1426)

Mobile Number Portability

The arrival of Mobily in Kingdom has brought a lot of changes in the culture and attitude of the local utility giants. The Saudi Telecom Authority should also look into the possibility of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). The facility, which allows mobile phone users to switch phone operators but retain their existing number, is available in many countries of the world. Initially, in all cases, the proposal met strong resistance from existing mobile operators, perhaps because they feared a loss of market share. However, the authorities went ahead and the facility was made available in most countries. The move has boosted fair competition among all mobile phone operators wherever it has been implemented. It should work the same way in the Kingdom.

The decision will benefit consumers who are frustrated by the poor service that the current mobile phone operators are providing. In many countries, the regulating authority takes severe legal action and imposes heavy fines on mobile operators when complaints about poor-quality service such as frequent problems in connectivity and poor network services are brought to their attention. Many customers, suffering the same or worse problems, hesitate to switch over to another company because they do not want to change their number. This fear would no longer be there once MNP was in force. This would also force mobile phone companies to ensure better service to their customers or face losing their subscribers to better companies. Either way, the customer would be in a win-win situation — provided the authorities are convinced and decide to implement MNP.