Mobile number portability was launched in September 2006, but the system was not used to the extent which some smaller operators have hoped for. Virgin Mobile is a good example of MNP not bringing the subscribers which they hoped for in 2006.
“Virgin Mobile banked on mobile number portability at its inception, but this did not pay off because South Africans are seemingly reluctant to change service providers,” said Spiwe Chireka of Frost & Sullivan, mobile-operator analysts.
This raises the question of how many subscribers have used the system, and which cellular operators are the biggest benefactors of MNP.
Winners and losers
Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman said that there have been around 1.2 million ports between networks over the last five years.
“Vodacom has been a net gainer from this process – approximately 150,000 overall. On a base of approximately 60 million active SIMs in SA, the numbers are pretty modest,” said Boorman.
Amith Maharaj, senior managing executive at Telkom Mobile, said that there is a fair amount of number porting taking place, but would not give numbers. “Actual numbers are confidential company information,” said Maharaj.
Maharaj did however reveal that 8ta is a net gainer through mobile number portability: “Port in/out has taken place, biased towards port-in, making 8ta the net gainer.”
Virgin Mobile’s Jonathan Newman said that MNP is ‘small but growing’. “Secondary SIM usage is still more common than primary SIM porting,” said Newman.
Newman said that they do not have specific numbers, but that porting related to Virgin Mobile accounts for “a few thousand a month in each direction with a net positive impact”.
Cell C and MTN were asked for comment on MNP, and whether they gained or lost subscribers because of MNP, but these cellular providers did not provide feedback by the time of publication.