Despite being launched three months ago, mobile number portability has hardly been utilised by customers. So far only one per cent of mobile users in the country have opted to switch service providers.
MNP, which was launched in January this year, allows mobile users to change their operator without changing their phone number.
According to figures provided by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Vodafone Essar was the biggest gainer till the end of February with approximately 190,000 persons switching to its services. Reliance Communications lost about 305,000 customers in the same period. The second biggest gainer was Idea Cellular, with more than 150,000 ported customers.
These minuscule numbers, however, do not portray the real picture. Probably, many more users applied for MNP but did not end up switching operators because they were offered better plans by their existing service providers.
We analysed the MNP offerings of Vodafone and Airtel and found something interesting.
First we requested a porting code for an Airtel connection. Airtel had gained nearly 150,000 ported customers till the end of February.
As soon as we received the porting code we got a call from Airtel’s retention department. The customer care agent offered us double the talk time for free, and local calls charged at just 20 paise per minute!
In addition to that, it also sent us two free movie tickets a couple of days later (this was probably because of heavy usage on that Airtel connection).
But Airtel is not alone in this regard. A colleague who uses Vodafone’s pre paid connection, and who barely uses his phone, got 100 per cent talk time for two months as part of a retention package from the operator.
For our another connection Vodafone, also offered us a bill plan for Rs 350 with 750 minutes of free calls plus 350 free SMSs on our post paid connection.
Our colleague, who switched to Airtel, was offered a post paid pack for Rs 99 by the operator, even though the minimum billing plan displayed on its website is Rs 199. Under the plan, he got Rs 100 worth of both local and STD calls at 50 paise per minute.
Another Vodafone Mumbai user who shared his experience with MNP got a Rs 199 plan with 400 free local minutes to any network, and after the free minutes were exhausted, he was charged 30 paise per pulse for local calls to any network; 0.50 paise per minute for STD calls, and a discount of Rs 100 on SMS messages.
However, there are things that you need to remember to get the best offers. The first is that you mustn’t call the retention department yourself. If the operator feels that you are doing it to get offers, it will not entertain you.
The other thing is that you must disclose the true reason for your switch as the free stuff will then be better suited to your needs. For example, if you are looking for better local call or data rates, say so. The retention department will then offer you an appropriate plan.
If you are not satisfied with customer service or network quality, don’t get bogged down by the retention offer, there are better plans available with other operators too.
Hence, the moral of the story is: try MNP even if you don’t intend to switch, you will get the best offer, if not from your existing service provider, from another operator.