Telcos Argue New Mobile Number Portability Guidelines Will Lead to Increased Loan Defaults



Last week, we told you that the Communications Authority of Kenya was looking to reignite mobile number portability through new guidelines. Mobile number portability was initially launched in 2011 seeking to make it easy for consumers to switch between networks. This would eventually deepen the level of competition in the mobile telecommunications market and enhance consumer choice.

However, the portability debate fizzled out owing to a few challenges. Subscribers were required to pay a porting fee of Kshs. 200, to facilitate the process. The porting period was also long discouraging consumers from making the switch. Mobile network operators were also reluctant to allow consumers to switch between networks, which would result in a drop in their subscriber numbers.

The Communications Authority’s new guidelines scrapped the Kshs. 200 porting fee charged, making the process completely free to subscribers. It also demanded the reduction in the porting period to just 4-hours since the initialization of the process. An interesting addition was the guideline that mobile network operators cannot prevent a consumer from porting owing to outstanding debts such as those of airtime.

This directive has been met with resistance by telcos who feel subscribers might use this provision to their advantage and default on loans.  The regulator says the law provides independent  mechanisms of following up on loan defaults, which should be used by telcos when dealing with cases resulting from the porting process. The Authority further says the subscribers should meet their contractual obligations but these should not delay or otherwise stop the porting process.