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Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences

2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

Mobile Number Portability: Challenges and solutions


Atiya Faiz Khan
Department of MCA, Priyadarshini College of Engineering Hingna Road, Nagpur. Maharastra (INDIA) atiyakhan15@gmail.com

ABSTRACT
Increasing numbers of countries require mobile telephone networks to offer mobile number portability (MNP).The term MNP allows customers who wish to switch mobile operator to keep their mobile numbers, avoiding the costs of switching to new numbers. Customers are predominantly reluctant to switch their network operator if this means that they would have to change their telephone number. Changing ones telephone numbers can be a major inconvenience and a potential barrier preventing the general public from taking advantage of the options available in a developed competitive telecommunications market. The implementation of number portability initiatives in many key markets created new opportunities and improved the consumers experience, but terminating calls into number-portability countries became more difficult, confusing and expensive as a result. The absence of number portability may therefore give the incumbent operators a significant competitive advantage over new entrants into the market.
Keywords: mobile telecommunications, cost-benefit analysis, competitive, switching costs, operators.

I. INTRODUCTION
Mobile Number portability (MNP) enables mobile subscribers to change their service providers or their location without having to change their existing phone numbers. If the subscribers are not satisfied with the services of their service provider, they can change their service provider while retaining the existing phone number. This infuses competition among service providers and forces them to improve their service standards to check subscriber churn. Many countries have made number portability mandatory to liberalize competition. Many others are in the process of implementing it. A significant technical aspect of implementing number portability is related to the routing of calls or mobile messages (SMS, MMS) to a number once it is ported to some other network. Number portability is essential to maximize the benefits of a competitive telecommunications market. For example, Number Portability of the type that allows users to keep their telephone number when changing operator provides significant benefits: 1. To the porting user, it eliminates the cost of informing other parties of the number change, changing stationery and other signage and, in the case of business users, of lost business 2. To callers, it eliminates the need to consult directory enquires and/or change entries in their address books or computer systems. 3. It increases competition, with significant benefits for all users, by lowering the cost to users of switching operator or service provider. It is believed that when fully and nationally implemented by both wire line and wireless service providers, number portability will remove one of the most

significant switching costs for consumers and will encourage competition in the telecommunications industry. This paper discusses: Types of number portability. various call routing schemes for service provider number portability, comparisons among various routing schemes, challenges of implementing number portability, best solution in terms of complexity of implementation, use of network resources, and scalability.

II. TYPES OF PORTABILITY


The various types of number portability are:

NUMBER

A. Provider Number Portability: Subscribers can change the service provider while retaining the same phone number. It is also called operator portability. 1. Local Number Portability: - The subscriber retains its number when changing from one operator/service provider to another. E.g. the porting of existing directory number between fixed operators. 2. Mobile Number Portability:-Porting of mobile telephone numbers between wireless operators. 3. Non-geographical Number Portability:Porting of service numbers, e.g. 800numbers. B. Location Number Portability: Subscribers can change their service location while keeping the same telephone number.

Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences


2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

C. Service Portability: Subscribers can change the subscribed services while retaining the same telephone number. Service portability allows the subscribers to enjoy the subscribed services in the same way when they roam outside their home networks. The subscriber retains its number when changing service type. E.g. from POTS to ISDN, mobile to fixed, fixed to mobile. This paper discusses service provider number portability (SPNP), as SPNP is the primary form of number portability that promotes competition among the mobile service providers.

dialed number. The Originating Network uses the routing information to route the call to the new serving network.

II.

SERVICE PROVIDER NUMBER PORTABILITY CALL ROUTING SCHEMES


Fig 1 All Call Query

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has defined four flavours of call routing that support number portability. These schemes are: A. All Call Query (ACQ) B. Query on Release (QoR) C. Call Dropback D. Onward Routing (OR) Before we discuss the technical aspects and various call routing schemes in detail, let us understand some terms in the context of mobile network and number portability.

B. Query on Release (QoR)


The Originating Network receives a call from the caller and routes the call to the donor network. The donor network releases the call and indicates that the dialed number has been ported out of that network. The Originating Network sends a query to its copy of the centrally administered NPDB. The NPDB returns the routing information of the dialed number. The Originating Network uses the routing information to route the call to the new serving network.

Donor Network: It is the network that first


assigns a telephone number to a subscriber.

Recipient Network: It is the network that


currently serves the ported number. A recipient network is a network that a subscribers number is ported to when the subscriber switches the service provider. Old Serving Network: The old serving network is the network that previously served the ported number before the number was ported to the new serving network. Since a subscriber can switch service provider any number of times, the old SP is not necessarily the same as the donor network. Participant: A Participant is a service provider who is not related to the porting process in any way and still needs the routing information for call routing and various other activities.

Fig 2 Query on Release

A. All Call Query (ACQ)


The Originating Network receives a call from the caller and sends a query to a centrally administered Number Portability Database (NPDB) also called central database (CDB). Network operators generally keep local copies of the CDB, which is hosted on either a network element within their network or a third party network element. The NPDB returns the routing information of the

C. Call Dropback
This scheme is also known as Return to Pivot (RTP). The call steps are as follows. The Originating Network receives a call from the caller and routes the call to the donor network. The donor network detects that the dialed directory number has been ported out of the donor switch and checks with an internal

Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences


2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

network-specific NPDB. The internal NPDB returns the routing number associated with the dialed directory number. The donor network releases the call by providing the routing number. The Originating Network uses the routing number to route the call to the new serving network.

III.

COMPARISONS NUMBER SCHEMES

OF THE PORTABILITY

Fig 3 Call Drop Scheme

D. Onward Routing (OR)


The Originating Network receives a call from the caller and routes the call to the donor network. The donor network detects that the dialed directory number has been ported out of the donor switch and checks with an internal network-specific NPDB. The internal NPDB returns the routing number associated with the dialed directory number. The donor network uses the routing number to route the call to the new serving network. This method of routing calls is also known as Call Forwarding

Of the four number portability call routing implementations discussed above, the ACQ is the only implementation that does not involve the donor network when routing the call to a new serving network. Thus, the ACQ scheme is the most efficient in terms of using the network resources for routing the call to a ported number. The OR scheme requires to setup two physical calls - one from the originating network to the donor network and the other from the donor network to the new serving network. This increases the usage of network resources and hence is the least efficient in terms of using the network transmission facilities. The QoR and Call Dropback schemes set up calls to the donor network first but release the call back to the originating network that then initiates a new call to the Current Serving Network. In the QoR and Dropback schemes, dedicated signalling circuits are set up between the originating network and the donor network when the originating network sets up the call towards the donor network. This complexity increases the signalling between the networks and hence the cost of the call to a ported number increases.

IV.

IMPLEMENTATION

There are two fundamental issues that need to be considered in implementing number portability in a country. Number Porting Process: This applies to the policies and processes for porting the numbers.

Call Routing: This applies to the scheme of


routing a call to a ported number.

1. Number Porting Process: Procedure and Considerations


Number porting process involves a set of parties, which includes donor (or current serving SP), recipient (new SP) and many participants (other service providers not related to the number that is being ported). The basic requirement of the porting process is that a subscriber needs to initiate a request to the service provider. The request can be initiated to either of the service providers (current serving SP or the new SP). This depends on the regulatory policies of the country. There are two approaches by which the number porting database can be maintained and implemented.
Fig 4 Onward Routing Scheme

Peer-to-Peer approach Centralized approach

Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences


2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

1) Peer-to-Peer approach
In this approach, there is a bilateral agreement between two service providers. The two service providers agree on the implementation of number portability based on proprietary interface. With this non-standard approach, there can be multiple commercial agreements between the service providers, which make it difficult to manage the terms of each agreement, and track the porting requests. This approach is very complex, and the complexity is further increased with increasing number of service providers.

The centralized approach is the most preferred solution and is widely used across the globe. This is a highly scalable implementation.

2) Centralized approach
In this approach, the regulatory authority of the country sets up the guidelines, policies and processes for number portability. All the service providers in the country have a shared and well-defined interface with a centralized NP administration center for processing the porting request of a number. This adheres to a clear set of service level agreements for each of the steps involved in the process and it is mandatory for the service providers to follow them.

Fig 6 Centralized Approach

B. Call Routing
As discussed earlier, All Call Query (ACQ) scheme is the most efficient in terms of using network resources. The advantages of using ACQ to implement number portability are: No dependency on other network for routing the call. Easy billing for calls to the ported numbers. Call set-up time for calls to ported numbers is minimal. Minimal impact on signaling. Impact on network complexity is very less.

V.

FACTORS INFLUENCING THE SUCCESS OF NUMBER PORTABILITY Subscriber Awareness: Subscribers needs to be aware of Number Portability (NP), its advantages, and how to go about it. Simplicity: NP success mainly depends on the simplicity of the process. There could be many rules that the regulator may impose. For example, a number cant be ported in the first 6 months of the subscription. Such forced conditions hamper the success of NP. Speed: Speed is one of the major factors that affect the success of NP. Service level agreements should be stringent enough to minimize the time taken to port the number to other network. This increases the level of customer satisfaction Cost factor: NP success also depends on the cost of porting the number. The lower the cost, the higher will be the rate of porting. The cost here refers to the amount that the subscribers
4


Fig 5 Peer to Peer Approach

Any porting request from any of the service providers is sent to the NP administration center first, to which all the service providers number portability solutions are integrated with. A request that comes from the new SP to the NP administration center is sent to the present serving SP for clearance and once this is done the central NP administration center broadcasts the porting information to all the service providers in the country. As specified above, the porting request can be initiated by either of the current serving SP or the new SP (recipient). This is decided by the regulatory body of the country.

Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences


2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

need to pay to port their number to some other service providers network. This all depends on the regulatory authority that decides who bears the cost of porting. For better success and market competition, it is recommended that the new service provider, who is getting the subscriber, bear the cost of porting.

maintenance cost includes the following: Cost for the agreed procedure involved in the porting process, activating the ported number, provisioning the routing information, and informing all the service providers of the ported number

C. Call Routing Costs


Routing the call to a ported number is one of the major issues in NP. In case of ACQ, the originating network needs to make a query to the NP database irrespective of whether the called number is ported or not. Even the other schemes of NP implementation has their own impacts on the network signaling, database queries, and other network resources, which directly influence the network traffic adding on to the cost.

Handset subsidies and fixed-term agreements: NP has been a great success in


the countries like Finland where there are no subsidies on mobile handsets. Subsidies given by the service providers lead to fixed term agreements and hence limits the option for the subscriber to switch to a different service provider. There can be other agreements, which can hinder the success of NP.

VI.

CHALLENGES IMPLEMENTING PORTABILITY

OF NUMBER

VII.

SOLUTION

The major challenges of implementing number portability are: Cost involved in upgrading the network infrastructure to support number portability. Cost involved in maintaining the upgraded infrastructure. Cost involved in the usage of network resources to route the calls to the ported number

A. Number Portability Setup Costs


This is one of the major deterring factors for NP implementation in any country. There are many expenses involved in NP system setup. The setup costs include the cost of setting up the central NPDB, which maintains the complete information on the porting details, providing a well-defined interface for the service providers to interact with apart from adhering to the policies setup by the telecom regulatory. Apart from these all the service providers need to have NP gateway server capable of interacting with the central NPDB using the defined application programming interface (API). The NP gateway should, apart from maintaining an internal NPDB, provision the routing information to the respective network elements. Apart from these, upgrading the network adds to the cost. The service providers are supposed to bear these costs. The setup costs includes: Central NPDB setup cost, Software development or upgrade, Network upgrade, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) upgrade. Cost involved in upgrading the billing system.

Many countries have their own guidelines on how to share the costs incurred in NP implementation. Regulatory bodies can consider the following points in arriving at a better model for cost sharing to implement number portability. Number of subscribers per service provider should be the base at the time of setting up the NP System. The service providers can incur the annual maintenance costs for using the service of the central NPDB. This can be for the services used such as NPDB system and customer help desk usage. These costs should be based on the usage of the central NPDB or based on the quality of service such as the bandwidth for accessing the central NPDB. Recipient service provider can pay for the costs incurred by the centralized NPDB for any subscriber that ports to its network. Recipient service provider can pay for the costs incurred by the donor for each ported number. The central NPDB should be a non-profitable or at most a reasonable profit making organization and there should be a policy to share the profits with the service providers to lower their burden. Service providers can be made stakeholders in the central NPDB, though the regulatory body shall have the sole discretionary powers to control the NPDB.

VIII. NUMBER PORTABILITY IN INDIA


The service providers are not keen on its introduction, as that would require substantial investment in upgrades to the routing and the billing mechanisms. Service providers are already operating with very low margins; they feel that instead of spending more money on upgrading, the existing resources could be utilized for providing better voice quality and services. The details are given in the table 1.

B. Np Maintenance Costs
Once the NP system is deployed, there are many other costs involved in maintenance of the system. The

Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences


2010-11 CIS Journal. All rights reserved. http://www.cisjournal.org

Volume 2 Special Issue

ISSN 2079-8407

Table 1 Approximate Implementation Cost


[1] MNP Implementation Estimates All Call Query Model Using Using SS7 / IP SS7 via Sigtran Total Cost for set up $208.6 $182.97 Mil pan-India Mil CO Upgrades Switch Upgrades $175 Switch software $156.4 Mil Mil upgrades Additional Signaling circuits Software Costs Order Management $22.5 Sys Upgrade $22.5 Mil Mil Provisioning and Billing Database Upgrades $10.4 $4 Mil SCP / STP costs Mil Total cost set-up pan938.7 823.4 India Rs. Cr.

REFERENCES
Yi-Bing Lin, Mobile Number Portability, IEEE Network Young Sic Jeong, Whan Woo Kim, The Realization of Mobile Number Portability in Korea, IEEE Network Rajeev Ranjan Kumar, Amrita Singh, A. Damodaram, Phone Number Portability in GSM networks, CSI Vol. 32, Issue-7, Oct.2008. Telecommunication N/W Management Haojin Wang http://www.mobilein.com/MNP.htm http://previewcareers.aricent.com/in/whitepapers/ mobile-services/mnp.pdf http://www.stockmarketsreview.com/news/mobile _number portability_in_india_20090626/

[2]

[3]

[4]

[5] [6]

[7]

IX.

CONCLUSION

To implement number portability, the best solution is to implement the centralized system, maintain a common number porting database, and use the All Call Query (ACQ) call routing scheme to route the calls to a ported number. A trusted 3rd party, which typically reports to the telecom regulatory authority, can maintain the centralized number porting database. The number portability gives freedom to subscriber to choose best service provider. Also service provider has to be competitive to attract the customer. This will encourage competition among the service providers, and in turn will reduce the tariff. From subscribers point of view it reduces cost, time and money. From service providers point of view specific network maintenance activities need to be done to ensure proper operation of the number portability service over time.