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Operators play a wait-and-watch game, as users take well-informed decisions while moving
between networks.

PunitManik, an Airtel pre-paid subscriber, tweeted about his intentions of switching his
service provider after Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was rolled out in Mumbai two
weeks ago.

Within 24 hours, he was approached by Vodafone, Idea, Uninor and Aircel representatives on
the micro-blogging site, offering him discounts and customised data plans.

³It was as if they (the telecom operators) had sales executives scanning Twitter to identify
prospective subscribers after the MNP rollout in Mumbai,´ says Manik. He applied to port his
number to Aircel. ³They allow posting voice-to-text status updates on Facebook and it¶s a
feature that I wanted to use on my smartphone,´ he reasoned.

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Reasons are many, but users are taking a well-informed decision while switching operators.
Subscribers like Manik are seeking those who would give plans that best serve their purpose.

With a subscriber base of 750 million, competition is taking its toll on the telecos. Retaining
the right customers is now critical. Reliance Communications (RCom), which has reportedly
seen high demand since the MNP rollout, will come up with special offers this week.
However, RCom officials refused to share details on their new tariff plans.

Sources confirmed that the company will try to retain customers with customised plans
depending on their monthly usage. For instance, customers who pay Rs 200 per month will
get discounts of up to Rs 50 and those who SMS a lot will be offered an SMS pack for three
months by RCom.

Industry sources said around 200,000 porting requests were received from across the country.
Yudofud Public Strategies Vice-President Arun Singh Shekhawat, who runs a public interest
portal www.changemynetwork.com to facilitate MNP for users, reasoned: ³Our research
shows that expensive tariff-rates is still the primary reason for porting numbers with 36 per
cent of subscribers citing this as the primary reason for moving between networks.´

Airtel seems to be the biggest loser, said Shekhawat, with 36 per cent of their subscribers are
considering a change in operator. The biggest winner reportedly is Tata DoCoMo with 17 per
cent of mobile subscribers of other networks wanting to move in.

Mumbai-based ManishaLakhe is one such subscriber who has given a port in request to Tata
DoCoMo. Lakhe, a Vodafone subscriber with a monthly average bill of over Rs 2,000, is
hoping to cut down on her expenses. ³They have post-paid diet plans which suit me. The Rs
1,099 plan offers 2,500 local minutes, 1,200 STD minutes and 5,000 SMSes. This switch
should slash my bill by at least 35-40 per cent.´ The operator is also offering her free
itemised billing and missed call alerts for six months.

Explained Shekhawat: ³Since price sensitivity still seems to be a major reason and pre-paid
users generally contribute one-tenth of their ARPU (Average revenue per user) of a post-paid
user, the approach that seems to be adopted by most mobile operators for now is more that of
a wait-and-watch than an instant panic reaction.´

Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Idea Cellular RajatMukarji said: ³MNP was
conceptualised to offer freedom of choice to the consumer. However, its relevance is diluted
in today¶s time as the Indian consumer already enjoys a choice from up to 14 operators
offering low tariffs.´

The operator has also launched a micro-site called www.getidea.co.in, an information portal
on MNP for digital users and a dedicated helpline that helps users with information on the
processes and procedures of availing MNP and porting requests from mobile subscribers who
wish to switch to Idea.

Almost 32 per cent subscribers are motivated to shift for various other reasons ²
recommendation from friends and family, campaigns, reputation of service providers and a
curiosity to try a new network operator as they would have the option to revert back to their
existing operator after three months. This was reflected in what Shubrojeet Deb, an MTNL
user, thought while migrating to Vodafone. ³I travel a lot and Vodafone is offering me a
cheaper roaming plan, in addition to better network and data coverage. If I am not impressed
then I can always switch back to MTNL after three months.´

³Many consumers, who do not want to seriously shift operators, are also sending port out requests and
when customer care centres call back, they are using it to air grievances. For example, if consumers
say that they are having issues with the network companies are offering temporary discounts on bills
etc, to stop them from leaving the network,´ said an official of a leading telecom company.

NavenRavindran, an Airtel subscriber, got a call from the operator asking him to reconsider his
decision after he sent a port out request last week. As an incentive, he was offered free pizza coupons.
³This was unexpected. I have temporarily shelved my plans to port out.´

Experts said these are initial days for MNP and many operators are playing the wait-and-watch game
to have a better understanding of subscriber behaviour. More plans and offers could come from
operators as the initial rush of the first few weeks settles down.