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Mobile Number Portability in Nigeria

The Nigerian Communication Commission(NCC) set up a directive to implement the Mobile Number Portability(MNP) Initiative for all Telecom Operators operating in Nigeria. While the initiative was originally planned for sometime in 2007, I am still quite excited by the prospect of MNP being implemented in Nigeria. Currently the NCC has set a ‘Go-Live’ for the MNP project for sometime in Q1 2013 and considering how far each of the operators has gone in the implementation of the required solutions I believe I can confidently state that Nigerians will soon be able to switch networks while keeping their number.

Now firstly a brief introduction to MNP. According to Wikipedia:

Mobile number portability (MNP) enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.

This means that you can carry your Glo Number ( For example: 0805700000x) and migrate the number to the MTN Network and enjoy all of MTNs offerings while maintaining the same number. Mobile Number Portability is basically a SIM SWAP across different networks.

MNP in Nigeria , as directed by the NCC, will be using ‘Recipient-Led Porting’. This means that the subscriber who wants to change his network (  from say Glo, technically termed the Donor to say MTN, technically termed the Recipient) will need to go to the Recipient Network so that that Network will handle the Porting process. MNP in India and UK use ‘Donor-Led Porting’ ( where a subscriber has to approach the network they want to LEAVE before being approved to migrate by  provision of a Porting Authorization Code). I must state here that a ‘Donor-Led’ implementation would never have worked in Nigeria. An NCC Sponsored ‘Clearing House’ is responsible for coordinating the entire Port process between the involved operators.

On the SMS/Call routing side, a Central DB will be distributed to each of the operators so that they can query the DB in real time to determine which network to route a call or an SMS to for a particular subscriber.This is known as the All-Call-Query/CDB Routing method.

The NCC has set and documented a framework for the implementation for the MNP Solution and it is very clearly written with all scenarios taken into consideration. MNP in Nigeria will also be free but you will be restricted to a single successful Port every 90 days

The Nigerian MNP Implementation states the following process for the Port Process:

  1. Pre-Order Process: At this time a subscribers walks into the Recipient Network and requests to port his number. He is introduced to the MNP process and given the necessary forms to fill. After the Recipient Network Customer Rep stores the Port request and sends the request to the Clearing House for Processing. The subscriber is also instructed to send an SMS to a short code to confirm that he requested the particular Port. The subscriber is given a blank SIM which, if everything goes well, will become his SIM on the new network ( still with his current Phone number)
  2. Initial Order Validation: At this step, the Clearing House confirms that the Port request ( from the Recipient Network) and the subscriber SMS ( from the Port subscriber) come in within the specified time period( I believe this is currently set as 2 working days). Once this is done, the Clearing House validates that you have not violated any of the MNP Business Rules ( that you have not ported within the last 90 days) as well as that the Subscriber wishing to Port has a registered Number. Once all this validations are passed, the Clearing House sends a request to the Donor to confirm that the Subscriber wanting to Port be given permission to ( by accepting the Port out request)
  3. Donor Validation: At this stage, the Donor network validates whether a subscriber can leave their network. The NCC stipulates very strict reject reasons controlling why a subscriber NOT be allowed to port ( I believe this only includes Phones numbers that have been reported Stolen or Lost). Once the Donor accepts the Port, the Donor responds to the Clearing House with the confirmation of acceptance. If the Port is rejected, an SMS is sent to the subscriber informing them of the Failed port ( with the reason for failure)
  4. Porting Provisioning: At this stage the Clearing House informs the recipient network that the Subscriber can be ‘Provisioned’ ( i.e. created on the requisite systems to enable the subscriber use the basic services on the Recipient network). Also note at this stage the subscriber is available on 2 Networks. Once the subscriber has been provisioned on the Recipient Network, the network responds to the Clearing House. The Clearing House will then ‘broadcast’ the new Subscriber details to every other Network on the MNP Process so that calls originating from that network can be routed accordingly. The Clearing House sends an SMS to the subscriber that he can now insert the SIM given to him in step (1) into a phone.
  5. Porting Closure: At this stage, the subscriber has been successfully created on the Recipient network BUT the subscriber is also still active on the Donor Network. The Clearing House will send a request to the Donor network to close the Port. The donor will then proceed to de-activate the subscriber from all the Donor Network systems ( the subscriber most likely will not be deleted from all systems). Note that if the Porting Provisioning fails, the Clearing House still sends the Porting Closure request to the Donor but instead informs the Donor to leave the Subscriber untouched. When subscriber de-activation is done, the donor informs the Clearing House and the Port is completed.

In my coming posts I will be analysing the technical details and challenges for each of the above listed processes.

I welcome all comments/questions!

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