Uganda Doing Feasibility Study on Mobile Number Portability

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is working on a feasibility study aimed at the introduction of MNP (mobile number portability), a consumer protection tool that would help improve quality of services and push competition to new levels in the mobile telephone industry.

The system would also help monitor inactive subscriber numbers and the unregulated sale and ownership of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards.

MNP essentially allows subscribers to switch service providers while keeping their mobile phone numbers.

The plan is part of an ongoing telecommunications policy review process that is being undertaken by the Ministry of ICT and the UCC, said Fred Otunnu, UCC communications and consumer affairs manager.

Issues that must be examined before MNP can be fully deployed include the positions of operators and users and the cost implications, he said.

If Uganda does introduce MNP, it will be the first country in the East African Community region to do so. Consumer rights lobbyists in Kenya are pushing for the country's communications commission to do the same.

MNP would keep in check dominant market players who do a disservice to mobile subscribers by weakening competition, said Jimmy Kiberu, communications manager of HITS Telecom, a fifth Ugandan operator set to launch by the end of the year.

"It is very hard in a commercial sense for a new operator to enter this market," Kiberu said in an interview. "I think government needs to support new players by introducing MNP to level the ground so that incumbents and new players compete favorably for the same customers."

Those opposed to the introduction of MNP in Uganda worry that the entry of more players in the telecom market could exert downward pressure on voice charges.

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