In North America, when you buy a phone from one telecom company, you have the right to retain the number when you move to another. That is called portability. It practically makes it possible for you to keep using one number even when you are moving across different service providers.
In Nigeria, it has not gone mainstream. NCC is doing something very important now – to register SIM cards in order to reduce crimes and other vices associated with anonymous SIM cards. Unfortunately, in a nation with no social security number, anyone can provide any identity and government cannot validate that. There is a big question mark on the effectiveness of that Sim card registration process.
Yes, back to number portability. This needs to happen to give freedom to mobile users in Nigeria. But let Nigerians know that this will be a very hard thing since competition has eaten into the profitability of these telcos and any further burden on them will not be easily accepted. It is easier in U.S. to port since new contracts will cover the new company taking the service. They will benefit from you coming into their network. In the prepaid world in Nigeria, that may not work well without some costs to the telcoes. But NCC has the power to do anything.
Now, while will people want to port their numbers? Many reasons and some are
– Poor service from some networks. Some are just not reliable. Owerri sometimes is forgotten by MTN. The service there is just bad.
– Calling rates disparity for very price sensitive customers. They can move to other networks that charge a little lesser.
– Provision of new features like mobile money, drug verification (think mPedigree), etc