Technology and Investment, 2013, 4, 255-260
Published Online November 2013 (
Open Access TI
Mobile Number Portability: A Case Study of Kenya
Metto S. Kimutai1, Kimeli V. Kimutai1, Awuor F. Mzee2
1Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Eldoret, Eldoret, Kenya
2Department of Computing Sciences, Kisii University, Kisii, Kenya
Received September 25, 2013; revised October 25, 2013; accepted November 2, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Metto S. Kimutai et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
In the telecommunications industry, mobile numbers are increasingly being seen as an asset of the regulato r. The free-
dom of the customer using it is left to him/her to decide which service provider to use while retaining the same number.
Mobile number portability (MNP) has been introduced to provide a platform for this freedom to the customer. The
Telecommunications market Regulator in Kenya, the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK), began the course
of mobile number portability in 2010 through newspaper advertisement. The regulator had an aim that in the end, the
right customer experience will be provided by the service providers, and help service providers to build profitable and
lasting relationships b etween the service providers and th eir customer, and to differentiate themselves in the market. In
this paper, we seek to evaluate the performance of MNP in Kenya since its launch. This paper seeks to find out how the
service has performed after the first three months of operation. We survey and analyze MNP framework in Kenya and
compare that to MNP in Japan, Finland, Sweden an d Hong Kong to establish the futur e of MNP in Kenya. It first looks
at the MNP framework as used in Kenya and the procedure for reversal in case the customer is dissatisfied with a ser-
vice provider who moves to and makes a reference to how the service has performed in other markets such as Finland,
Sweden, and Hong Kong in order to enable comparative observations. Since there has been very little literature pub-
lished for countries in Africa, it will only make comments on countries like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria. Fu rther, it
gives recommendations to the participating parties.
Keywords: Communication Commission of Kenya; Customer; Mobile Number Portability; Service Provider
1. Introduction
Mobile number portability (MNP) is the ability of a cus-
tomer to change their mobile network operator and/or
service provider while retaining the same mobile phone
number for the provision of the same service as expl aine d
by Durukan et al. [1]. It is aimed at deregulating the tele-
communications sector by reducing the former fixed as-
sociation between the service providers and the mobile
subscriber while promoting competition in the market-
place for mobile services. Mobile numbers are continu-
ally being seen as a property of the regulators and so the
freedom is left to the subscriber on which service pro-
vider to use while retaining the same number.
Telecommunications market regulator, the Communi-
cation Commission of Kenya CCK initiated the process
of mobile Number portability in 2010 throu gh newspaper
advertisements asking the public to submit their views on
the need for number portability service. CCK assigned a
third party—Mobile Porting Access Limited, the duty of
rolling out the MNP in Kenya in April 2010.
This paper is organized as follows: Section 2 reviews
the experiences in various countries; Section 3 presents
the technical implementation of MNP, while Section 4
explains the findings and Section 5 deals with recom-
mendations for adoption of newer technology in future.
Conclusion and future work is presented in Section 6.
2. Literature Review
Some of the issues mentioned to have caused the need
for introduction of MNP center on network quality and
calling rates. Specific issues mentioned include: Dropped
calls, international calling rates, Static and unclear calls,
over charging on calls claims, SMS adverts from specific
mobile service providers (which often are broadcasted at
night causing unnecessary attention), delays in delivery
of services such as sms, failure to deliver services at all,
low quality of network value added services such as
launching of 3 G services, higher calling rates, offers
from various competitors an d the fear of losing the nu m-
ber which made providers with a large customer base
tending to provide less quality of services and exploita-
tion of customers while customers have little or no op-
tions. Several options have been tried by customers in-
cluding having multiple subscriber Identity Modules (SI M)
cards, buying dual-sim phones or even carrying multiple
handsets each with a different number from a different
mobile service provider.
In the search for provision of a solution to these prob-
lems, Mobile Porting Access was licensed by the regula-
tor CCK to enable customers to make a choice of a pro-
vider and retain the number he/she is identified with.
Benchmark studies carried out by CCK indicates that
Service Provider Number Portability (SPNP) offers ef-
fective intervention in markets that are dominated by
single players (CCK). The effective factors in choosing
MNP service by consumers have key role in the success
of the service provision [2]. Some of these impressive
factors are: number porting costs, the required period for
porting number and competitive environment of the
market that is affected by quantitative specifications su ch
as the tariffs and also by quality of offered services
International experience of MNP has been limited and
only partially successful [3]. According to Wikipedia
online, MNP is operational in was introduced earlier in
countries such as Netherlands, Hong Kong, UK, Swit-
zerland, Australia and Singapore around ten years ago. In
Africa, number portability has been implemented in
South Africa (2006), Nigeria one year after and Egypt in
2008. Hong Kong’s was the most successful with a high
percentage of those changing networks porting their
numbers, and with porting times of 1 - 2 days. While in
the Netherlands and the UK demand was disappointing
due to long porting times of up to 28 days, significant
porting out charges, complex processes and some regu-
latory gaps [3].
There are four mobile service providers in Kenya namely:
Safaricom, Airtel Kenya, Yu and Orange with market
shares of 76%, 13%, 6% and 4% respectively as at June
2011 (CCK) [4] of the 20 Million customers’ base.
There were issues identified by the Communication
Commission of Kenya (CCK) that needed to be addre sse d
by the MNP provider such as: technical solutions, service
provision procedures, dispute resolution mechanism and
implementation time frame. The technical issues to be
addressed is so as to make the transition as smooth as
possible, service provision procedures is so as to make
each participant responsible for their actions and support
the service implementation, dispute resolution is so as to
make conflict resolution procedure as fast as possible and
time frames to give deadlines to both parties on their
obligations as explained by the Communications Com-
mission of Kenya.
Whenever a technology is implemented, it becomes
necessary for it to be measured and evaluated either on
its success or failure. This paper examines the success or
failure of MNP technology in Kenya. The study sought
so as to compare the technology’s performance in Kenya
as compared to that of other countries which launched
the service earlier. This was done primarily by first look-
ing at the statistics in other countries and comparing the
same to the Kenyan scenario.
There are some selected countries that have been re-
viewed in order to give a benchmark. The three countries
described are Finland, Sweden and Hong Kong. The graph
below shows how each country performed after launch-
ing the service.
There is an observation therefore from Figure 1 below
that in Hong Kong, the technology had the highest em-
brace between 1.6% and 4. 3 % in which as the technology
came of age, it was seen as decreasing in use. In Finland,
there was the highest swing of between 0.8% and 4.3%
within 15 months. There was very minimum effect of the
technology in Sweden which means there is a very high
degree of customer loyalty to their service providers as
explained by Smura [5].
It is necessary to consider other African countries s ince
they fall in the same category as the subject of study here
and how this technology was adopted by customers. This
is done on the following countries which have imple-
mented the technology as shown in Table 1 as follows.
According to the daily news Egypt published in 2008
[6], two months after introduction of mobile number
portability service, the number of subscribers who swit-
ched service providers constituted 0.02 percent of total
mobile subscriber base.
MNP was endorsed in late 2005. Oper ators too k a long
time (over 9 months) to given their subscribers the option
of switching [7]. In countries where MNP it exists did
Figure 1. Ported numbers in relation to post-paid subscrip-
tions in three European countries Source (Fierce price com-
petition and teaching to port numbers—investment in fu-
ture generation subscriber base).
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Table 1. MNP implementation in some countries.
Year Country
1997 Singapore
1999 Hong Kong, UK, The Netherlands
2000 Switzerland, Spain
2001 Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Austr alia, Cyprus
2002 Italy, Belgium, Germany
2003 Finland, France, Iceland, Greece, Irelan d , Luxembourg
2004 Slovakia, South Korea, Austria, USA, Hungary
2005 Taiwan
2006 Czech Republic, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, South Africa
2007 Canada, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria
2008 Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Bulgaria, Egypt
2009 Ecuador
2010 Peru, Thailand, Jordan, Kuwait, Albania
2011 India
Source: Wikipedia online.
not imply any radical increase in switching activities. But
it provided an alternative that ensures that operators treat
their customers better [8]. It had to be right so that it does
not experience a down-fall.
MNP implementation was a welcome idea for the cus-
tomers but did not gather the required force; it was not
widely accepted as a long-term solution for high call and
interconnection rates but provide an avenue to control.
MNP created an exciting competition among the mobile
phone service providers with each determined to retain
The parties involved in rolling out MNP in Kenya in-
clude: The mobile service providers: Safaricom, Airtel
Kenya, Yu and Orange and their agents who have been
contracted to carry out customer service on their behalf.
The regulator: In Kenya the regulating body is the Com-
munications Commission of Kenya (CCK). This is the
body responsible for enhancing fair play and resolving
conflicts. The MNP service provider: Mobile Porting Ac-
cess Limited and the customers, who consume this prod-
Before one considers porting, one need to register his/
her number the government of Kenya gave a directive
that all mobile numbers be registered by some identifica-
tion documents that ar e required to authorize porting ju st
like any other count r y .
3. Technological Implementation of MNP
The basis of MNP technology implementation entails an
extensive amount of effort and revision in the tel eco mmu -
nications infrastructure. The implementation includes a
number portability database; the number portability da-
tabase (NPDB) keeps track of the ported numbers, their
respective service providers and a selection of an appro-
priate routing method for different types of calls and
other value added services. The diagram (in Figure 2) [9]
shows a summary as put by the Communications Com-
mission of Kenya on MNP.
The procedure for postpaid customers is however dif-
ferent due to their business model, it has various detailed
business rules including contracts signed with the pro-
vider, the authorizing person to take care of corporate
and individual accounts, offers that accompanied the
package during migration to post pay, needs to be taken
care of by the p olicy.
The basic guideline to porting your number as pro-
vided by the regulator is that when porting, you need to
change your subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. Much
as the process seems to be like acquiring a new connec-
tion, you retain your number. According to the CCK
(2011) the general procedur es in number portability are:
1) The Subscriber opens an Account with the new
(Recipient) Operator and pays the Per-Port Charge (Ksh.
200 Approx. $2.3). This is for them to be known by the
2) The subscriber installs a new SIM that has the
number that they are already using with the old (Donor)
Operator. To enable p ort i ng t o be po ssi bl e.
3) The subscriber requests the new operator to close
their account with the old (donor) operator; to enable
them start activate a new account at the recipient.
4) A request is made to all operators to change their
routing arrangements so that calls can be routed directly
to the new operator; this will enable the subscriber to
continue with the service as usual.
5) The total tu rnaround time in th e porting process is a
maximum two (2) working days including all stages; this
is the service level agreed time.
6) Any porting process beyond two porting days shall
be recorded by the CRDB and shall also form part of the
key performance indicators reporting. Which will be used
as a measure of performance of the individuals working
there as part of annual appraisal.
If a customer is dissatisfied by the service, there is an
option given called cooling off.
It is a 14-day time after porting in which you are per-
mitted to go b ack to you r dono r o perator. You will no t be
charged early termination fees if you exercise this option.
4. Findings
The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) had
anticipated that the service will have a high demand but
the reception has been rather low such that after a week
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Figure 2. Source CCK guidelines on porting (2011).
about only 300 people had ported to different networks
out of the 20 Million customer base. This is a very insig-
nificant number considering the infrastructure investment
and advertisements which had been run in the print and
electronic media. This means that the service was not
well accepted by customers as a solution to issues they
may be having with their service providers.
erations and procedures to avoid confrontations with cus-
tomers, the competitors and the regulator either through
the media or in their boardrooms.
MNP can be seen from the improved customer reten-
tion strategies introduced by the service providers thr ough
special pricing deals, reward service offers such as points
reward scheme adopted by a major market shareholder
which has had various offers coming with it, bundling of
services and other promotions.
MNP has forced carriers to work harder to retain cus-
tomers by improving customer service as seen in the ag-
gressiveness of some providers doing a door-to-door cam-
paign for customers to por t to their networks. This means
there is more than marketing that may make customers to
port and that other issues affect the choice to port. This is
mainly due to the added value services received in vari-
ous service providers.
5. Recommendations
An observation made on carriers who do not have a large
network of agents need to broaden their base so as to
reach the customers especially in rural area centers. Ser-
vice providers must invest in tools that empower cus-
tomers and customer care agents to reduce the amount of
time they spend resolving a custo mer issue without com-
promising the quality of the interaction explained by O.
John [3]. One solution lies in filtering calls by directing
them to an automated interactive vo ice register to handle
frequently asked questions or provide a web self-service
Teething problems between carriers caused unaccept-
able porting delays of days which led to exchange of
harsh complaints and counter-arguments from two major
operators where one accused the other for sabotage, and
the replies through the media equally harsh that one pro-
vider was not giving the whole and right information to
customers. There have been cases in courts where cus-
tomers accuse some providers of delays in porting hence
loss of business [10]. To solve these issues carriers have
had to make considerable evolution to their in-house op- For forecasting the network needs as part of providing
porting is having the available capacity to deliver and
receive the traffic that flows between the interconnecting
networks. To do so, a planning process must be followed
between the interconnecting operators so that investment
for additional capacity can be agreed, budgeted, and in-
stalled in time to meet the forecasted demand [3].
Each carrier needs to identify their particular problems
and remedy each through software patches, improved
systems, well trained shop-front staff and enhanced cus-
tomer education with other carriers and customers as
explained [2]. According to a press release by one of the
service provider (2011) [11], there was concern that cus-
tomers are not given the right information. Customer care
agents need to deliver superior customer service experi-
ences as they help customers from answering their ques-
tions about MNP to providing number por ting and re late d
technical support and knowledge management [12]. Ser-
vice providers must invest in training their ag ents in rural
areas to carry out the porting requests on their behalf.
Procedures to resolve differences over forecasts must
be defined as well as what constitutes a bona fide request
for additional interconnection capacity [13]. At a mini-
mum, a mutual obligation to notify the other party of
network changes and upgrades well in advance is needed
to avoid disadvantaging one competitor over another.
With average revenue per user declining, quality of
servic e and customer exp erience play a decisive role in a
subscriber’s choice of an operator. Mobile carriers need
to adopt a multi-pronged strategy that focuses on the
overall user experience so as to avoid losing customers to
The greatest beneficiaries receiving customers should
develop the capability to handle a potential surge of in-
bound phone calls, respond substantively and accurately
to inquiries, making offers in a way that persuades high-
value customers to continue to stay and engaging suc-
cessfully with prospective subscribers.
The regulator should negotiate the movement of the
money transfer service among service providers to be
just like any other value added service such as SMS now
that it is an SMS-based service.
There have been cases of migration delay as reported
by the media, though a clear format of dispute resolution
has been put in place by the regulator, there have been
cases in the courts and it takes long to be resolved if left
to the courts. The regulator should take up and resolve
the cases instead. The regulator should facilitate the in-
troduction of industry-wide regulatory changes to reflect
changing technologies and sector conditions to enable
fast resolutions of conflicts.
The regulator also should consider supporting more
research on how best to implement MNP and other new
Information Communications Technologies in a very dy-
namic environment of the mobile service sector in terms
of technical solutions, policy and implementation.
The MNP provider should try to reach a near-real-time
porting solution by establishing a complex solution be-
tween carriers to manage the messaging between the los-
ing mobile carrier, the gaining mobile carrier, carriage
service pro viders and oth er parties that need to route calls
to the ported customer [14]. The provider should try to
provide an integrated money transfer framework such
that irrespective of the customer’s network, he/she
should be able to send or receive money provided it is in
the same currency.
The provider should also consider investing in further
research on how best to sell the MNP technology to cu s-
tomers and reduce barriers to the access of this service
and develop an online porting platform to allow for a
wider access to the customers who may be limited by
time and location.
The provider may also consider assisting in developing
a transp arent banking solution via the various mon ey tr a n s-
fer services such as M-PESA (A mobile money transfer
service) on the M-KESHO (a platform in equity bank)
and I&M Visa Card platforms.
To mitigate effects of casual decision, based on in-
complete information and done by the roadside at the
instigation of commission-hungry agents, the customers
must first confirm that they are well informed on cus-
tomer procedures involved in MNP before making a de-
cision to port and know the reasons and the time frame
the porting process could be blocked before the service is
resumed to avoid inconvenience. One should also under-
stand how value added service such as Short message
services(SMS), Voice Mail and Money transfer services
would be handled when a number is ported; and under-
stand how limited the disruption would be during the
actual changeover.
6. Conclusions
MNP has brought a unique challenge for mobile opera-
tors and intensified the competition for retaining sub-
scribers. Much utilization of the serv ice was expected by
the regulator, it did not meet its expectation hence there
has been a miss of the technology in the market. The
statistics as for the first three months are approximately
143,000 requests made out of the 20 Million customers,
which makes 0.715% which is insignificant.
This implies a great maintenance of the status quo and
this option acts as a regulation to other service providers
who don’t act in an anti-competitive behavior.
Considering the investments done where one service
provider invested Ksh. 10 million (Approximately $116
280) as released by Safaricom [12] which means if each
of the four operators invested approximately the same
amount using the 2010 (which has been dropping) aver-
age rate of spending per user (ARPU) of Ksh 437 ($5)
annually, it would take over 8 months to recover the in-
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vestment from the same customers excluding any opera-
tional costs.
This low response on the service also means that either,
there is a high degr ee of customer lo yalty among th e sub-
scriber base to their service providers [15] or there is an
uninformed population especially among the people liv-
ing in rural areas on the number portability.
In the end, MNP has been good to the customer in that
it has made service providers more responsive in pro-
tecting their customer territories and locking out com-
petitors. The service providers have been forced to seek
the right customer experience that will help them build
profitable, lasting relationships and differentiate them-
selves in an increasingly competitive market.
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