Mobile Number Portability at a Glance

3 min read

Nowadays, mobile subscribers’ MSISDNs, or simply phone numbers, are quickly becoming as integral to our identities (especially – digital identities) as our names and last names. However, as we seek the best customer experience and service quality, we might consider transitioning into a new mobile carrier network. The easiest way would be to buy a new contract with your operator of choice, but what about all your social media accounts, loyalty programme memberships and service subscriptions, not to mention dozens if not hundreds of personal and business contacts? Of course, you may painstakingly update all records and notify all connections, but what if there was another way? Fortunately, mobile number portability (MNP) services are getting increasingly popular worldwide, with more than 100 countries offering this convenience.

So, how does MNP work, and is it all peaches and cream for subscribers, carriers and brands?

How does it work?

Mobile number portability is a process that allows the mobile network subscriber to migrate to another operator’s network within the country while preserving the mobile number.

Its execution might vary widely depending on location. The standard European model is called “recipient-led” porting: a customer reaches out to a new network (recipient) and submits the number portability request to the subscriber’s current network, also referred to as the donor. 

By contrast, in a donor-led system, like the one in the UK, the customer wishing to port their number must obtain a Porting Authorisation Code (or its analogues in other countries) from their current carrier and hand it over to the recipient network.

What are the repercussions?

As mobile number portability becomes more prevalent around the globe, and as more numbers are ported over time (and then ported again and again), the complexity of traffic routing to the correct network becomes a significant challenge for telecommunication market stakeholders.

Without knowing the identity of the subscriber’s ported number, the traffic can be directed incorrectly and, therefore, cause unnecessary transit charges as the message travels via a suboptimal route. Alternatively, the message can be sent to and consequently rejected by the donor MNO, in which case the recipient carrier loses the termination fee. To add insult to injury, this is also likely to affect the enterprise that sent the message and the subscriber that was supposed to receive the SMS in the first place, resulting in declining customer satisfaction.

Another challenge specific to MNOs is that they might already be unknowingly providing the MNP information instead of selling it as a separate service that would grant them extra revenues. For example, currently, enterprises with a set SS7 connection can request all necessary MNP information by sending a query at no additional cost.

So, what can be done?

According to Juniper Research’s recent complimentary whitepaper, mobile number lookup capabilities will be vital for enabling advanced traffic and delivery solutions for multiple operator-led services, including RCS, SMS and voice. Using MNP lookup, mobile operators can reduce termination costs, improve service levels by routing directly and enable sophisticated routing based on numbers and number portability information.

At the same time, MNP lookup can help brands deliver messages to the correct recipients on the first try and avoid unnecessary operational expenses. This can also help to enhance the quality of service as well as preserve and grow loyalty.

Where do we go from here?

Now that we have learnt how mobile number portability works and had a little peek at the possible ways to optimise it for all members of the messaging ecosystem, stay tuned for Part Two, in which we will take a closer look at the possible solutions for the MNP challenges, as well as present GMS’ own take on MNP lookup and how MNOs can actually get revenue for obvious use cases, but also create new revenue streams from non-obvious use cases with the help of the GMS MNP Solution!

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