Portability day shows a lack of mobility in service providers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 1999, 12:00am

In what was to be a watershed week for Hong Kong's 2.9 million mobile subscribers who had been granted the ability to retain their phone numbers, glitches have marred what was hoped to be a simple transfer process.

Hundreds of mobile-phone users who chose to move numbers to new operators found their existing provider less than expedient in releasing them.

Sources said SmarTone proved particularly problematic in porting its subscribers to other networks, with rejection rates as high as 43 per cent, compared with about 8 per cent by other operators.

Some said the problem may have been caused by having too few resources to handle the porting requests.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) said it would watch for anti-competitive practices and had convened daily meetings with all six operators in an attempt to iron out the problems.

Of the 1,950 porting tickets issued by the central database on Tuesday, 35 per cent were rejected by operators, while 680 - or 30 per cent of the tickets - were rejected on Wednesday, according to Ofta.

One of the main reasons given for rejection were a failure by operators to supply ample information on new clients.

Operators were reluctant to release figures on new customers and the service providers from which they switched at this early stage.

PCS companies Sunday, Peoples Phone and New World Mobility - the firms likely to benefit most from number portability - all reported satisfaction at the amount of new subscribers.

Ofta allows up to 5,000 phone numbers per day to be ported, although the maximum quota was not reached so far this week. About 4,000-4,500 subscribers have been ported to new networks daily.

Users did not provide as dramatic churn rates in the first week as some industry watchers had expected, possibly because of reduced tariffs that may have enticed subscribers to remain with present operators.