Will MNP mean better Indian phones

by Sharon Lobo    Nov 25, 2010

Sharon LoboThe wait is over, MNP or mobile number portability has finally seen the light of day in India. Beginning in the Haryana telecom circle, the service is expected to be available throughout the country by mid January. This will undoubtedly be a boon to those mobile users (including me) who for the sake of retaining their mobile numbers have born the brunt of bad service or high tariff plans. So now with the tables turned, will MNP actually be a game changer for telcos?

Currently, speculation is rife as to who will emerge victorious in the MNP war–the new operators or the older ones. However, it is too early to predict any outcome and the result could vary from circle to circle and the need of the subscribers. For instance, according to an AC Nielsen report on MNP, tariff plans and network coverage seems to be the top priority for mobile users who wish to switch operators. It is clear that MNP will affect telcos and keep them on their feet. It will also make way for a level playing field, hence no incompetent operator can get away with lousy service or unreasonable tariffs. However there is another group that will be impacted by MNP–the Indian handset brands.

Currently there are over 60 Indian handset companies and their key USP has been dual-SIM phones. With their dual-SIM offerings they have not only managed to garner a decent market share but also give jitters to the big daddy of handsets–Nokia. However, baring a few, the majority of these players lack innovation and there are hardly any smartphones from these companies.

Worldwide, the smart devices market has become an important battleground for handset manufacturers. Affordability and popularity of manufacturer-independent mobile OS such as Android, has caused sales of these smartphones to sky rocket. In India, lack of dual SIM smartphones has not allowed this market to explore its full potential as connectivity holds precedence over features. As a result, mobile users who were either victims of high tariffs or bad coverage or both, had to stick to ordinary dual-SIM phones .

But now with MNP possibly solving the high tariff and bad coverage issue, mobile users would prefer to use a feature rich, single SIM smart devices rather than an average dual-SIM handset. Companies such Micromax and Lemon had announced months ago on plans to unveil Android-based phones but none of these have materialized. On the other hand Videocon and Spice do have Android phones but they are priced equally to Samsung’s Galaxy offerings, which are more sought after.

Apart from MNP, the 3G roll out too will increase the predilection for smartphones. So it is high time, local handset makers shift their focus from offering just dual-SIM phones to feature-rich smart devices or else they are bound to lose the share of pie they have snatched from the market leader.