Fast and cheap, promises du, of mobile number portability plan

Mobile number portability, introduced in the UAE on December 22, is meant to give customers the freedom to change their service provider without having to change their phone number.

Porting time would be less one working day, a du offical says. Sarah Dea / The National
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Customers who want to switch between du and Etisalat under the country's new system of mobile number portability will be able to do so in a single day with no loss of service, du said.

Mobile number portability is to be introduced in the UAE on December 22. It is meant to give customers the freedom to change their service provider without having to change their phone number. It is also meant to improve the quality of service by encouraging competition between the nation’s two operators.

“The porting time must be less than one working day,” said Carin Johansson, the manager of commercial programmes at du, at an information session yesterday.

She said the new system would not come at any great cost to consumers. “Any active number in the UAE is able to be ported free of charge or for a very low fee.”

Other details of the new system from du’s session yesterday:

• To avoid any embarrassment, customers breaking up with their old phone company are not required to pay a visit in person. Instead, they can simply visit their new provider’s premises to request the move. “The old operator is not allowed to ask the customer not to leave,” Ms Johansson noted.

• For prepaid users, any remaining credit would be lost during the shift. Also, any credit or balance remaining on a postpaid account will not be transferred.

• Post-paid users will be able to switch between Etisalat and du without restrictions on settling their debt, except if their line was under service suspension during the shift. However, they will still be obligated to pay any outstanding debts to the old operator after the move has taken place. “The details of this will be later discussed between Etisalat and du,” Ms Johansson said.

• Customers who cannot make up their minds will be allowed to move back to the old provider within the first three days after switching. Otherwise, they will have to wait 30 days before moving back.

Mobile number portability has been on the agenda of the federal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority for about three years but was delayed because of technical difficulties.

The World Trade Organization and the World Bank say portability is a way to open up the telecoms sector for competition. As of today, mobile number portability is available for fixed lines and mobile in 75 of 193 UN member-states. Oman and Qatar were the most recent Arabian Gulf countries to introduce the service.