The CIO’s mobile number portability handbook

Indian telecom is set to witness change in the form of mobile number portability (MNP). Aircel’s CIO shares details on MNP from a technical perspective.

Mobile number portability (MNP) offers the option to a mobile phone subscriber to retain his number, while changing the service provider/operator. Although mobile number portability appears to be a simple concept, it entails making complicated technology changes at all levels of network and information technology (IT) systems. MNP impacts mobile operators, fixed line operators, national 

Image goes hereRavinder Jain

 distance operators (NLDO ), international long distance operators (ILDO), and value-added service providers.

The MNP process

To opt for mobile number portability, the customer needs to obtain a unique porting code (UPC) from his existing operator (Donor) by sending an SMS from his mobile number to a short code 1900. After obtaining the UPC, the customer can go to his preferred telecom operator (Recipient) and fill up the customer engagement form (CEF). The recipient then sends the request along with UPC and the customer's mobile number to a clearing house (CH), an external entity set up by the Department of Telecom (DoT) to facilitate message exchange among all operators.

The CH sends the message to the Donor, who acknowledges the receipt of port-out request and in turn, sends a confirmation message to the recipient. The customer has the option of cancelling his mobile number portability request within 24 hours of submitting the CEF and UPC. Within four days, the Donor can either approve the port-out request, or reject the MNP application with a valid reason agreed between DoT and all operators.

The donor deactivates the number and informs the CH, which sends an activation request to the recipient. Upon activation confirmation by the recipient, CH broadcasts all operators regarding port-in numbers.

A new MNP identifier

Post MNP, the first five digits of a mobile number will no longer be a definitive criterion to identify the service provider. The number series may belong to an operator, but the customer may not. From a network call routing perspective, a called party mobile number cannot be routed to an operator just by looking at the series. The point of interconnect (POI) of NLDO/ILDO cannot decipher national or international calls based on series and thus, route to the right operator.

Also, the call type identification from call detail record will no longer be based on series. As a result, mobile number portability mandates that billing will have to change based on some other identifier, which will definitively tag the right call type.

The other identifier in the MNP regime will be local routing number (LRN), which will dictate call routing. Every operator in every circle has been provided with a unique LRN and subscriber trunk dialing (STD) codes will start with these numbers. Every port-in and port-out number will be identified by the LRN attached to it. The called party number must be checked for port-in/port-out before routing a call.

Database and routing

The number portability database (NPDB) plays a significant role for MNP in the operator’s network, which maintains the port-in and port-out numbers list with LRN across operators. For instance, if a customer has moved from Reliance to Airtel, even Aircel has to maintain that list in its NPDB. This DB is used for All Call Query (ACQ) to route the call to proper destination.

For STD/international subscriber dialing calls, the network has to send the call to called party through its nearest POI provider based on LRN. The NLDO/ILDO has to forward the call to the right operator based on called party LRN (mobile) or fixed line STD code. For MNP, this is a massive network overhaul that all operators have done on their switches and other elements with a capacity enhancement to do ACQ.  

MNP eco-system

For MNP compliance, a brand new node, called Number Portability Gateway (NPG) has been set up on operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS) to communicate with other operators through the CH. DoT has issued licenses to two MNP operators - Synneverse Technology and MNP India. While Synneverse will connect all operators in North and West India, MNP India will be used in the South and East. The operator NPG is connected to the respective circle’s CH.

The CH is the message broker between the operators. These messages have a definite format and have been agreed upon by the telecom industry. The business process of port-in/port-out has been accepted by the industry as well as DoT, and every operator has implemented the same on his OSS/BSS. The customer relationship management (CRM), order management, provisioning, NPDB provisioning, activation, and inventory management have been changed to accommodate these process changes.

Similar to call routing, call type identifications’ logic based on LRN has been built in all OSS/BSS. Mediation, revenue assurance, fraud management system, retail billing, interconnect billing and NLD/ILD billing systems have been changed to accommodate the new call type logic under mobile number portability. Management information and electronic data warehouse systems have been changed to provide right reporting on usage. In prepaid, the system has been changed to do the call session control based on LRN to comply with MNP.

At Aircel, we have the advantage of new OSS/BSS based on TM Forum TAM model. The service oriented architecture gives us flexibility to tweak business processes, while maintaining regulatory compliance. We intend to use MNP as an opportunity to win new customers.

About the author: Ravinder Jain is the Chief Information Officer at Aircel Group, a joint venture between Maxis Communications Berhad of Malaysia and Apollo Hospital of India.

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