How does Mobile Number Portability (MNP) affect Business SMS Messaging?

by: Chris Keys

How does Mobile Number Portability (MNP) affect Business SMS Messaging?

The Philippines has recently gone through some seismic changes to its mobile telecommunications landscape. While there have been several MVNO (virtual operators), and potential new competitors such as Beltel and Telstra in the past, there is now a true third telco with DITO Telecommunity starting operations. In addition, the government has mandated the introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) which rolled out just months ago, although teething problems are delaying some consumers from being able to realise the full benefits.

So why is MNP a big deal? MNP typically increases competition between telcos and is seen as great for consumers. It enables a mobile user to switch to a new carrier and take their number with them – obviously reducing the inconvenience of having to update all your contacts with a new number and update all your accounts that use SMS for two-factor authentication (2FA).

The Philippines is in the early stages of rolling out MNP at present and customer uptake appears quite low. There are a few reasons for this; MNP is, inherently, of more interest to postpaid clients that have a huge investment in their number – but these clients can only switch once their contract expires. Added to this the pandemic has slowed down non-essential consumer activities. Finally, DITO is still in its infancy, and as its service rolls out, the possibility of competition between the carriers can only increase and MNP will become more prevalent.

Globe, Smart, and DITO have implemented MNP by way of a new Joint Venture company called TCI (Telecommunications Connectivity Inc.) and have engaged technology partner Syniverse Technologies. Nearly all MNP implementations these days use a centralised database of ported numbers (CDB). Carriers keep a frequently updated copy of this, which then allows them to identify where a mobile number is located. This means that the old method of simply looking at the mobile number prefix to identify the operator is not applicable any longer.

As a consumer, you will hear a beep when you call a number that used to be “on-net” but has switched “off-net” via MNP. But as a business trying to send Bulk SMS for marketing purposes, or sending an SMS OTP to validate a customer, does this mean you will need to do anything special? The answer, in a nutshell, is no. Leave it to your SMS service provider to worry about. Typically in the Philippines, commercial SMS rates are consistent across networks. This means there’s no price disadvantage to a business if one of their customers switches networks. Your provider will have systems in place to optimise delivery for both ported and regular numbers. Typically these may include CDB lookup, SS7 HLR (the carrier’s Home Location Register) inquiries, or even just allowing the original carrier to utilise their carrier interconnect to perform the final subscriber delivery.

MNP is a great step forward from the Philippines that will certainly bring competition to the carriers and give DITO a reasonable chance to penetrate a very mature market. Coming relatively late to the MNP party, the Philippines can leverage the technical innovations learned at the bleeding edge from earlier adopters and enjoy all the benefits.

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