French mobile network operators are bracing themselves for the introduction of new mobile number portability (MNP) rules which come into effect today. Under a new simplified system, French consumers wishing to port their number to a new provider – excepting those under contract for a pre-defined period – will be able to do so by giving ten days notice to their current supplier. The big three network operators Orange, SFR and Bouygues say they are ready to meet the challenge of the new system which could increase subscriber churn and impact adversely on their bottom line.
The new MNP regime has already drawn criticism, however, from Richard Branson, head of phone company Virgin Mobile, who says the new measures, though welcome, are inadequate. In an interview with French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Branson welcomed what he says is a step in the right direction, but went on to say that the ten-day period was ‘still too long’. ‘In the United Kingdom and other countries, you can change operator overnight. I don’t see why French consumers shouldn’t have the same freedom,’ he said. In addition, Branson is calling for a reduction in wholesale call prices to MVNOs in France and says that if changes are not made, it is unlikely anyone will come forward to bid for the fourth 3G mobile licence being put up for sale. ‘The only way to create true competition is to make virtual operators more competitive,’ he said.