According to a Reuters report, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is working on a plan to introduce mobile number portability (MNP), allowing subscribers to switch between networks without losing their phone number. ‘We are planning for the future to allow number portability. The aims are to improve quality and competition,’ said Ernest Ndukwe, executive vice-chairman of the NCC, adding however that such a move was ‘still some months away’. Nigerians have long complained about poor service from the country’s cellcos, and the fact that subscribers have to abandon their number if they change networks may discourage them from dumping a company even if they are receiving poor service quality. Although Nigeria’s mobile phone market has grown from just 30,000 subscribers at the end of 2000 to over 32 million at the end of 2006, investment and upkeep on infrastructure has simply not kept pace with customer demand, and quality of service has in fact deteriorated; subscribers often are forced to dial several times before a call connects, endure frequent network blackouts and put up with patchy sound quality when a call is eventually put through.
However, the country’s cellcos are likely to resist the NCC’s calls for MNP, and are now arguing that services are often impaired by events beyond their control such as frequent power outages, vandalism and armed attacks on facilities and staff.