By Izumi Takeuchi
Nine years after being first implemented in Singapore in 1997, Mobile number portability (MNP) service finally started in Japan on October 24, 2006. Its main objectives are to improve subscribers’ convenience and encourage a fair competiton among operators, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).
MIC spent three years to put MNP into practice, since initial workgroup was established in November 2003. Initially, MIC estimated MNP potential demand as 30 percent of the total number of mobile subscribers.However, a survey conducted by a certain operator in 2003 showed that there were only 14.6 percent subscribers who were interested in trying MNP (and only 3.6 percent opted for it if it is chargeable). Based on MIC’s cost-benefit analysis, net profit was expected to reach from $1.57 to 2.86 billion (total MNP earnings less than the total expenditures), if application rate against total subscribers exceeds 10 percent. Ensuring that the implementation will not lead to loss, the launch of MNP was initially scheduled to take place as early as 2006, but was later postponed to October 24 the same year. MIC also ensured the readiness for new market entrants of their launch, and secure subscribers’ convenience. Notably, during the survey in 2003, MIC regarded the need of changing mobile e-mail address as a result of MNP would not discourage application rate. Upon the implementation of MNP, Personal Handyphone System (PHS) operators such as Willcom Inc. were excluded due to high implementation cost. Therefore, MNP, at the launch stage, meant intense competition among three existing mobile operators; NTT DoCoMo Inc. (DoCoMo), KDDI Corporation (KDDI), and Softbank Mobile Corp. (Softbank).