Lacklustre trial stalls mobile number portability rollout in China

A mobile number portability trial in China has seen disappointing results, with just 50,000 subscribers switching successfully between operators during the six-month pilot scheme.

The initiative, which allowed subscribers to switch between China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom but keep their original number, was tested in the Tianjin municipality and the Hainan province. Over 40,000 subscribers in the former region participated in the project, while the latter garnered only around 5000 participants.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) confirmed that around 500,000 subscribers had requested to switch between networks; it is currently unclear if technical difficulties were the reason that just one tenth of applications succeeded. An MIIT official stated that the final turnout was “much lower than expected”, especially since the two trial cities have around 15 million subscribers between them.

The number of subscribers that switch networks in China is significantly lower than the global average according to the China Academy of Telecommunications Research (CATR) – around 0.5% and 2-3% of the respective totals.

The CATR’s deputy chief engineer, Chen Jinqiao, suggested that the nationwide launch of MNP would likely be delayed following the trial’s underwhelming reception, saying: "We hoped to have mobile number portability up and running by the end of this year, but with the disappointing result, it seems that we have to wait at least another year."

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