Number Portability rings music !

3G & Mobile Number Portability will soon be available with every Indian mobile phone consumer. While i am quite excited about 3G & all its benefits, i am as excited as a winner climbing the victory podium about Mobile Number Portability !

Dissatisfied customers who continue to labour with a particular service provider despite horrendous service, a callous attitude & an apology of connectivity, do so because of the pangs of changing his or her number along with the service provider. When you change your phone number, the sheer magnitude of the effort involved in communicating it to so many different people is a statistic that is not pleasant. So, you labour on.

Mobile Number Portability bridges that gap. Keep the number, but move the service provider. So I keep the number and can choose to move from Airtel to Vodaphone or Relience or anybody else.

I have consciously desisted for all these years to rile against any specific brand on line. But this one has caused me so much agony that i had to write !

I have been with Airtel for a few years now ! Thats a long while. So, when we moved from Bangalore to Mumbai, it seemed logical to imagine that the good network coverage that we enjoyed in Bangalore would automatically be available in Mumbai. The marketers have a word for it : ‘Brand Promise’ ! This time around the promise was broken, and i was left to hold the falling knife !

When the phone goes dead ( they call it ‘call drop’ ) in the middle of a conversation, and you realise that you have been speaking to the non-existant alien from outerspace & existant bacteria from here, for a good 30 seconds, you shake your head in disbelief. And call up the other chap again, and the next time the call drops, your voice actually drips.

When you make a call, and the phone pops a message which states ‘ network busy ‘ as though, it was some VIP minister and you are a lowly petitioner accumulating dust in a corner, you wonder what in a networks name was happening.

And most important of all, if you have to get into positions in your own home, that could put an acrobat to shame, straining your neck and shouting out aloud, just to ensure you hear and are heard, well, it merits calling Airtel a different service : a calorie burner or something ! Not a telecom network !

And then, on a firm Friday morning, there is a fire at the Airtel office and the service goes kaput.
For almost three to four days, we wrung our wrists in agony, saddled with a recalctitrant network! It was but obvious that their Disaster Recovery Plans would not merit the revenues they turned in, but this sure was the last straw for many consumers like me.

They claimed 20 % of the network was affected, while the whole world figured that the truth lay in a different figure, far more more substantial than the 20 % that was quoted !

So, viva number portability. I wish this happened many months back !

There could be many, who are Airtel (or any other mobile ) brand loyal. To you, i would say, i was one of you too ! The learning for me has been this : If you are moving in from one circle to another, it pays to keep brand loyalty aside and check the network connectivity in the circle you are going to. It helps big time. ( And as of today, if you are in Mumbai and plan to take an Airtel connection, may the forces be with you).

Am not sure how this is going to pan out. For many like me, Mobile Number Portabililty ( MNP ) going to be rung in shortly, sure is a new ring tone !

Ring ! Tring ! Bring

When Alexander Graham Bell reportedly said, something to the effect of ‘Come over to this room’, over the phone, little would he have imagined that the telephone would take the shape of what it is right now. Literally and figuratively!

I remember the first phone that we got. After waiting for more than two years post a ‘registration’, a green box with a 10 dial oval came home. Much to the charging of the neighbours and to the great pride of all in the family. As a kid, one of the greatest kicks I used to have was to see the dial come back to its position, after a number was dialed.

A couple of years later, the dial got replaced by push buttons. So, if the Joneses had push button telephone, and you didn’t, well, you hadn’t succeeded in life! I remember coming back home from school, and seeing a red phone with black buttons and white numbers at home instead of the green phone with the white dial! For the first time, I discovered the redial button that day! As much as it was convenience, it was also a nuisance. A classmate told me, ‘if you make an ‘inappropriate’ call, dial another number. Just in case your parents dial redial and get to speak to the ‘inappropriate’ person’. Worse still, if they got to speak to HER dad!!! That lesson was a big lesson! I remember it to date!

The innovations seemed to have petered off then. Of course, the cordless came in. I remember standing in the balcony and speaking. If I had counted the eyes, that watched me that day, they would have done the best TRP ratings of the best of soap operas to shame! But the cordless couldn’t go beyond the house. Worse still, power failures and distance would be barriers too. The misery got compounded by the influx of western movies and the heroes using car phones. I thought we were backward as a nation!

Some years later I landed a job in media. And the first taste of the mobile phone gave a kick like none else. A personal mobile phone! The best placed guy from my b-school didn’t get one ! I always doubted his capabilities & there was just no sweeter ‘revenge’. After all, there was a God in heaven!

It was a 10 digit number. No one had a 10 digit number. So if somebody asked for your number, well, you rattle off, 10 digits and say, “it’s a mobile phone” , and walk with 12 inches of extra chest space ! You had to pay money for receiving or making a call. If some confused bloke called you by mistake and you happened to pick the call and say ‘hello’, you had to cough up money!! I mean, the company had to cough up the money! I discovered another common practice among the new mobile phone users. It exists to date, so much so, that I can propound a law on it. It reads like this: Within the first three weeks of phone usage, The volume of the person speaking into a phone, is directly proportional to the number of people around in him.

It used to be a huge piece of brick. And compared to all the latest phones available now, it was pedestrian. But, you could speak, and the other could hear. And you could do that on the road, in the car, in the lift, at the airport, outside a public pay phone booth…. and people would go wide mouthed! I didn’t care if it was a piece of brick or a sleek beauty! A call costed a bomb. But every bomb in town was in awe at the piece of brick in my hand!

Today, I look back at the device that I carry. Its one quarter the weight of the original piece. Capable of enabling me to do so many different things, that would keep me connected. Voice, data, photographs, entertainment, information, browsing, streaming, the list is endless. The difference today however, is that everybody has a phone. And a 10 digit number.

These days, there is the hands free kit which has made the busy bees appear as people from an asylum: content with speaking to themselves. Inside cars, on bikes, on the road etc. The next time I am going to see a real lunatic, I have made a mental note to check if he or she is a real lunatic or just somebody using a hands free device !!

The mobile phones have altered many a space in our lifestyle. The best of movies have an additional sound track of people’s phones ringing. Worse still, of people speaking loudly into phones. The best of skylines in any city is dominated by the red and white mobile towers. Everybody, from your vegetable vendor to the Mumbai dabbawalas have it. The TV channels and radio stations goad you to use it. “Call now”, “SMS now” seems to be mantra. The terrorists have it. The school kids have it. There is an ongoing debate about banning the mobile phones in school! New careers have come through! …

I am writing this in an airport. I look around to find that the ubiquitous mobile phone is as ubiquitous as ubiquitous can get! Its there. Hanging out of hips, holsters, shirt pockets, handbags, in the lost and found area, on billboards, permanently attached to peoples faces…..

My phone just beeped, and I got a message. Boarding is called and they are looking for me!