Mobile number portability (MNP) requests have increased to eight million per month since July 2020.
As per the monthly subscription report released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the requests for changing the network provider shot up since the time the lockdown was lifted in the country.
From July 2020 to December 2020, the MNP requests range from 7.5 -8 million against 3.5-5 million in the previous months.
In 2019 too, the MNP requests ranged between 3.5 million and 5 million.
Telecom analysts have attributed the rise in MNP requests to increased data usage due to work from home and relocation by customers to their hometowns due to COVID-19.
Isha Chaudhary, Director, CRISIL Research, said: "The MNP requests which have traditionally been around 4-5 million per month in the pre-COVID era, witnessed a steep plunge when lockdown was imposed. After a brief pause owing to lockdown, MNP requests have increased to 7-8 million per month, as subscribers ported to the best network in their locality owing to increased requirements of data usage."
"Incidentally the movement was higher in rural belts as wired broadband has still not reached the vast majority of rural India. We expect the MNP requests to stay high in the near term with telecom operators having better network coverage and speeds benefitting from the same," she added.
At the end of December'20, the total MNP requests have accumulated to 545 million from the time MNP was implemented.
In July and August'20, the MNP requests stood at 7.53 million each; it increased to 8.71 million in September, further to 8.80 million in October. In November, the requests stood at 7 million and in December at 8.20 million.
The highest request for a change in network provider was recorded in the month of October'20 at 8.80 million.
Bhupendra Tiwary, Research Analyst, ICICI Direct, noted that the increased internet usage due to the prevalence of working remotely has prompted the customers to switch to the network providing the best coverage. He also noted that the uptick in MNP requests is because telcos don't have a consistent coverage in all the circles. Subscribers usually move over to the operator that is providing a better network around their homes.
A peak in MNP requests was recorded at 15.99 million in November 2017 at the time when Reliance Jio's feature phone was newly launched.
Further, the TRAI data has also revealed that Vodafone Idea is a net loser in terms of MNP as the debt-ridden telco is continuously losing its customers. Between April and December 2020, Vodafone Idea has lost 34.9 million customers.