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Old Number, New Service

February 2011

By Anushka Sharma, Delhi

Are you sentimental about your cell phone number? Maybe you’ve had it forever, maybe you’re superstitious about the three 3s in it, or in most probability your number has become your identity and you don’t want to let it go.

Makes sense to me. But what do you do when the network in your home or office leaves you guessing what the person on the line is saying? In a cell phone obsessed country like India, mobile number portability is necessary and most welcome, as it finally arrives.

So the Government of India, after several missed deadlines, finally rolled out the much-awaited number portability this month. Some of my friends are thrilled.

“I’m so getting rid of this Tata service. I have to stand in the staircase to talk on the phone, and I keep screaming to be heard,” says an office colleague.

A friend who works in public relations tells me, “I’ve worked very hard for my number to find its way into some ‘influential’ people's contact list. I can’t afford to lose it. But then I find Vodafone a much better service than Airtel, so I might be switching.”

It’s such a dramatic little fellow. And let’s face it - we Indians are addicted to our cell phones. Walk the streets of Delhi and you’ll know what I’m saying. Everyone is screaming into a phone. From work deals to break ups, everything happens on the phone. With call tariffs some of the cheapest in the world, bills rarely raise any alarms. So it’s only fair that we have number portability.

It works pretty simply. You text message your preferred service provider, they check if you’ve cleared all your dues, and say goodbye. The love-hate relationship ends. The number remains. “Freedom to subscribers” – the advertisements are shouting.


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