South African SMEs and consumers have a low awareness of the imminent introduction of mobile number portability (MNP), although a large proportion of corporate telecom users know what MNP is. That is one of the key findings to emerge from an independent study of the potential impact of MNP on the South African cellular market, commissioned by cellular service provider Nashua Mobile and conducted by World Wide Worx.
The survey shows that only about a quarter of consumers and SMEs know about the imminent introduction of MNP in South Africa's cellular market, while 71% of corporate customers know what MNP is.
Says Mark Taylor, managing director at Nashua Mobile: "The findings of this survey indicate that MNP is set to heat up competition in South Africa's cellular market, especially if it turns out to be easy in practice for subscribers to churn between networks and service providers.
"While awareness remains low in many segments of the market, the study indicates that many subscribers become interested in changing networks or service provider in the next 12 months as soon as they realise they will be able to do so without losing their existing cellphone numbers."
More than a quarter of consumers (27%) said they would change networks in the next year once they were made aware of MNP. The strong interest in changing networks following the advent of MNP is even more pronounced among younger subscribers. A desire for cheaper calls is the reason that most consumers cite for possibly changing to a new network.
Close to a fifth of SMEs (19%) said that that they were ready to switch networks in the next year, with small businesses less likely to churn than medium-sized enterprises. As in the consumer segment, cost is the major reason that SMEs offer for their interest in changing networks.
A significant number of SMEs believe that the mere existence of MNP will force operators and service providers to improve their offerings. About a third (31%) expect MNP to bring call costs down, while 35% anticipate to enjoying better relationships with their operators and 31% believe they will have better rapport with their service providers.
Up to 22% of corporate respondents indicated that they are considering changing networks and/or service providers. Corporates plan to take advantage of MNP, even if they do not intend dropping their existing service or network providers. Almost a third of corporate respondents expect MNP to reduce costs, while just over 10% believe it will increase the costs of cellular communications.
Unlike the price-sensitive SME and consumer markets, corporate decision-makers that are looking to change networks give a heavy weighting to four major factors: cost, coverage, technology and service options. This indicates that cellular networks and service providers need to take a multidimensional approach to managing their corporate customer bases.
Says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx: "The low awareness of MNP in the consumer and SME markets indicates that networks are not making much of an investment in educating their customers about the concept, perhaps because it is not in their interest to do so. The regulator could perhaps play a valuable role in educating the market about MNP and what it will mean to South African cellular subscribers."
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