It’s confirmed – Singapore has incomplete number portability

July 7th, 2008 | by limbeer

Further to Alfred’s post on number portability in Singapore …

ST Forum has published IDA’s response to my original letter. The reason they provided for not mandating true number portability (I will define true number portability here as when you can indeed port a number to any plan – pre or post paid) is …

“This is in recognition that consumers would choose mobile services based on their needs (for example, pre-paid users usually prefer the flexibility of not being on a contract), and most would likely stay as a pre- or post-paid mobile customers when they switch providers.”

Which consumers wouldn’t “choose mobile services based on their needs”? I’m sure consumers can easily find out the features and benefits of pre and post paid plans, and will choose accordingly.

BUT the point is the consumer’s needs might change and hence their choice of a mobile service might change. E.g., student starts work, uses the mobile more and wants to go from pre paid to post paid. Or like me, I’m out of the country but do come back now and then and hence want to move my Singapore mobile number from post paid to pre paid.

By disallowing true number portability, this simply goes against the initial reason for implementing what IDA calls “full number portability” – which is to empower consumers with choice and presumably promote and liberalise the local telco market.

After spending all that money and man hours of going through a public tender to get a centralised database administrator to manage number portability, how much more trouble or cost will it incur to allow number portability across pre and post paid plans?

My understanding of the number portability system is that there is a centralised database administrator which simply maps out the mobile number to the telco. You call a number, it gets routed to through this database which then passes the call on to the respective telco’s network.

What really is the issue behind Singapore’s incomplete yet “full” number portability system?



  1. chesterchen says:

    I for one, have written in on numerous occasions, to the different operators as well as IDA, hoping that this TRUE mobile number portability would be implemented in Singapore. Dont see how it is not possibile as Singapore has one of the top mobile phone to population ratio. Comparing that the neighbouring countries have implemented it, why not Singapore?

  2. Indra says:

    Well, there are many funny regulations in Singapore, which only for the advantage to big corporates and government. The so called “full number portability” is one of them and Singaporeans can do nothing against it.
    Am I wrong?

  3. SM says:

    Yes I had wanted to switch from postpaid to prepaid _within the same service provider_ because since starting work, I have to plan my outings with friends weeks in advance, and email is far more convenient for this than calling or sms-ing. But noooo. My service provider said in no uncertain terms that I could not keep my number if I went from postpaid to prepaid. This is ridiculous.

  4. expat says:

    Please do not blame the clearinghouse for the fiasco ( I don not work for them!!!). They actually have nothing to do with this.

    The regulator (IDA) and the telcos got together on this one and made a decision not to allow a pre-paid number to port to a post paid account. It may well be that their systems recognise a post paid or pre paid number by number range. It should cost nothing to allow this though.

    Malaysia will be launching number portability soon and as the name inplies it is number portability. The recipient operator will accept the number into whatever plan you would like to choose either pre or post paid and they willnot care what your current service.

    I also understand that if you port your number you will not be able to receive MMS’s!

    By the way the Clearinghouse tender was won by a joint bid between Syniverse Technologies (US company, one of their largest shareholders is Singapore Government and SCS!!!!)

  5. fangirl says:

    Haha…I’m sorry, but the answer cracked me up! And what’s even funnier is they probably came up with it after rounds of vetting! Limbeer, you’re spot on on that. It’s precisely because people want to choose mobile plans and services based on their needs that full number portability should include pre- to post-paid porting and vice versa.

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