The Mobile Number Potability Fiasco

In keeping with the liberalization in the Indian telecom sector, we use three telecom providers - BSNL landline-cum-broadband, a Vodafone connection (from Hutch days) and an Airtel GSM connection.

Of the three, we have reconciled to occasional problems with our landline and broadband, considering that we have alternate means of communication.  Using Airtel from our home has been a challenge, with poor signals inside our apartment.  More often than not, we provide fodder to the mosquitoes as we stand in our balcony trying to make conversation.  The recent Saif Ali Khan Airtel ad is arguably the exact experience that we have.

We had desisted from changing providers since this would involve informing and updating contact details in several places - personal, professional and legal.

But then Mobile Number Portability became a reality. We were no longer bonded to a whims and fancies of the provider. 

We also realized that for the kind of usage that we had, Airtel's plans were costlier. 

We gave an application to change our provider.  This involved filling a form, giving a photo, id and address proof to the new provider and settling the dues to date with Airtel.  And sending an SMS to 1900.

We were told this would typically take a week.  We were also told our application could be rejected.

The day after the request was made, we got a call from Airtel asking why we wanted to switch.  The reasons were provided and that was that.  Or so we thought.

Yesterday our portability request got rejected.  On calling them up the first time, we were told it was because the request was made on 21st Feb, but we settled the outstanding dues only on 23rd Feb. 

I went in person to the Airtel office in 100 Ft. Road, Indira Nagar, Bangalore.  Believe it or not, the folks at the counter expressed their inability to provide me with reason for the rejection.  "Dial 121", they told.

After three tries and the customary hold, I finally talked to their representative. He had this to say.

"We had called and asked you why you wanted to change providers.  On being told the reasons, we had raised tickets to fix your problem.  Why would you want to shift if we addressed your problem?"

I gave the representative an earful worth and told him that this makes me even more determined to change provider.  Who would have come up with such  amazing excuses for rejecting the portability request?  Such unethical practices can only dent the reputation of the provider.

We heard that this is not new.  Airtel is especially rejecting portability requests giving flims reason just to hold on to their customer base. Apparently the first request for portability typically gets rejected!

I have re-applied for change of provider.  Let us see how it goes!

Update: 7th April 2011:  My second attempt at change of provider has also been rejected.  Calls to Customer Care elicited such cryptic response as "you did not pick up when we called you regarding this".

8th April 2011.  I send the following email to Sanjay Kapoor,  CEO of Bharathi Airtel after trying in vain to find out the escalation mechanism in Airtel.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Raghuram
To: Sanjay Kapoor

Sent: Friday, April 8, 2011 2:19 PM
Subject: Harassment trying to port out of Airtel

Hi Sanjay,
Sorry to trouble you, but I did not find any other means to bring this to your notice.
Essentially, since 21st March 2011, I have been trying to change xxx mobile service provider from Airtel (Relationship # xxx; Phone # xxx).  For no apparent reason, our portability request has been rejected twice.  Call to Airtel Customer Service has given such amazingly ridiculous responses as "you did not pick our call when we called you".  It appears that my case is not isolated and many subscribers are subject to the same harassment when requesting to port out.
The details are available in
It is unbelievable that a company of your repute stoops to such levels and harasses its customers.  Perhaps you are unaware of this and hence this email.
Looking forward to a speedy redressal of our problem.

I get a call in the evening from an Airtel representative asking for information and agreeing to inform us why previous porting requests where rejected.

Update 3rd May 2011.

We received calls from Airtel asking us to make another porting request, stating this would not be rejected. However, to date, we have not been told why our previous two requests have been rejected.

In the meanwhile the unique porting code lapsed and we needed to resubmit the application all over again.

As the proverbial saying goes, we were third time lucky.  The porting request was approved this time, but not before another email to Sanjay Kapoor, which probably went down the internet drain.

Who knows if this is just the end of one harassment and the beginning of another. At least, we now no longer need to talk from the balcony.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Raghuram
To: Sanjay Kapoor
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 1:03 PM
Subject: Re: Harassment trying to port out of Airtel


Considering it is 12 days since this email was sent, I think it is only fair to send a follow-up.

I received a call at 6.29 PM on 8th April from +91 xxx enquiring about the issue.  Having once again provided the details (already mentioned in the email), I was told the matter would be investigated and I would get an update on why the porting request was rejected not once but twice.

Sadly I am yet to receive an explanation.

The porting code is no longer valid and I need to initiate the process all over again.  How can I do that without knowing  why my previous requests have been rejected?

It has been an absolutely disgusting experience dealing with the so called "leader in mobile telephony".  I wonder what cynical pleasure is derived taking people for a ride.



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