The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, launched the mobile portability across India at a function in Vigyan Bhawan today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:

“Many years ago, someone asked me to define development and I thought about it and the simplest answer I could improvise was that development is about widening human choices and in the Telecom Sector, what we are witnessing today and what we have witnessed in the last decade, is a shining example of how our telecommunications services have helped to widen human choices in a very important area of nation’s economic activity. I am therefore very happy to participate in this function to launch the Mobile Number Portability service all over our country. Today’s occasion marks a very important milestone in the evolution of telecommunications in our country. I compliment Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister of Telecommunications and his talented team, the telecom service providers and the Mobile Number Portability operators for this great innovative step forward.

The telecom sector is one of India’s known and praised success stories. Telecom services in our country have witnessed very rapid growth over the last decade and today we are the fastest growing telecom market in the world. The prices of our telecom services are among the lowest globally. We can be reasonably proud of our achievements in this very important sector, which has the potential to act as a catalyst for the growth of other sectors of our economy.

With a major contribution from mobile services we have already achieved a tele-density of about 65%. The Mobile subscriber base has today reached around 750 million from a mere 33 million in March 2004. On the average about 15 million new subscribers are being added each month. More of our countrymen have been touched by this revolution than by any other program, product or service in the history of our nation and that too at a pace unprecedented in the world at large.

Mobile Number portability (MNP) which is being launched today will allow customers to change their mobile operators in their Service Areas while retaining the mobile numbers originally assigned to them, thereby avoiding the inconvenience of switching to new numbers. It will enable a subscriber to exercise his or her choice and get products and services in accordance with his or her preferences. It is expected that this service will go a long way in enhancing customer satisfaction. Affordability has always been an issue for any new service. I have been told that keeping this in mind the service of Mobile Number Portability has been made accessible and affordable to all by keeping the charges as low as Rupees 19. Moreover, it is up to the service provider to charge or not to charge the incoming customer and so a customer may actually end up paying even less for this service.

Competition all over the world enhances the efficiency of businesses, it improves the availability and quality of products and services. The telecommunications sector is a prime example where the fruits of increased competition are visible to all. It is believed that Mobile Number Portability, besides enabling a subscriber to change operators without losing his or her original number, will also trigger greater competition. The telecom service providers will seek to improve the range and quality of their services in order to retain their existing subscribers and also to attract subscribers from other operators. This should further spur the growth of the Indian telecom sector.

Our efforts for inclusive growth will not be successful unless we bring about a socio-economic transformation of our rural areas. Telecommunications provide a key tool to make this happen. Indeed, access to affordable telecom services is the most important development that has happened in the rural areas of our country after the Green Revolution. Our government has taken the initiative for faster rural penetration of telecom services through the Universal Service Obligation Fund to set up towers and cell sites in rural and remote areas. I have been told that more than eleven thousand crore rupees have been spent on various schemes by the Universal Service Obligation Fund.

The advent of 3G and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) Services will provide a further boost to the provision of affordable voice and broadband services in our country. We must therefore, work on strategies and steps to leverage broadband telecom in addressing persistent development challenges in the field of education, health and rural development. If we modify our approach to development issues and devise new strategies that leverage broadband to the maximum, I am confident that we will overcome many challenges and we will be able to usher in transformational change instead of incremental improvements. Indeed, ubiquitous telecom services have the immense potential to bring many more people from the periphery of the economy into the national mainstream and that should be our objective.

Our future generations will live in an increasingly globalised digital economy. Our ability to communicate and be in touch with others will be a major determinant of the pace of our progress. We must strive tirelessly in that direction. The introduction of Mobile Number Portability is an important step forward in further improving our telecom services. With these words, I once again congratulate all those who have contributed to this success. I wish you many more such achievements in the future.”

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