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In: Dual-SIM. Out: Portability & brand loyalty

At least half a million dual-SIM mobile phones get bought in India a month as customers cotton on to never-before deals. Brand loyalty and number portability increasingly lose relevance.

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: November 29, 2009

At least half a million dual-SIM mobile phones get bought in India a month as customers cotton on to never-before deals. Brand loyalty and number portability increasingly lose relevance.

  1. Ravi sees ads from mobile phone firms Reliance, MTS, DoCoMo and others with call rates cheaper than his existing phone service provider. On offer is a lifetime pre-paid card for just Rs 40 and renewals coming at as less as Rs 10 each.
  2. Ravi wants to keep his current mobile number ‘X’, so he looks up new dual-SIM phones—some Chinamade ones costing as less as Rs 3,000. With such a phone, he can add a new SIM card with number ‘Y’: in effect, two numbers on one phone.
  3. Some weeks later, when it comes to recharging ‘Y’, Ravi chances upon even better deals from new phone firms in the market. SIM recharge coupons begin at Rs 10 and most firms now offer 1 paise-a-minute call rates.
  4. Ravi dumps his ‘Y’ connection and buys a third connection ‘Z’. The mobile retailer, who has TVs and other products as incentives to sell more connections, is pleased—as is the operator who can ‘pad’ up his subscriber numbers.

Post-script: Mobile phone firms, whose spectrum use rights are based on the number of subscribers, gain from buyers such as Ravi—he will be counted thrice on their books, not once. New triple-SIM phones promise to compound the mismatch.

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