Mobile Number Portability: A Guide For Businesses

Mobile number portability (MNP) is available in over 100 countries in 2023.

Customers are jumping at the chance to get better deals with a new phone or new carrier while being able to keep their current phone number.

The question for your SMS marketing campaign is: are you keeping up with them?

The fact that customers are carrying over their numbers and not necessarily shooting you a notification about it opens the door to issues like:

  • Messages stalling or never getting delivered, disappointing customers
  • Terminating the wrong operator and losing business
  • Paying extra fees and expensive rates due to sub-par routing


There’s no reason why you should settle for that. If you’re adding people to your SMS database, you might as well make sure you can reach them, right?

What you need is a way to track number porting and ensure your text messages land in the correct inbox every time.

Introducing MNP lookups.

Are Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Services Applicable to Your Business?

Mobile number portability services are applicable to businesses buying SMS messages whose pricing varies per network – in other words, not a flat rate – with routing to different suppliers in the market.

That’s a mouthful, we hear you. What does it mean, and what are the alternatives?

The alternative to pricing per network is buying SMS at a flat rate and sending all of the messages via one supplier.

Say you’re doing SMS marketing in Malta and you’re sending messages to EPIC, Melita and Go via Mr Messaging at a set rate of 4 EUR cents.

In this case, there’s no need to use MNP because this data won’t help determine how the messages are routed and at what price – you already know they’re all routed and priced the same.

If that’s your situation, some of our other SMS marketing articles might be more useful to you – so we suggest you check those out instead of this one!

On the other hand, if you’re sending EPIC traffic via Mr Messaging at 3.5 EUR cents but sending Go & Melita traffic via another SMS provider at 4.5 EUR cents, portability data would save you money.

With this data, you could identify the best deal, route the ported numbers to Mr Messaging, and pay 3.5 EUR cents via us instead of 4.5 EUR cents via the other SMS provider.

Similarly, mobile number portability would prevent unpleasant surprises with your bill.

For example, if Mr Messaging has a price of 3.5 EUR cents set for Epic, but for Go and Melita we have a price of 5 EUR cents, it matters which of these networks your SMS is routed to.

Without the portability data, you could be unknowingly sending SMS to numbers that have been ported away from EPIC (to Go or Melita) and think you’re paying 3.5 EUR cents.

But in reality, because these numbers have been ported to the other networks, Mr Messaging would be charging you 5 EUR cents per SMS.

So, where does your company fit in this picture?

To sum it all up, if you’re…

  • Not on a flat rate payment plan for your SMS
  • Routing via different suppliers
  • Not yet doing any SMS marketing and just researching your options

… Then it’s a great idea to keep reading about MNP lookups.

What Is Mobile Number Portability (MNP)?

Mobile number portability (MNP) lets customers switch to a new service provider while still keeping and using their old number.

MNP was first developed by telecommunications companies in Singapore in 1997, adopted quickly by Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the UK in 1999, Spain in 2000, and Australia in 2001.

Some countries are only now jumping on the bandwagon like Tanzania.

Now that it’s commonplace throughout much of the world, what does mobile phone number portability mean for your business?

For companies that invest in SMS marketing, mobile number portability refers to the process of customers switching numbers and is connected to a service called MNP lookup.

SMS marketing providers typically offer MNP lookups that can:

  • Scan your contact database
  • Find each contact’s correct and current carrier
  • Provide the most direct SMS route from you to each customer’s inbox
  • Eliminate billing discrepancies and offer the best SMS price

Along with database cleansing, MNP is one of the best ways to set your campaign up for success.

We’ll explain how this works in a second. But first…

Why Are Customers Porting Their Mobile Numbers?

Customers are taking advantage of the opportunity to switch providers and keep their original number. But why?

Generally, people use MNP to get a better tariff while keeping the same number they’ve used for a while.

The alternatives are:

  1. Staying with the same provider despite not having the best deal
  2. Going to a new provider and getting a new number, which is a hassle to get used to, notify friends and associates, update the entire contact list, and so on

In case there is a better option out there, it’s no wonder people would want to switch.


How Does Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Work?

For your customers, there are two porting processes used in different parts of the world – donor-led and recipient-led.

The result is the same: customers carry their number over to a new network and can do that as many times as they want.

The difference is in who keeps track of the customers’ numbers.

For recipient-led MNP, the databases are decentralised; in other words, each network has its own database. For donor-led, networks are obliged to update their records in a centralised database.

But put that all aside for a second. What does mobile number portability have to do with the regular daily life on your company’s end?

Mobile number portability impacts your SMS routing – as in, which way the texts go between you and your customers.

This is how a message travels:

Brand ➡️ SMS provider ➡️ SMS aggregator ➡️ Carriers ➡️ Consumers

To spare you the technical details, there’s a point in that process after you send a message where it can stall or get lost because it’s bouncing between networks instead of going directly to the correct one.

Mobile number portability affects:

1. Speed How quickly the message reaches recipients
2.Deliverability Whether the message reaches them at all (if it’s bouncing from one network to the other before instead of going directly to the right one)
3. Cost Whether you’re paying excessive fees because the route isn’t optimised or you’re not getting the best rate (reality is less forgiving than Hermione was to Ron)

SMS platforms and phone service providers have access to MNP data of billions of cell phone numbers.

They offer mobile number portability lookups to check the status of each number, pinpoint the correct hosting network in any MNP-supporting country, and get you the best rate.

So what does one such MNP lookup look like?

Say you’re wondering about mobile number portability in the USA because you need to check an American number.

Your MNP lookup service provider can give you a real-time status update like this:

Strictly concerning your end, having this information means you don’t terminate the wrong operator or fail to reach your customers and lose revenue.

You read it correctly, though. We said, “in countries that support MNP.”

MNP is not a thing everywhere.

Where Does Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Exist?

Large MNP markets include the USA, Japan, and India.

But here is the full list that shows the MNP status in each country you might want to target with your campaign.

The list will tell you whether a country supports mobile number portability.

Going a step further, the rates of ported numbers vary between the countries that support mobile number portability.

Here are some figure examples:

Market Number of mobile number portability operations
Spain 7.2 million in 2021
Italy 117 million in 2021
India 90 million between January and September 2021
Morocco 848 thousand in 2021
Argentina 14.8 million in 2021

To learn about mobile number portability in a specific region for an international SMS campaign, you can consult your SMS provider – keeping track of this information is what they do.

How Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Databases and Lookups Help Your Business

There are three main reasons you need MNP lookups to optimise SMS campaigns.

1. Save Costs

Imagine you’re trying to get to a restaurant.

You have the option to use Google Maps directions and use the most optimal route that takes the least possible amount of time and money.

Just one train, therefore one ticket, and some five minutes by foot.

If you’re not using a map and aren’t so familiar with the area, you might resort to roundabout ways to get to the same place.

That would entail lots of unnecessary bus and train hopping and asking strangers for directions, wasting tons of time, and paying extra for various transportation tickets.

You may potentially even get lost once or twice.


It’s the same with your SMS routing options. In fact, some SMS – between 3-5% according to Messente – never even arrive at its destination. 😢

The idea of MNP is to save on operational costs by identifying the correct network for each telephone number and successfully delivering messages to customers on the first try.

MNP allows you to avoid the accumulation of avoidable extra fees. Plus, it ensures you don’t lose SMS subscribers due to wrong terminations.

2. Reduce Billing Discrepancies

Nobody likes to be surprised by a higher bill than they anticipated, or confused about what’s even on it.

MNP can save your finance team headaches when they’re reviewing spending.

Your optimised route is simpler and less expensive:

  • You know exactly what you’re paying for
  • Pay the fairest rates for your SMS, and
  • Get the best results for your money

Full transparency and no surprise costs.

3. Improve the Customer Experience

MNP leads to service level improvements in two main ways:

  1. The speed of the messages (important when you’re sending verification codes that quickly expire or other time-sensitive information)
  2. Reliability (they’re guaranteed to arrive in the correct inboxes at the right time)

For the end user, it means a seamless experience.

They’re not frustrated that “something went wrong” when it’s not their fault the message took forever to arrive, and they don’t miss important delivery updates or reminders.

Save Money With Mobile Number Portability Lookups

People move on from their old providers – and they bring their existing phone numbers with them.

It makes sense for them. Mobile number portability is so convenient.

It also makes sense for you to keep track and account for each ported number using an MNP lookup service.

At the end of the day, it’s about ensuring the highest SMS marketing ROI – providing your customers with the best service and not leaving any 💰 on the table.

Head over to our contact us page to start saving money with MNP today!

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