Mobile-phone users in Bangladesh will have to wait until next year to avail the facility to switch operators without changing their numbers.State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim says it might take February or March next year to introduce Mobile Number Portability (MNP).The Prime Minister’s Office cleared the matter and now a ‘licence guideline’ and a nod from the finance ministry on financial aspects are pending, she said on Wednesday.“We hope that subscribers will be able to get the facility by February or March next year or even before,” the minister told a media conference on MNP.She said a separate entity will handle the matter. A licence for it will be issued through bidding.Any registered Bangladeshi company or entities owned by Non-Resident Bangladeshis can take part in the bidding, said Halim.Foreign companies, interested to bid, must have a Bangladeshi partner. In this case, the foreign partners can own maximum 51 percent stake and they have to arrange funds from overseas.The minister said companies must have at least three years’ experience of providing MNP services in any country.“The annual licence renewal fee will be Tk 2 million. And from the second year of operations, the company will have to share 5.5 percent revenue with the government,” she said.Owners, directors, partners, investors or shareholders of a mobile operator licensed in Bangladesh will not be able to bid.Tarana said they were toying with the idea of whether a subscriber can be charged Tk 30 for changing the operator.“The amount may go up or down. A subscriber would be able to change the operator again after 40 days of taking the service,” she said.The minister said the MNP initiative aimed at creating a healthy competition and ensuring improved services. “The operators did not raise any objection,” she said.“Even if there is only one subscriber, his or her complaint is also important. He or she will be able to change the operator if there is any problem like ‘call drop’. “And the operators will compete to provide better service in order to retain customers,” she added.The use of a mobile-phone number over a period makes it a part of an individual or organisation’s identity. Yet, they often have to switch operators to take the advantage of a better network or more competitive plans on offer.The operators failed when telecoms regulators BTRC asked them to launch the MNP service in 2013.Draft guidelines on the matter were made under the supervision of the BTRC later.The PMO cleared it on Sep 21 this year.Besides countries in Europe and America, neighbours India and Pakistan offer this mobile phone number portability option.