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Number Portability Resource Center

Basics Catches Switching Links Availability Map Comments  15  

May 23, 2004, 7:05 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

A complete guide to the FCC's new Number Portability rules, and links to other resources. Also, a discussion area for portability issues.


As you've probably heard by now, the FCC has mandated that U.S. wireless carriers allow customers to keep their phone numbers when switching carriers. The mandate is designed to make the market more competitive, by removing a barrier that previously made many people reluctant to switch carriers. This new freedom is called Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP), and the mandate takes effect November 24, 2003.

The road leading up to this historic day was a difficult one. The FCC's original deadline for WLNP was June 1999. Carriers protested, citing technical difficulty and cost. Their case was not without merit, as upgrading systems to handle WLNP is estimated to cost many carriers over $50 million. The upgrades are expensive because portability changes fundamental aspects of how phone calls are routed and billed. Especially complex are roaming situations.

The FCC relented to carrier protest at first, pushing the deadline back three times - first to March 2000, then to November 2002, and most recently to November 2003. But this time the FCC has finally dug in its heels, stuck to the deadline, and now Number Portability is finally here.

Why switch?

Many people are fed up with their current carrier, and are looking forward to number portability to make a long-awaited switch. However, there may be reasons to switch even if you're not among the disgruntled masses. With the extra freedom of portability, you may find reasons to switch even if your current carrier isn't all that bad.

Because portability will make the market more competitive, many carriers have recently announced new services and more attractive pricing as a pre-emptive strike. For example, AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless recently launched new, faster data services, while Sprint and T-Mobile recently announced offers that include significantly longer night/weekend unlimited calling periods.

But wait...

If you have decided to switch carriers, November 24th isn't necessarily the magic day. Like opening week of a blockbuster movie, there is expected to be a huge rush the first few days. Compounding the problem, portability involves countless new, hastily-tested, interconnected computer systems going online all on the same day, under heavy load - something any IT person can tell you is a recipe for trouble.

It is unknown what kind of problems may arise, but most analysts and people in the industry agree that everything going smoothly from day one would be a miracle. Delays are the most common issue expected. Therefore, it may be prudent to wait until the rush is over - specifically, until media reports indicate things are running smoothly.

However, if you're trying to get the best deal, you probably shouldn't wait too long. Many of the current promotional offers will expire at or near the end of the year. Therefore, mid-December may be the best time to make your switch.

Consider the alternative

Just because you can keep your number, doesn't mean you should. Do people call you or have your number that you'd rather not hear from? Consider not keeping your number when you switch carriers. Of course, if you rely on your phone for business, that may not be an option. But for many people, it may be worth the hassle of telling friends and family the new number.

Cut the cord

One of the greatest aspects of portability is that it includes land lines as well. In fact, number portability between local land line carriers has been available since 1999.

But wireless portability includes the ability to move your number from a land line to a wireless phone, and vice-versa. If your land line is the primary number you give to other people, and you want to get rid of your land line, this is great opportunity to "cut the cord", and go completely wireless.



Forum Options

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Subject Author Date
service to hold my mobile number SimonSez07 Nov 12, 2005, 3:46 PM
Landline to VOIP portability? lobmeyer Aug 11, 2004, 12:49 PM
thanks rich!!!! cdmamotohead May 25, 2004, 2:09 PM
Question Heather52800 Nov 24, 2003, 6:49 PM
Questions re: portability sportbiker3 Jan 28, 2004, 11:30 PM
Where are we going? vkreator Dec 11, 2003, 9:12 AM
Top 100 MSA's Blazers4ever Nov 24, 2003, 4:46 AM
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