Replying to: LOCAL NUMBER PORTABILITY - NOVEMBER 24TH.. by VZW2003
Re: LOCAL NUMBER PORTABILITY - NOVEMBER 24TH..
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/11/business/11call.ht ... »
F.C.C. Backs Phone Number Portability
By MATT RICHTEL
Starting Nov. 24, consumers will be able to switch their home telephone numbers to their mobile phones, the Federal Communications Commission ruled yesterday. The order sets the stage for a scramble by traditional phone companies seeking to keep their customers as they face fierce competition from cellular providers and a growing threat from Internet-based phone services.
The ruling by the F.C.C. was a defeat for phone companies that argued that transferring wire-line phone numbers to wireless services was logistically difficult. They proposed a more limited measure that would have allowed only about one in eight phone users to move a wire-line number to a mobile phone, the agency said.
In adopting the rules yesterday, the F.C.C. said it wanted to encourage direct competition between traditional telephone providers, like the regional Bell operating companies, and the mobile carriers.
Users in the 100 largest metropolitan areas will be able to switch their wire-line phone numbers to wireless phones on Nov. 24 as long as the wireless carrier's coverage area includes the telephone's location. The regulation will go into effect for the rest of the country by May 24, 2004.
Industry analysts estimate that 3 percent to 7 percent of telephone users - or 4.5 million to 10.5 million people - no longer have traditional land-line phones and rely on cellphone services exclusively. As many as 15 percent of mobile phone users said they would consider abandoning their traditional phone service and moving to exclusively mobile service, according to a survey taken last spring by the Yankee Group, a market research firm.
"The hunting season for wire-line customers has officially been opened,'' said Roger Entner, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "The floodgates have opened - this is a big win for the wireless industry. This is what they have sought.''
The phone companies had urged the F.C.C. to adopt a rule that would have allowed traditional phone customers to switch their numbers to wireless carriers only if both companies shared a local telephone office.
Despite yesterday's favorable ruling, the wireless carriers are facing turmoil of their own. Beginning on Nov. 24, they will be required to allow their subscribers to transfer their cellphone numbers to other wireless services - a regulation the wireless industry has long sought to block. That rule will also apply then to wireless customers in the top 100 markets, and will become effective for other regions of the country next May 24.
Among the wireless carriers, the portability of phone numbers is expected to set off its own scramble. Tens of millions of users who have felt tied to their mobile phone services - to keep their cellphone numbers - will soon be able to switch providers in search of better reception, better deals and better customer service.
In anticipation of those shifts, wireless companies have begun large-scale marketing and advertising campaigns to lure competitors' subscribers and to retain their own.
In opposing the wireless-to-wireless number portability rules, cellular providers argued that it was unfair to impose the requirement on them when consumers would not be allowed to move their wire-line numbers to wireless phones.
But the F.C.C. ruling addresses that complaint, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said. "It looks like the wireless industry's efforts to stop portability from going into effect are pretty much dead," Mr. Schumer said in a statement.
Some phone companies said they might still challenge the rules announced yesterday before they are to take effect on Nov. 24. Qwest, a big regional telecommunications company based in Denver, which objected to yesterday's order, said in a statement that it was "exploring its legal options," although a spokesman declined to say whether that meant it would ask a court to block the order from being carried out.
Qwest said the rules were unfair because they provided customers only a very limited ability to move numbers from wireless phones to traditional phones. Indeed, under the new rules, consumers will be able to switch their wireless number to a traditional phone only if both the wireless carrier and the traditional carrier administer phone numbers out of the same local telephone office, according to the F.C.C.
The agency said it planned to examine that question in the future. It declined to expand the rule to cover all movements of numbers because of technical problems and because there seemed to be little demand for number portability from cellphones to wire-line phones.
Bryan Tramont, chief of staff for the F.C.C., said that in adopting the wire-line-to-wireless rules, the commission hoped to spur competition between technologies. He said that pressure from wireless providers had resulted in lower prices and greater convenience, and that the ability of consumers to switch providers would increase that pressure. "This is important from the perspective of consumer convenience and digital migration," he said. "This is a victory for consumers who want to cut the cord."
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