Mobile enthusiast Jonathan Jensen has a radical suggestion to empower the customers of fixed and mobile phone operators.
Phone numbers â€“ yours or theirs?
Thereâ€™s an issue thatâ€™s been in the back of my mind for a while and it was brought to the fore recently when a friend lost her phone number because of a process failure in her operator.
Although no longer the only method of immediate communication, phone numbers still play a critical role in our communications lives. Many of us like to keep the same mobile or landline number for as long as possible to avoid losing contact with friends and having to ask people to change the numbers they hold for us (which they frequently forget to do!). Number portability has helped this process and reduced the number of times we have to change numbers but it is still in the hands of the operators and to some extent reliant on their goodwill – for example if youâ€™re in dispute with your provider they wonâ€™t release your number. We donâ€™t â€˜ownâ€™ our numbers. Why not?
The Internet allows us to buy our own domain names which we can move from ISP to ISP. It empowers us & allows us to easily switch providers to save money or improve service. Phone numbers should be the same. A central body should sell phone numbers to individuals and companies which become the property of that individual or organisation and can be moved between communications providers. There would need to be rules around the use of numbers to stay within the national numbering scheme but these could be simple and clear. Number allocation and management would be via a central database, perhaps similar to that proposed in the UK for managing mobile number portability in the future. Customers would be empowered in the same way they are on the Internet. The link between number and contract would be broken; you could switch numbers around at will via an online interface. Itâ€™s similar to personal numbers but better because it doesnâ€™t add yet another number which is more expensive to own or call and of course personal numbers donâ€™t belong to us. Customers would have greater freedom to move their numbers because it would be in their control and communications providers would have a stronger incentive to keep customers because customers could divert their traffic at the click of a mouse.
There are clearly a number of technical obstacles but itâ€™s my challenge to the regulators – are you listening?
Jonathanâ€™s also at Sevendotzero.