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Vodafone: No speedy number porting in the UK, thank-you-very-much

You know when you walk into a mobile store here in the UK and swap to another provider, you have to go through a whole load of hoop-jumping in order to actually KEEP your number and swap it to your new provider.

And it takes days.

DAYS and in some occasions, weeks of arsing about. Sometimes it’s nice and smooth – 2-3 days. The standard is seven days. Enough to put most people off.

The worst element of the whole process is that you have to phone up your old provider and asking for a porting number — a PAC code. When you do this, you’re bamboozled with special offers, one-off credit contributions, new handsets, and often — particularly in T-Mobile UK’s case — crazy deals to stay (like £5/month line rentals!).

When you’re standing in the shop on the phone to your old provider trying to get your PAC code it’s rather easy to forget the aggravation and stay where you are. The sales process for the new network, trying to win your business, is, as a result, a total bind.

The actual transition can be a pain too. Your old number stops working. Then you HOPE that all the paperwork and all the systems are setup and hopefully.. HOPEFULLY… your existing number is transferred the next day and it works. Hopefully.

3 haven’t been impressed with this process. As the challenger brand in the UK wanting to win more customers (swapping their primary numbers to them) they aren’t entirely happy with this seven-day-wait for porting.

Neither am I. Neither is the rest of the UK population.

Vodafone and the other incumbents are perfectly content with it. And why not? It’s a super, super commercial advantage.

3 and OFCOM, the UK telecoms regulator, have been working their way through the courts with Vodafone on this matter. MobileToday has a good overview. I’ve been hearing from quite a few readers who are rather annoyed at the news Vodafone has won the case.

3’s spokesman is livid:

A 3 spokesman said today: ‘How is it that Vodafone, 3 and O2 customers, just over the sea in Ireland, have been able to move their mobile number between operators in around 20 minutes for many years. This means British consumers are in danger of being delayed yet-again in gaining the same right. It also leaves Britain as the only major economy where you still have to ask your old operator for permission to move your number rather than enabling the new operator to look after the process for you.’

This will change.

In the fullness of time.

At some point, the legislation will be pushed through.

But meantime, Big Red and it’s incumbent colleagues are sitting pretty.

Half of me agrees with some of the technicalities discussed — it does deserve some in-depth thought as the Voda lady points out:

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: ‘Vodafone welcomes this unanimous judgement. It confirms Vodafone’s view that any major change affecting all the UK’s phone users needs to be fully thought through before firm decisions are taken to go ahead.’

The other half of me is wholly indignant that *I* can’t easily manage my own identity — my mobile number — like I do my domain names, and point them to my provider of choice as I see fit.

You can read the full judgement here. (PDF)

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

17 replies on “Vodafone: No speedy number porting in the UK, thank-you-very-much”

Wow, I'm surprised by how much of a hassle that number portability seems to be in the UK! The US has managed to get this right for the most part. You walk into the NEW provider (so say I wanted to move from T-Mobile to AT&T, I simply go into an AT&T store). I tell them that I want to bring my number with me, they have me fill out some forms on their end, and within 72 hours or so, my number is automagically transferred to my AT&T service. The last time I did it, the transfer was completely done within about 10 hours. I don't have to contact my old provider for anything, unless I'm still in contract with them and liable for the Early Termination Fee. Even then, I don't HAVE to contact them, as they'll still send me a final bill including this fee.

That's it, nothing else to worry about. All of the transfer bureaucracy is taken care of between new provider and old provider, nothing that I have to manually do.

-olly

Oh, and to add to that, while the transition is in process, both phones are still active — usually you'll be able to make calls on the new line (so AT&T in my example), but your phone number will still ring to the old line (T-Mobile in this example). Means carrying two handsets around, but that's the only hassle with it.

Ewan, as far as number porting goes the UK is a basket case. In fact the whole mobile business just seems to be full of anti-competitive grubby dealing. Phones locked to one network, ridiculous roaming charges, impossible number portability, inability to jump from one local network to another in your home country (and increasingly limited when abroad). Here is my wish list for a mobile phone (and it is all possible):

Flexible SIM that roams to the cheapest network that has a signal (yes I would pay more to make a call when my local network is unavailable)
No contract lock in (make it illegal)
Free SMS (the price of SMS messages are just bonkers)
No locked phones (make it illegal)
Sensible roaming charges (same international rates as at home – same local to local as at home)

The networks are really extracting blood from us consumers. Lets see some real untrammeled capitalism and competition here.

Steve

No contract, free SMS, Sensible roaming? How about http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/mobile-phones/sim-on
£20pm, unlimited texts. Passport gives you your home rate +75ppc (I think)
All Vodafone contract phones are sold unlocked. You can also pop in to a Nokia store, CPW, P4U etc.

There are, AIUI, billing issues which stop UK SIMs roaming on to other UK networks. I don't know if that can or will change.

There are 5 different networks in the UK, all offering different deals. There are also countless MVNOs. I think that's pretty good competition. If you don't, start up an MNVO or borrow a few billion and build your own 🙂

I'll agree that UK number porting should be a lot quicker. It's a straightforward process (ask for PAC, give to new network, wait) but I think it goes wrong too often and is a bit of a disincentive to people moving networks.

T
(I work for Vodafone, but I don't speak for them. Other networks may have similar deals)

Hi Terence

Thanks for the reply. My comments were not particularly pointed at the mobile industry (nevertheless some of the anti-competitive stuff must help incumbents). Interesting that you think Vodafone contract phones are sold unlocked – just tried my 6 week old Vodafone Contract Nokia N95 8GB with a T-Mobile SIM and guess what….. SIM error.

Steve

Hi Terence

Thanks for the reply. My comments were not particularly pointed at the mobile industry (nevertheless some of the anti-competitive stuff must help incumbents). Interesting that you think Vodafone contract phones are sold unlocked – just tried my 6 week old Vodafone Contract Nokia N95 8GB with a T-Mobile SIM and guess what….. SIM error.

Steve

Hi Terence

Thanks for the reply. My comments were not particularly pointed at the mobile industry (nevertheless some of the anti-competitive stuff must help incumbents). Interesting that you think Vodafone contract phones are sold unlocked – just tried my 6 week old Vodafone Contract Nokia N95 8GB with a T-Mobile SIM and guess what….. SIM error.

Steve

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