This week I thought I’d look at mobile number portability having experienced it twice in the past month. Both experiences were very different but both were frustrating in their own way. My wife ported her number from 3 to O2 and from a technical perspective the process went very smoothly. However getting a PAC code in the first place was a challenge as the customer service agents tried every delaying tactic possible (including providing misleading information) and even continued to call her after she’d ported her number to O2! My port from a minor T-Mobile MVNO to Vodafone was a technical disaster. Initially everything worked on Vodafone but after a few hours the number went out of service. I could make calls but inbound calls and SMS failed. Callers were greeted with a ‘you have dialled an incorrect number’ message. Because of the weekend it took four days to resolve the problem! The problem turned out to be a failure on T-Mobile’s part to correctly port all the number data to Vodafone and it required considerable effort from Vodafone to resolve the problem. Both the MVNO and T-Mobile claimed everything had been done correctly, which only served to delay the resolution of the issue.
Talking to people it’s interesting to hear how often porting goes wrong and it wasn’t until I started looking at it that I realised how deficient porting is in the UK compared to other countries. Uniquely in the UK we have donor led porting where the customer has to contact the donor operator to obtain authorisation to port. Elsewhere in Europe and worldwide recipient led porting is the norm where the customer contacts the receiving operator and asks them to port in their number. One of the problems with donor led porting is it can be anti-competitive as it allows the donor operator to use delaying tactics, such as my wife experienced. The other issue we have in the UK is that we don’t yet have a central database of numbers for routing. Ported numbers are still routed via the original network which is inefficient and users can experience problems if there is a network failure in the original network. In addition, in the UK porting still takes 2 days whereas elsewhere in the world it is much quicker; 20 minutes in Ireland, 3 minutes in Australia! Belatedly, Ofcom is keen to move to all-call query of a common database of numbers (ACQ/CDB) to improve the management and call routing for ported numbers. I spoke to Ofcom for an update on their plans but they were unable to provide any information on the future of mobile porting, apart from stating their commitment to a two hour porting timeframe from 1 September 2009. This is an area I’m going to be keeping an eye on because it could work so much better.
The changes afoot at Mobile Industry Review mean that this will be my last weekly piece here. Thank you to everyone who’s read, commented and supported MIR. However I will continue to write about pertinent mobile issues, Normobs and the rest over at Sevendotzero, so don’t forget to check in there!
Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.