Carriers Aim to Kill Number Portability
January 17, 2002 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Carriers Aim to Kill Number Portability - Large cell phone carriers are trying to squash a requirement that they allow consumers to switch services and still keep their same phone number. This would allow them to continue providing low levels of customer service, coverage, and quality.
posted by jeblis (23 comments total)
I've always wondered why the US has lagged behind the UK, for example, in mobile communications... We take it for granted to be offered Mobile Number Portability and have a GSM digital network... Don't get me wrong, i'm not boasting, just curious...
posted by wibbler at 9:14 AM on January 17, 2002

Is "Pay as you Go"* common in the States, or is it necessary to have a contract?

*No contract, no line rental, no billing information. Pay for calls by buying vouchers in advance.
posted by salmacis at 9:14 AM on January 17, 2002

the For Example refers to the country rather than the US generally lagging behind the UK.... *foot out of mouth*
posted by wibbler at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2002


Anyway, let the FCC know how you feel:

Chairman Michael K. Powell:
Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy:
Commissioner Michael J. Copps:
Commissioner Kevin J. Martin:
posted by MattD at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2002

I don't care about number portability, but I do wish they would sell phones that could be used with any carrier, just pop the current chip out and put a new one in, and viola you are on your way, without loosing any data stored on your cell.

Oh that's right the rest of the world already has it, it's called GSM.
posted by riffola at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2002

Oops cell phones not sell phones... :)
posted by riffola at 9:17 AM on January 17, 2002

I'd like phone and number portability as well as no contracts. As it stands the U.S. companies "have you" so it's difficult switch even when they suck.
posted by jeblis at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2002

Orange customer service is phenomenal. I slammed my phone in a car door the other day and they motorbiked a new one to my house that evening.

i have been through about 5 phones and the level of service has been great.
posted by Frasermoo at 9:21 AM on January 17, 2002

I'm switching service soon (Sprint has a weak network in nyc), and I just have to deal with the fact that I am getting a new phone number. a year later.
posted by panopticon at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2002

The US has GSM too right ? Cingular uses it, and as far as lagging behind isn't Sprint supposed to get 3G up and running by summer nationwide.
posted by zeoslap at 9:50 AM on January 17, 2002

There are a few pay-as-you-go systems that I know of, and I live in the sticks.

The only problem is that the minute rates are higher, and if you don't buy a new voucher within a specified time range, you lose your number.

They seem to not be as popular as contracts because of the minute rate. One of the reasons why cell phones have gotten so popular to begin with is the packages that give you some huge amount of minutes. In my case, it's considerably cheaper to make all long distance calls on my cellphone. On the pay-as-you-go systems it's quite a bit more expensive.
posted by ttrendel at 9:56 AM on January 17, 2002

Sprint has a weak network in nyc - Sprint has a weak network....everywhere (it seems).
posted by tomplus2 at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2002

I would guess (and hope) that they won't be able to put this through and the FCC will squash them. All 5 types of telephone number portability are defined as requirements of the 14-point checklist spelled out in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They're a basic key in fighting monopolies and unfair practicies in the telecom industry.

Another reason the U.S. lags behind Europe in terms of mobile communications: providers in the U.S. all charge you a fee for incoming calls. Where's the logic? It's the biggest reason why you need to be hesitant about and protective of your cell phone number.
posted by tomorama at 10:03 AM on January 17, 2002

I don't care about number portability, but I do wish they would sell phones that could be used with any carrier, just pop the current chip out and put a new one in, and viola you are on your way, without loosing any data stored on your cell.

My Nokia 8260 has that. It's called a SIM card. I do like the idea of being able to take your number with you, though.
posted by adampsyche at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2002

Yeah Adam er P(syche) Diddy, I was taking about the SIM cards they use on GSM networks everywhere else.
posted by riffola at 10:17 AM on January 17, 2002

Many cell phone companies, including Verizon, lose 2% to 4% of their subscribers every month--or between 30% and 40% a year, according to Telephia Inc., a wireless industry research firm.

"That's an extremely high churn rate compared to other industries," said John Dee Fair, Telephia's vice president of research and development.

If my company was losing 30-40% of its customers per year, I'd sure start looking into why, rather than worrying about preserving artificial barriers to exit. Non-portable phone numbers, contracts, and cancellation fees are the Berlin Wall of wireless.

I didn't think it could get any worse than when PrimeCo sold out to Verizon and did away with my simple rate structure, free detailed billing, free incoming 1st minute, month-to-month no-penalty plan. Then my girlfriend got a Sprint contract. The spotty coverage, regular dropped calls and frequent service interruptions should be a staggering embarrassment to Sprint, yet instead of addressing the problems they spend millions on advertising to sign up more customers to their overloaded network.

"I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks *and* blows." - Bart Simpson
posted by Tubes at 10:27 AM on January 17, 2002

Cell phone networks were still a-building even as local number portability became an issue for line-based LECs. It isn't as if they couldn't have planned for this. I'm one of the people who would've switched networks already, if the corporate behemoth (vowel consonant ampersand consonant) that handles my cell phone account weren't holding my number hostage. And I've been wondering about when cell numbers would become portable.

Thanks for the update.
posted by coelecanth at 10:31 AM on January 17, 2002

We take it for granted to be offered Mobile Number Portability and have a GSM digital network... Don't get me wrong, i'm not boasting, just curious...

Why have 2, 3 and 4 different and incompatible cell phone standards in the US? I think the nominal answer is freemarket competition between carriers was supposed to keep it affordable.

In reality, I've always thought it was really so the hardware manufacturers who make the cell sites, towers etc could sell and resell their equipment and have 2, 3 and 4 times the business they would have had if they were all to use 1 common technology standard.

Anyone know of another reason for this silliness?
posted by BentPenguin at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2002

Telcos and the laws regulating them are a scandal in North America. Numbers portability would of course be a great idea. But the basic stuff itself causes you so much grief that its not funny!

Billing errors are common across most Telcos (at least the ones that I used). It also took me a while to get used to the idea that there are dicey file print in many lucrative deals that is entirely your responsibility to read. e.g. it probably sounds naive, but I think its the service providers' responsibility to advise you about any termination fee that they are going to levy when you subscribe to a new scheme over the phone. That doesnt always appear to be the case here.

Services are spotty across big patched of Bay area.
1-800 numbers are another scandal (but that's across most verticals).

I know I shouldnt be cribbing. I have seen much worse in terms of telco service levels ... But I also understand that Europe and Japan have managed to put into place more sophisticated infrastructures during the same time and if it were not for the spectrum buying fees that they underwent, those would be healthy now (this is probably a bit simplistic....).

The below par service level and the lackadisical attitutde towards consumers appear to a function of loose regulatio,a strong telco lobby and the essentially hide-bound bureacratic attitude of telcos.
posted by justlooking at 11:15 AM on January 17, 2002

Bantpanguin: The cost of transitioning to a new standard is deemed too highin most cases. Initially, no one knew which standard is going to rule. In their zeal to capture market, telcos went with whichever standard they thought is best or with whichever manufacturer gave them the best deal. GSM wasnt terribly popular because it was primarily championed by Europeans. Qualcomm was very successful in selling CDMA in USA. Now CDMA appears to be on its way out. If China doesnt buy into it (they dont seem likely to), it would become primarily a North American standards (I dont mean that it wasnt a great innovation. it was, for its time).

In some not so distant future, its all supposed to converge. But seeing is believing ......
posted by justlooking at 11:21 AM on January 17, 2002

At least its clear to me...

The consumer is as screwed in regulated markets (Telecom) as deregulated (Airlines) and lets not even talk about deregulated industries (Electricity)...

Nothing seems to pan out beyond the corporate boardrooms.
posted by BentPenguin at 11:28 AM on January 17, 2002

I used to worked for a telecom software company writing software to support LNP in mobile and fixed industries. I was laid off with 99% of the people, waiting for the industry to adopt it. Never let it be said that just because a law is on the books requiring someone use your software, doesn't mean they ever will...
posted by nomisxid at 4:12 PM on January 17, 2002

When people bash the state of the cellular phone industry in the U.S., try to remember that the U.S. is bigger than the European country you're comparing the U.S. to, and we simply don't have the population density that European countries do that make setting up cell networks in Europe so cost-efficient.
posted by gyc at 5:50 PM on January 17, 2002

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