• United States
by Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

What’s missing from number portability

Dec 10, 20032 mins

* Something that would sweeten wireless number portability

The FCC recently mandated that wireless telephony service providers in most areas permit users to keep their phone number when changing from one service provider to another. Carrying a wireline phone number to a wireless phone is also allowed in some cases.

The mandate has been carried out, but service providers claim that the measure is too expensive and too difficult to implement, and legal challenges are still pending.

One big hole in the mandate remains: Users must choose either wireline or wireless number moves. That is, they can’t have the phone ring on both wireline and wireless devices. And while service providers will claim that this just isn’t possible for technical reasons, we believe this wall between networks remains a regulatory issue and NOT a technical issue.

Let’s pretend for a moment that service providers began to widely deploy signaling based on Session Initiation Protocol, which permits multiple, concurrent, multimedia communications sessions. Technically speaking, your desktop analog phone could ring at the same time as a wireless phone; so too could your 802.11-connected softphone ring. Or, if you preferred, you could set up a follow-me, find-me profile within a service provider network by specifying which phone you’d like to answer.

Gee, that sounds a little like Centrex rollover, for those phone companies that want to bill for the feature.

For those service providers afraid of making the move to IP-based signaling, we’re sure a few tweaks to the legacy phone signaling system (SS7) protocols could also do the trick.

The realty is that enterprise-based products are available today to offer “broadcast” ringing to multiple devices, as are sophisticated user controls to permit find-me services – regardless of a wireless or wireline delivery. We’d suggest that service providers ask the FCC if they can be allowed to offer these services, instead of fighting forward progress.