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Contributing Writer

The 411 on wireless number portability

Sep 03, 20033 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* How wireless number portability changes things

A big discussion in the wireless industry right now revolves around the concept of number portability. Put simply, with number portability you can switch providers and still keep your phone number.

When it is enacted possibly later this year, portability will be a big boon for users. One thing that has kept folks strapped to plans they aren’t happy with is the fact they are matched to a phone number and changing that number would be difficult.

As my colleague Tom Nolle points out, it is now up to providers to figure out what else users need to be happy. Nolle suggested in a recent column that data over wireless phones might be the killer application, but that could result in even costlier contracts. After all, the service providers would then have to build out their wireless broadband networks:

IT organizations, which often double as wireless telecom organizations, are going to feel pressure from wireless service providers to sign more involved contracts that allow them even less freedom to move around. Why? Because the service providers know that once you “own” your number, you are free to roam from contract to contract.

So expect higher penalties to be built into contracts. Expect a lot of competition on the features that will crop up. Expect better pricing plans and more bundling options. Bigger group discounts. Pricing will probably be more competitive and contracts will be more locked-down.

In her article last week, Senior Editor Denise Pappalardo points out that service providers are balking on number portability, saying that the infrastructure and management costs will be high and they’ll have to put that money off on the customer. Pappalardo says they are even heading to the FCC to get approval to hike their rates:

She also shows that folks are split right down the middle on whether they will shift providers once portability is available. I believe that once customers get a whiff of the competitive landscape that will be sparked by number portability, they will start renegotiating with abandon.

The International Engineering Consortium has a great tutorial on the history and considerations surrounding number portability. It also describes the interconnection issues that might crop up:

What do you think? Once you can take your number with you, will you? Or is it more important that you’ve spent time negotiating your current wireless contract? Let me know at