• United States
Contributing Writer

Portability battle heats up

Oct 28, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Wireless carriers whine but number portability goes on

Users looking for gains from wireless phone number portability will have to wade through the sour grapes among carriers and the Federal Communications Commission to find out any real information.

Portability, if done correctly, will help businesses rely more heavily on handheld devices and improve their use of mobile, Web-based applications. Having a steady phone number to manage for users will relieve some headaches IT managers were experiencing.

Rather than explaining exactly how they were going to carry out portability, wireless carriers took every opportunity to snipe at the FCC during their recent announcements.

Nextel and Cingular, in a joint release issued earlier this month, used the subhead “Companies continue progress on pledges to make wireless local number portability a smooth experience for customers in spite of lack of direction from the FCC.”

The companies fell short of giving details on just what that process would be. However, wireless carriers were quick to mention that standards for helping customers switch numbers between providers needed to be established.

The release also noted: “The FCC recently stated that wireless carriers must port numbers even if they have not reached agreement on how to do it. Nextel and Cingular believe that consumers will be better served if wireless carriers pursue agreements with every partner with which they might port numbers in the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) so that consumers will not experience confusion and delay.”

Not to be outdone, T-Mobile last week announced its portability relationships with AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless. As of Nov. 24, the company says that customers switching from any of these partners will be able to do so in an efficient manner.

T-Mobile goes on to say that they’ve set up customer service points to help with porting. “In addition, T-Mobile has created a dedicated porting call center; trained thousands of retail store and customer service employees to assist potential customers with tips that make switching to T-Mobile simple; and has provided porting information and tips on the [Web site]. “

The company also takes a swipe at the FCC by saying that the provider was already helping customers “Get More” (its tag line) “before porting was established by the FCC.”

Wireless carriers have been very vocal about the lack of help from the FCC in developing guidelines for portability, but are clearly moving ahead with it to avoid being last on the block to do so. Look for more announcements from various carriers over the next few weeks.  Whether the actual process of porting numbers will go so smoothly once the ball gets rolling in November remains to be seen.

What do you think? Will number portability go smoothly or is it destined for a rough road? Let me know at