Ofcom has issued a second document on number portability, recommending that customers be able to instantly move their fixed and mobile numbers between networks. Number portability, the ability to take your phone number with you when you change networks, increases churn - and thus competition - wherever it's been introduced. But …
Done properly, it could eliminate slamming
"this would make slamming (moving customers onto a new network without their knowledge) a great deal easier"
I disagree. Done properly, a central database could ELIMINATE slamming.
The key is that the central database must be controlled only by the end users, not to any of the companies involved in providing the service.
A customer wants a mobile number, they sign up at the central database and the number is issued. They assign a password, and they choose a service provider for that number.
Switching suppliers requires the customer to log back in on the central site and choose another supplier. There's no need for complicated "outgoing supplier must agree" procedures -- the phone owner has sole control.and the only third party that has to "agree" is the supplier taking over the service.
Re: done properly...
Absolutely - but that relies on the end users being capable of managing their own numbers. As soon as you allow the providers access to the DB to support the non-technical users, you open the door to slamming.
In an ideal world, though...
"A customer wants a mobile number, they sign up at the central database and the number is issued. They assign a password, and they choose a service provider for that number.
Switching suppliers requires the customer to log back in on the central site and choose another supplier. There's no need for complicated "outgoing supplier must agree" procedures -- the phone owner has sole control.and the only third party that has to "agree" is the supplier taking over the service."
This is a nice idea in principle, however unfortunately it just isn't practical due to you failing to take into account the fact that the vast majority of the end-users for telephones are techno-phobic luddites (or just over the age of 40) and therefore won't be able to cope with such a plan.
It also has massive security problems looming due to the fact that there's still a large demographic of phone users who either don't posess a computer, don't ever want to use computers if at all possible, or are just a part of the luddite group who have Windows PCs but have no concept of or just don't care about security (i.e, the ones with USB ADSL adaptors, no hardware firewall or have not turned on windows updates). It's bad enough that so many credit card numbers and other personal details get ripped off by phishers, key loggers, etc without adding another, quite valuable and easy to abuse, avenue for abuse.
Changing over internal numbers
My business partner had a pay as you go mobile on T-Mobile, we bought new company phones, he wanted to retain his number.
According to T-Mobile, the only way to do this would be to transfer the number out, and then back in again.
"mass debate on central database"
Is that like a tech version of 'soggy biscuit' - replacing the biscuits with hard drive platters?
"users who don't posess a computer"
Fair point, but you've overlooked that mobile phone that they presumably DO possess.
Though its probably easier to do it via a "real computer" it ought to be equally possible to do it via the phone's keypad -- and indeed, supplier selection could potentially be a standard pin-protected menu on every mobile phone.
OK, people sometimes forget their PINs -- so there has to be a postal or email reminder facility which would add a few days to the transfer time of somebody that was forgetful. But for the majority of people transfer between providers could still be instant, and controlled entirely by the customer with the outgoing provider needing no say in the matter.
As for users giving pins to the "wrong" people, it doesn't seem to have caused the wholesale shutdown of any major cash dispenser network.
I love a good mass debating session. Very satisfying.
As someone who is just over 40, I take exception to your argument. I agree that many people that are advanced in their years do have trouble grasping the complexity of computers, internet and mobile phones, but it might do you good to realize that many people "just above 40" today are responsible for your ability to make that gratuitous comment.
Don't knock your elders, grasshopper, among them is the one that changed your diapers.
Transfer of numbers within BT
Perhaps it is because I am over 40 (as are most of the people who actually created the IT industry we all love) but BT will not allow me to transfer DDI numbers from BT to BT. They have to release them and then if I am lucky I can get my own number back... BT own DDI numbers I was told so tough luck.
IVR instead of a web page
Another solution would be to make SIM cards generic and completely programmable over the air.
You buy your mobile and SIM (with a choice of number) dial a shortcode and select your service provider, the customer could also be asked for a PIN which would prevent slamming.
You then get put through to an operator (from your chosen network) who takes your details (name and address for PAYG along with bank details for contract.
The appropriate service profile is then downloaded and your SIM and the network exchange rellevant information.
The network also obtains the encryption key from a server at ofcom (or an Independent company) via a secure wired link.
When you want to change networks you simply repeat the process and provided your bill is paid if you are on contract your number is transferred.
if credit cards can be authorised in real-time in a matter of milliseconds then surely this is possible.
A condition of a network operators licence should be that they carry the calls to the shortcode free so that the phone will log onto the network with the strongest signal when switched on.
fixed lines maybe slightly more complex due to the need for physical infrastructure at the customer's premises (socket and local loop, etc.)