back to article Numbers should be portable, insists Reding

As the EU finalises the demands it's going to make of mobile phone operators in Europe, Viviane Reding has posted a passionate video arguing for 24-hour number portability across Europe. Unusually, it's not the UK that comes off worst this time around. The UK's few days pale into insignificance when compared to the 38 days …

COMMENTS

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  1. Caff

    works here

    I've changed my carrier twice here in Ireland, both times it took less than a day.

  2. Brian

    Number portability in Ireland

    Here in Ireland it only takes a few minutes to port your mobile number.

    So clearly it isn't a technical issue, rather the mobile phone companies wanting to make it as hard as possible for people to change provider.

  3. Rhyd

    Only 38 days?

    That's nothing, I've been waiting months for BT to transfer a business fax number from an ISDN service to an analogue line, and I'm not even swapping providers. In the meantime, I've transferred 10 numbers from the same ISDN service to a VOIP provider within a couple of weeks.

  4. Jon
    Pirate

    Easy way to stop slamming

    If I get moved to a different phone company / gas supplier / electricity supplier without my consent, then there's no contract between me & the new provider. So I shouldn't have to pay them.

    If they want to give me free phone calls / gas / electricity, then that's their problem.

    I suspect that would fix the "slamming" problem pretty quickly.

  5. Paul
    Unhappy

    Why???

    I'm wondering why the Telco Regulator is so fixed on this, it hardly kills us to wait 5 days (average in the UK). If the telco regulator has so much time on his hands, maybe he could help out the energy bods, who allow energy companies to take 8 weeks to change gas and electricity supplier!!

  6. Patrick O'Reilly
    Paris Hilton

    Eire

    Here in Eire it's really easy to port from one operator to another. I think it's less than 24 hours.

    Almost easier than Paris

  7. A J Stiles
    Thumb Down

    Bad idea

    This is a really, horribly bad idea that has not been thought out properly.

    With a landline, you know by the STD code where the destination number is. That used to be important, once upon a time in the olden days when calls cost more depending on the distance between the two towns.

    With mobile numbers, calls from one network to another sometimes cost more than calls within a network, and some calling plans don't allow cross-network calls in their inclusive minutes. It would be very nice to have a way to know which network the destination number is connected to, so that you can work out whether or not it will be available within your inclusive calls -- or even which of several handsets to use. The STD code is probably as good a way as any of discerning this. Allowing someone to keep the same number and STD code if they move to a different network subverts this, and should be a big fat Do Not Want.

  8. The BigYin

    Slamming?

    Easy to solve. Offending company pays penalties in 3 amountes

    1) To the customer,2 x line rental (for bother and general grief)

    2) To the customer's previous provider, 2 x line rental (for loss of revenue and associated costs)

    3) And further fine of no. offences x 2 x line rental (for being very, very nawty).

    The fines will soon tot-up and the offending companies will go out of business. Hitting their bottom line hard is the ONLY language business and fat cat CEOs udnerstand.

  9. Seán

    Eire

    Noone calls Ireland Eire. Potato mcReilly above must be either a ten year old or a tourist. Regarding phones; what difference does it make how fast the transfer takes place. Generally when switching from one network to another you're tied in for a year or 18 months anyway.

  10. Andy Barber
    Boffin

    Two hour transfer

    As a frames engineer, I'd think that 24 hours is more feasible.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @ The BigYin

    Sounds good to me.

    If appeals for service improvement fall on unlistening ears a good old penalty charge is likely to get things moving again?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @bad Idea

    AJ Stiles Esq

    Have you not used one of these modern devices, that is the telephone apparatus without wires. I suspect not; your inappropriate usage of "Subscriber Trunk Dialing Code" - and please refrain from utilising those horrible abbreviations - suggests that you are not aware of the delights of said equipment.

    Furthermore, you might like to know that number porting between said institutions of wireless telephone apparatus has been with us for some time now. However, your thoughts regarding the relative cost of making said call to these devices is valid and perhaps you should know that certain institutions still use the original "owning institution" of the numeric prefix to determine the cost of making such a "wireless connection".

  13. Kevin

    Hours

    You guys put up with hours? Or days? WOW. How can waiting 5 days be ok in any circumstances? You walk into a store, want to buy a phone - they say come back in 5 days. No way.

    I think the requirement in Australia was measured in milliseconds during implementation. In real life, people get upset if they have to wait minutes. In general, it takes several seconds to port a number between carriers. Like a slow web request.

    It can be done.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Rip off UK extending to rip off EU?

    There is no reason for such lengthy delays apart from a "can't be bothered, won't be bothered" working methods?

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge
    Alien

    2 hour change = 2 hours to get unslammed.

    Couple that with some hefy slamming fines (say, £10k per incident) and the problem would disappear overnight

    The problem is that Ofcom lacks gonads, just as it does over do-not-call violations, which is why the phone company crooks are laughing all the way to the bank.

    If they started policing every incident as they're legally supposed to, then there wouldn't be a problem. Such policing would pay for itself.

    What really surprises me is that noone's taken Ofcom to court for Subverting the Will of Parliament, as the Association of UK motorists did to a certain police force a few years ago.

    Roswell, as I suspect we'll have a colony of them at the end of Pall Mall before we have competent public servants.

  16. David

    It's been around for some time in Ireland

    Changing networks in Ireland typically takes about 1 hour absolute max. Usually, it's almost instantaneous.

    For prepay, you walk into a shop, they ring your phone to check that it really is your number. You sign a form, they enter some data onto their computer, hand you a new SIM. Shortly afterwards your phone receives an SMS welcoming you to a new network and your SIM goes inactive. Pop in new SIM, and you're switched!

    For bill pay, same process, only difference is you have to bring a recent bill and be out of minimum contract. If you're within your minimum contract, the port over will often still happen, but you end up liable for early termination fees which get automatically charged as your 'port out' is an indication that you want to get out of the contract earlier than planned.

    The whole process only takes a few minutes.

    I fail to see why this can't be implemented all over Europe.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't Need No portability

    I have found changing cell phone numbers to be quite refreshing. It eliminates a lot of useless calls and keeps my minutes down.

  18. passionate indifference

    In the UK, it's mainly due to two reasons

    FTP and donor conveyance.

    Firstly, from my understanding, numbers in the UK (and in a number of other countries) are stored on FTP. This is updated every day or so by the networks. Give or take a day for a number collision (which doesn't normally happen) and that takes up more of a delay.

    More recent systems use a central database, which allows a number update in seconds. There was some debate about implementing this in the UK, but no-one could agree on who would run it, and, as some mention above, whether the public actually want it.

    Three UK are angry with this as they get a greater proportion of people moving their number onto Three, and they believe the faff of waiting a few days is a barrier to entry.

    Donor conveyance charging is when the network who owns the number range get money from the network the number is currently on. So the network who you first bought your number from continues to get a few pence every time you subsequently use this on another network.

    Three UK are angry with this as they get a greater proportion of people moving their number onto Three. so they lose money due to DCC, whereas the incumbent networks actually are estimated to make a profit from this.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    porting in ireland

    service agreement for porting here in Ireland is 2 hours, so it's certainly possibly to do it.... -chap who works in porting for an operator-

  20. Dave

    Re: Bad idea

    You're supposed to be charged based on the number dialled, not the network it now points to. Anything else is just wrong.

    It's also been possible to move your mobile number between networks for some time now.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Porting

    The issue will be that the likes of Vodafone, Orange et al will then be forced to have decent, reliable systems. The overhead for them to constantly update the routing within the networks would be considerably increased.

    How do you think when you dial from your BT landline, the network knows where to route the call ? it relies on the networks to constantly "share" data based upon all the number ranges (something that was much much easier when say all orange numbers started 0(7)973 back in the old days - each network would have known to terminate that call at Orange.

    The same thing happens when say O2 release a new number range, sometimes you cant call it for a few hours from some networks as the routing hasnt been updated. Classic example when Ofcom started with the new 03 number ranges - these werent available from Virgin media landlines for 3 days after companies started using them

    This *is* technically possible without a doubt, but it will take the network operators (cellular AND fixed line) to pull their finger out and be far more collaborative with each other.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Biggest problem

    The biggest issue with number porting is the idea that once you have ported a number into an account the number is then permanently associated with that account and cannot be ported out again without cancelling the account.

    So

    port in = ok

    port out = not ok

    This is done deliberately to prevent consumers punishing operators for bad service or overcharging. I have had this issue with O2 when they were looking after my personal account and also with the business account that I manage for our company. If you want to move the number elsewhere then you must pay all of the outstanding monthly payments in one lump sum. The fact that you must do this prevents many unhappy customers moving to a different supplier before the contract end-date. Now that we have contracts lasting up to 18 months (or 3 years for my business account) you can be stuck with a bad operator for a long time. Consumers are usually protected from this kind of entrapment but not so in mobile phone world.

    In my case I would have gladly separated out 'my' mobile phone number and ported it over to a new contract with a different supplier while continuing to honour my agreement with O2. In other words, I would deprive them of any additional profit over and above what I was contracted to pay and not reward them for poor performance by paying any more than the basic monthly charge as agreed in my contract. I would pay the monthly charge but take my number elsewhere. A new number would go onto my existing account - same as when you start a new account they give you a new number before porting in your regular number.

    Now, here's the twist...

    I was so frustrated with O2 and not prepared to be treated like a fool so I cancelled my account, ported my number to a different provider and then didn't immediately pay the outstanding lump sum. Instead, I waited for them to talk to me and then I arranged a monthly payment plan so I could afford to pay off the outstanding contract fees.... aprox £450 pounds!

    O2 then stained my credit record - I checked with Equifax and they put a warning onto my public credit history file - so much for fair play eh...! Contacted O2 to explain that it was unfair to say that I was not paying when I was paying and could they correct this mistake. O2's response, "sorry, we can't do anything about it" - "computer says no" = customer lost for life - never going back or every recommending them and will be warning people about them whenever possible. Equifax have added an explanation to my credit history file asking new creditors to ignore what O2 put on my record. They have also contacted O2 separately and asked them to remove it - they got a similar response to what I received.

    So in summary - porting time isn't as important as true number portability. That's how I feel anyway.

  23. Francis Offord
    Boffin

    The numbers game

    I was fortunate when I bought a telephone that I also chose and bought the associated number. I do not know whether this practise is still followed but it saved me a whole load of trouble latterly when changing handsets.

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