Mobile phone networks must allow consumers moving to a rival network to take their mobile number with them and consumers must be able to receive calls on that number within two hours of moving to the new network, under new rules coming into force in 2009.
Consumers can currently wait for up to five days for number porting under Ofcom rules. A target for reducing that period to two days by 1st April 2008 had been set previously. Today, the communications regulator said that two-hour transfers must now be implemented by 1st September 2009.
The rules are intended to make it quicker and easier for consumers to keep their number, thereby strengthening competition and consumer convenience, according to an Ofcom statement. In addition, industry will be obliged to ensure that the new porting process includes certain levels of protection for consumers.
Ofcom is also requiring industry to co-operate to create a common database to handle calls and to pave the way for more efficient call routing. The database will also ensure that consumers are not affected by problems with their old network, after they have ported their number.
The new database will make it possible to route calls to ported numbers directly to the new provider’s network without the need for the call to travel over the previous network. The database will remove dependency on the previous network.
“Consumers deserve a quick and easy process for switching while retaining their number," said Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards. "These measures will promote competition in the UK mobile market and act directly in the consumers’ interest. Our new rules set tough but achievable deadlines to put new systems in place and I look to the industry to implement them effectively”.