Ofcom Pledges To Slash Mobile Number Transfer Period

Telecommunications watchdog Ofcom is set to push the time it takes to transfer mobile phone numbers down to around two hours with a maximum allowed delay of one working day.

Ofcom slashed the time it takes to transfer a mobile phone number from one operator to another from five working days to two, last year but it hopes to help UK become the fastest country in Europe when it comes to number porting.

In practice, this means that mobile phone users will leave operators to sort out the process of transferring the Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from one network to another. The European Commission has already committed to reducing the time to at most one day across the EU by 2011.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, told in a statement: "We would like to see easier, faster and more convenient processes to enable consumers to keep their number when they switch mobile provider."

Unsurprisingly, the main mobile phone networks are reluctant at the idea of having much shorter periods. A Vodafone spokesperson said that the company's goal is "a system that's convenient, works reliably and lets customers make informed decisions without compromising vital consumer safeguards against slamming, mis-selling and fraud." He further added that Vodafone "always open to ideas for genuine improvements, but they must give real customer benefits at a proportionate cost."

But Kevin Russell, who heads 3 Networks operations in the UK - and one of the smaller players likely to benefit from the switch - said that consumers based here should get better. "Mobile number porting should be fast, easy and hassle-free," he said. "The current system is outdated and fails both customers and competition. Reform is long overdue."

O2 and Vodafone blocked the initial attempt by Ofcom to slash the time it takes for consumers to swap their networks. This has prompted the consultation and could see Ofcom introduced the so called recipient-led number porting which is already in palce in Ireland, the US, Canada and Australia - where many of UK's mobile phone networks already operate.

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Our Comments

Faster number porting will certainly help the likes of Three or T-Mobile and to be honest, the more the competition, the better the consumer will be. Ending up with a quasi monopoly with a few players is detrimental to the state of competition in any market.

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