Ofcom calls for faster mobile number transfer times

The time taken to transfer a number when a customer changes mobile provider could fall under Ofcom proposals, published today.

Ofcom has already reduced the time it takes to transfer a mobile number from five days to two working days and the UK has shorter porting times than many European countries. However, Ofcom wants to make the process – known as porting – even faster and easier for consumers.

New research from Ofcom shows that 71% of customers consider it important to keep their number when switching mobile provider. Yet Ofcom’s research also shows that 35% of people are unaware of their right to keep their mobile phone number when switching providers. Nearly a third (28%) of people in the UK have switched mobile provider in the last two years.

Today’s consultation sets out options for faster porting including completing the process within two hours or within one working day.

Currently, if a customer wants to switch provider but keep their phone number, they have to contact their original operator, usually by phone, to request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) which they then give to their new mobile provider.

The consultation seeks views on whether to continue with the current arrangement or to change this to a more immediate process managed by the customer’s new provider. This would mean that customers can avoid the inconvenience of obtaining a PAC from their original provider.

A separate consultation also published today sets out proposals to simplify the way that calls between mobiles to ported numbers are routed. Currently a call to a ported number is first routed to the communication provider that was originally allocated the mobile phone number. The call is then transferred to the customer’s new provider. Estimated savings of around £26 million over ten years could be made by industry as a result of this change which could be passed on to consumers.

Ofcom aims to have any new porting process arrangements in place during 2011 and any changes to call routing in place by the end of 2012.

Ofcom’s chief executive, Ed Richards, said: “Ofcom would like to see easier, faster and more convenient processes to enable consumers to keep their number when they switch mobile provider. Our proposals take a fresh look at this issue to ensure that consumers are getting the most from their mobile service.”

The two consultations close on 26 October 2009. Ofcom’s consultation takes account of the European Commission’s recent proposals for porting times to come down to one working day.