New rules will make it easier for consumers to keep their mobile number when they switch providers, the communications watchdog has announced.
Mobile phone customers will be able to receive calls using their existing number within two hours of moving to a new mobile network. Previously consumers had to wait five days.
Making it quicker and easier for consumers to keep their numbers will promote competition, Ofcom said.
The move follows Ofcom’s earlier decision to reduce mobile number porting lead times from five days to two days from 1 April 2008. Two hour transfers for mobile numbers must now be implemented by 1 September 2009.
Which? telecoms expert Ceri Stanaway said: ‘Being able to keep the same phone number when switching between mobile providers is high on most people’s priority list. Although mobile number portation has been possible for a long time, it’s quite a long and unwieldy process – and many people aren’t even aware that it’s possible.
‘Although 2009 seems a long way off, we hope that when the new system’s in place it will encourage people to seek out the right tariff for them without worrying about keeping their phone number.’
Ofcom is also calling for the mobile phone industry to create a common database to 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.
Consumers deserve quick and easy switching
Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said ‘Consumers deserve a quick and easy process for switching while retaining their number. 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.’
Ofcom has also announced that it considers rules to clamp down on silent calls have been a success.
Silent calls happen when automated calling systems – used by call centres – dial more numbers than the call centre agents can deal with. So when some people answer their phone, there’s no-one on the other end of the line.
The communications watchdog said increasing the maximum penalty it can impose from £5,000 to £50,000 had helped cut complaints received by BT’s Nuisance Call Bureau from 80,000 to 20,000 a month.
Ofcom called it a ‘significant decline.’
The rules, introduced in March 2006, also require any abandoned calls to be accompanied by a recorded information message explaining why the call has occurred and preventing silence on the line.