3 went to the High Court on Tuesday (4 December) in an attempt to force all four rival networks to hand over internal documents relating to number porting, amid allegations of collusion and anti-competitive behaviour.
3 is concerned that customers are deterred from switching to its network because of the perceived hassle of moving mobile numbers across operators, and is alleging that Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and Orange are intentionally slowing the process down.
T-Mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone met with 3 in the High Court to fight the request.
3 CEO Kevin Russell pinpointed the issue of porting six months into his role as boss of the UK’s smallest operator. Russell described the situation as ‘unacceptable’, adding that the five-day porting process allowed networks enough time to try to persuade customers to remain with them, especially as users have to seek a porting code directly from the operators.
A spokesman for 3 cited Ireland and Australia as examples of markets where quicker porting times created ‘less imbalance’ among rival networks. In both countries, the process takes two hours.
A spokeswoman for Orange said it would oppose 3’s application for pre-action disclosure. She said: ‘We believe that the request is purely speculative in order to try to substantiate 3’s totally unfounded allegations that Orange, and the other mobile operators, have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour in relation to mobile number portability.’
The action could potentially undermine the power of Ofcom as independent arbiter of competition within the mobile industry.