Ofcom has announced plans to make porting numbers across networks quicker and easier in 2008.
The announcement comes in the wake of 3’s decision to initiate court proceedings against the other major networks with number porting at the centre of the dispute.
3 is alleging collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, making number porting a drawn-out process that inhibits consumers switching network providers.
A judgement is likely to be made in the High Court this week.
Ofcom’s proposals, announced at the end of November, outline plans to reduce the time it takes to move numbers across networks to two days by 1 April, and to cut this even further to just two hours by 1 September 2009.
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.’
At present, the process takes five days and requires customers to contact their operator in order to get a PAC code. Critics of the current system, led by the network 3, argue that the process deters customers from switching networks and allows operators time to dissuade users from leaving their network.
Operators will also be required to set up a common database to handle calls and improve the efficiency of the system. The new database aims to 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.