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Number portability

Every few months I read complaints from the US telecommunications industry over the number portability issue, and I’m yet to comprehend what the problem is. Every telecom seems to be paranoid that they’ll lose their customer base as soon as it comes into play… as if they know how shitty their service is, and it serves them right. But number portability has been available for several years here in Australia and I didn’t hear a peep out of our telcos until it was actually in place. Some people still don’t know they can “take their number with them” when they’re switching carriers; it just comes as a pleasant surprise when they switch (which, no doubt, they were planning to do anyway).

Telstra (the mobile carrier with whom I am currently under contract) offered $100 call credit to my phone bill and one month unlimited data just for switching. It’s incentive. I used to be on Vodafone’s ‘No Plans’ (which is awesome) but I wanted a new phone. ‘No Plans’ requires that you already own a phone, and they don’t offer contract–purchases, so I switched to Telstra for the T68i. No big deal. It was only a couple of years earlier that I switched from Telstra to Vodafone to take advantage of ‘No Plans’. People will play the field, and they do it already despite the fears and problems generated by a change of phone number; in that regard, number portability won’t change a thing.

If it does have a massive impact in the US, it’ll be simple Darwinian succession. I don’t know a great deal about the US telecommunications market (read: I don’t know whether it’s crowded or relatively sparse. We only have five or six telcos to choose from here in AU), but it’s safe to assume that shitty telecoms will either go out of business or realize that they will go out of business if they don’t get off their asses and become competitive again. Number portability is a wake–up call, whether consumers know about it or not.