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Ofcom: Porting to take two hours

UK communications regulator Ofcom is seeking to reduce the time it takes to port a number from one mobile operator to another to two hours, down from the five days it takes at present.

In a proposal published on Tuesday, the watchdog requested views on its proposal that, in just over two years, transferred numbers will need to be up and running on the customer’s new network within two hours.

In the meantime, following a consultation carried out last year, Ofcom is requiring that the current process is completed in just two working days. This interim measure will come into play in April next year.

The regulator said that the current process “is lengthy and places responsibility on the consumer to see the transfer through. Customers looking to switch their telephone number to a new provider must first obtain a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from their current provider. They must then wait up to five working days for their number to be transferred to the new network.”

One potential solution would require mobile providers to move to a recipient led porting process. This will mean that customers need to make just one call – to the provider they wish to join – to carry out the transfer.

Ofcom also expressed concern over the routing of calls to transferred numbers on both fixed and mobile networks. Calls are currently routed to these numbers via their former provider’s network, which might lead to problems should that operator experience technical problems or go out of business.

As a result, the regulator has decided that fixed and mobile providers should create a central database of transferred numbers. This would not only enable mobile operators to switch numbers to new networks almost instantly but would also enable calls to be routed directly to the new provider. This will minimise the potential for interrupted service should a provider’s network fail.

Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO, said: “The UK was one of the first countries to introduce number portability and this has helped create a competitive mobile market in the UK.

“However, the original process is now out of date. We believe that the industry should introduce a new system which will stimulate competition and encourage consumers to exercise choice between competing suppliers with a minimum of inconvenience.”

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