Ofcom moves to simplify mobile provider switching

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has initiated a consultation with the aim of making it easier for UK mobile customers to switch provider.

As is the way of these things, the consultation consists of Ofcom saying how it would like things to be, then asking everyone else what they reckon. Since the feedback process is somewhat opaque it’s not always clear where the weight of public opinion lies on these matters and the smart money is on Ofcom’s suggestion becoming rubber stamped by the public consultation process, which runs until June this year.

“It is unacceptable for people to be missing out on better mobile deals because they fear the hassle of switching, or are put off having had a poor experience in the past,” said Ofcom CEO Sharon White. “We want mobile customers to benefit from speedier, simpler switching, making it easier for them to vote with their feet and take advantage of choice in the market.”

The main perceived obstacle to switching lies in the need to get the cooperation of the existing provider, which it is understandably reluctant to provide. Additionally this provide the incumbent with one last opportunity to plead with the customer not to switch and many people balk at the prospect of having to fend off plaintive salespeople.

Ofcom has two suggested remedies. The first, preferred, one is to simply take the incumbent out of the switching process entirely. The second one specifically addresses the main hold the incumbent operator has over its defecting customer – the PAC (porting authorisation code), which is required if you want to keep your old phone number and which is traditionally with-held to enable the pleading process to run its course. Ofcom wants to automate PAC generation to remove this obstacle.

Here are a couple of handy diagrams to help you get your head around what Ofcom has in mind.

Ofcom switching diagram 1

Ofcom switching diagram 2

Incidentally Ofcom also announced today that it’s allocating some VHF spectrum to IoT, following a consultation initiated in September last year. Specifically this is the 55-68 MHz, 70.5-71.5 MHz and 80.0-81.5 MHz bands, which are thought to be especially good for rural IoT coverage.

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