When the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) local number portability mandate (LNP) took effect on November 24, 2003, an estimated 30 million U.S. wireless customers were expected to switch service providers. So far, the big buzz has come from consumers’ celebration of a well-fought victory, but government entities and private businesses also have cause to celebrate. As the most courted customers, they are in line for big savings. The mandate has given customers control, and leading providers are offering some of their best deals in years. Besides attractive contracts, most carriers have improved their networks, hoping to eliminate dead zones.
In the past, entities faced a huge expense when changing carriers and tended to stay with their old providers. Now, entities are taking advantage of the hyper-competitive market with RFPs and negotiations that can garner savings up to 25 percent.
Entities being aggressively wooed by current and competitive cellular providers will want to review the following guidelines when considering a switch.
- Double check the terms of your current wireless contract to be certain that any penalties assessed for switching do not outweigh the advantages.
- Before switching, develop a way to identify savings on a number-by-number basis. Put into place a plan to track the cost and usage of each cell phone number before and after the switch.
- Choose your carrier carefully. Deal with a leader whose name and reputation you recognize and trust.
- Be prepared to process a flood of duplicate bills in the months following the switch. The initial carrier will be sending final bills as the new provider starts issuing statements.
- Expect a significant number of billing errors to continue as the new carrier tries to integrate the numbers into its existing billing systems.
- Expect a potential decline in customer service. Representatives for the new carrier will not be used to dealing with numbers outside their specific regions and may be affected.
- Do not make the decision to switch based on cost alone. Be certain a new carrier can offer quality service and a range of services and plans to match your full communications needs (e-mail, photo transmission, text messaging, international calling plans, and use of phones).
- Anticipate the cost of purchasing new phones. Some wireless carriers may use different technologies requiring different hardware.
- Do not cancel your current carrier until your phone numbers have been successfully switched. If you cancel too early, you risk losing your phone number(s).
- Make a test switch. Pick a group of 20 to 25 numbers and switch them to the same new carriers. Monitor the process and learn from it before deciding to switch hundreds or thousands of numbers.
As entities, private businesses, and consumers benefit from LNP in the wireless world, another element of the mandate deserves attention. Landline phone companies are also required to allow their customers to keep their phone numbers when switching to cell phone service providers. Fixed-number portability provides entities with yet another chance to negotiate savings in another hyper-competitive market.
For more information on LNP, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s Web site: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ NumberPortability.