Number portability: A blessing for mobile phone users

Australia is less than a week away from mobile number portability (MNP), a revolution in the mobile phone market that promises to be a blessing for consumers and businesses.

This new industry standard, taking effect on Tuesday September 25, will allow subscribers to change carriers and retain their old phone number.

This will allow greater freedom to switch between providers and in turn increase competition, according to consumer information provider InfoChoice.com.au. Lower charges, cheaper phones and better service all possible benefits flowing to subscribers.

“Prices may well fall as other providers find it harder to hang on to their customers but find it easier to tempt new ones away from their rivals,” said Chris Gosselin, CEO of InfoChoice.

But perhaps the biggest winners will be small and medium businesses. Business owners will be able to avoid the costs of stationery reprinting, vehicle detailing and updating advertising when changing mobile service providers. “The lack of number portability in the past has been a big impediment to business owners shopping around for a better mobile deal,” Mr Gosselin said. “And there have been predictions that costs for businesses could fall by up to 30 percent in the first twelve months of MNP.”

An online consumer poll conducted at InfoChoice in July asked phone customers how important was it they hang onto the same number if changing service providers. Seventy-six percent said it was “very important” while another 20 percent said it was “preferable”. Only 4 percent said it was not an issue for them.

PROS AND CONS AT A GLANCE

Advantages

  • Mobile users can change providers and avoid the hassle of having to tell colleagues, clients, family or friends of a changed number.
  • There will be more incentive to shop around for a better mobile phone deal knowing you can take your number with you.
  • Without even taking advantage of number portability, existing service providers will should be more inclined to listen to customer complaints – especially when you threaten to take your business elsewhere.

Disadvantages

  • There may be some administration hassle, especially as they new standard is bedded down. Subscribers will need to provide an authorisation to their new provider.
  • Callers won't know for sure just by looking at someone's mobile number prefix what network they're on, making it harder to know when network specials apply.
  • It may not be possible to receive SMS text messages sent from overseas to mobile numbers that have been transferred from one service provider to another. This is because local carriers often use different international roaming partners.

For more information and tips and tricks, see: Guide to Mobile Number Portability (MNP)

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