wireless number portability

Wireless number portability is the ability of a mobile customer to retain the same phone number when they switch carriers; wireline-to-wireless number portability allows customers to switch from their landline telephone service to a wireless provider while retaining the same telephone number. The lack of number portability between wireless providers kept many consumers from changing services because of the inconvenience of changing their phone number on business cards and other documents, and informing all their contacts of the new number. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that all wireless carriers implement number portability by November 24, 2003.

As a consequence of the new capability, mobile customers may switch carriers more often, thus increasing competition among wireless service providers, just as Local Number Portability (LNP) did among wireline telephone companies when it was put into effect in the late-1990s. According to a Forrester Research report, almost 22 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers said they would consider switching service providers if they could keep their current number, while only nine percent would do so if they had to get a new number.

The FCC ordered service providers to offer wireline-to-wireless portability in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States by Nov. 24, 2003 and that it would be available for customers in other areas by May 24, 2004. Gartner research predicted that up to 10 percent of current wireline customers would switch to wireless once they could do that without changing their telephone numbers.

This was last updated in September 2005

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