They'll Take Their Phone and Go
By Eric Lin, Fri Oct 24 22:30:00 GMT 2003

American subscribers may be better prepared for Wireless Number Portability than the carriers, or at least better prepared than the carriers believe.

According to an article in Cellular News, 42% of subscribers surveyed in the US by the Management Network Group (MNG) were aware of the approaching ability to keep their wireless number when switching carriers. 16% were even aware that they could take their landline numbers to a wireless line.

The study is impressed with the high level of awareness, especially since it was conducted two months before WNP goes into effect. We'd be surprised if the numbers weren't even higher now considering that FAQs and instructions are already appearing online, and mainstream media like USA Today have even published stories with instructions on keeping your cell phone number.

The results of this study have led the MNG to believe that the carriers have to be prepared for as many as 30 million number changes (each of which consists of two requests) in the first year. They believe nearly 2/3rds of these requests will be generated strictly from the launch WNP, the other 10-12% will come from normal churn. They estimate a peak number of 0.8-2.3 million requests per month, depending on the carrier. The question is, are the carriers' systems prepared for this kind of traffic?

The MNG believes that customer service during the WNP process will play a key role in how customers perceive the carriers. But what about customer service aimed at keeping current subscribers. In Ireland, where WNP has recently been introduced, Diego Doval of Mobitopia has discovered that carriers are still willing to do more for new subscribers than for existing ones. Policies similar to this are still rampant in the US (with a few notable exceptions such as Sprint, and now Cingular). Wouldn't it be advantageous to try and make staying with a carrier a more pleasant (and more financially rewarding) experience than changing carriers?