Phone number transfers ease, but May could bring crunch

March 14, 2004|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Wireless customers are reporting fewer snags when changing their cell phone provider while keeping the same number, according to a recent survey.

Though it can still take days to transfer a number from an old wireless service to a new one, the system is much calmer now than it was in early December. The so-called number portability rules ordered by the Federal Communications Commission took effect Nov. 24.

In the weeks after the new rules, nearly half of the transactions ran into trouble, said Jeff Maszal, research director for The Management Network Group. Now, about 15 percent hit snags.

"We found that 95 percent of the retailers said they had received some training in portability procedures," Maszal said. "That suggests that the carriers were serious about making this work as well as possible."

This survey of cell phone retailers regarding portability issues was completed last month by TMNG, a consulting firm based in Overland Park, Kan.

Still, since only customers in the nation's top 100 markets can transfer their phone numbers now, Maszal warned that a new round of glitches may beset the wireless industry in late May when the entire country is eligible for number portability.

Many of the carriers in smaller markets are not national providers, such as Verizon Wireless or Cingular Wireless, and they don't have the financial resources to support number portability, Maszal said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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