Faster mobile number switching

08 July 2010

The time it takes consumers to transfer their mobile number to a new provider is to be halved, Ofcom confirmed today.

From next April customers will be able to transfer their existing number to a new provider in just one working day rather than the current two days.

In 1999 it used to take consumers up to 25 days to switch their number to a new provider via a fax-based system.

But web-based systems mean that faster switching times can now be achieved.

The new regulations, which will require mobile operators to make changes to their systems and processes, will come into force on 11 April 2011.

Porting Authorisation Code

If a customer wants to switch provider but keep their phone number, they have to contact their original provider - usually by phone - to request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) which they then give to their new mobile provider.

The time and way in which PACs are issued currently varies with some PACs only issued by letter, which can take several days to arrive.

However, the new regulations mean that from next April PACs will have to be issued either immediately over the phone or within a maximum of two hours by text message.

'Healthy and effective competition'

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: 'Ensuring consumers can switch between communications providers by removing unnecessary barriers is one of Ofcom's priorities for 2010/11.

'Being able to switch quickly and easily between mobile providers is an important part of healthy and effective competition.'

Earlier this year Ofcom - together with Consumer Focus and the Communications Consumer Panel - produced a guide designed to help consumers get the most from their mobile deal and save money.

It provides helpful tips on what you should ask before signing up for a deal -  such as whether there are any additional costs, the length of contract, details on upgrades and network coverage.

The guide also explains the differences between pay-as-you-go and contract deals, as well as looking at issues such as using your phone abroad and keeping your number when switching provider.

Click to download mobile guide [pdf]