Please Hold, Trying To Connect You…

I have a new phone, hurrah. Yes, a shiny nice new black and modern N95 8GB is mine and now I can finally send off my elderly N80 to see if I can get the speaker fixed whilst moving into the future.

Except, that, wait we’re in Britain so it’s not that simple! Being a conservative soul I’ve opted to port my number and thus not litter the planet with endless messages saying new number 077221… whatever. But this takes some time, a week thus far. It’s a good thing the N95 comes with wi-fi, as it is already seeing some use for me in letting me listen to podcasts with ease by downloading them while I sleep. However, it would be nice to use it as a phone.

Thanks to some googling, I’m now more than a little horrified at the messy reality behind number portability in the UK. Being somewhat naive and hopeful I thought all that happened was that my phone number changed in some large central directory from phone company A to phone company B. Alas, no. No, what happens is phone company A takes the call, says wait a minute and gets phone company B to pick up the line. So, by porting my number I’m increasing the chance of one of the networks failing and causing me not to get the call/text/whatever because i rely on both my original provider and my new provider functioning correctly and staying in business. Also, it wastes resources and means that my calls cost more to route, which I as a consumer ultimately pay for.

This is not ideal.

Thankfully, OfCom have identified this as a problem (chiefly fearing getting shouted at when a phone network goes bust and all the numbers die), and by Summer 2009 it might even be possible to change telephone company in as little as a two hours. The phone companies aren’t keen as it means spending money on some big servers and working our which number has which network. Meanwhile I’ll be carrying around two phones, waiting for one to die so that the other might live.

If you fancy reading up on this here’s a technical explanation of how ported numbers are routed and here’s OfCom’s take on the situation.