With November 24, 2003, around the corner, it is time for all of to get to know more about the highly anticipated Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP). WLNP will allow wireless subscribers to change service providers within a given location while retaining the same phone number. As such, WLNP will dramatically change the face of the wireless industry, having eliminated a major hurdle for consumers who desire to switch wireless providers. With our friends at Adventis and some other experts such as MyRatePlan.com, I have come up a short to-do list on number portability.
Here are some consumer tips:
* If you have no plans to switch, it is a great time to renegotiate your contracts and get better deals out of phone companies. As part of their plans to prevent consumers from switching, carriers are designing special promotions to retain existing customers like T-Mobile extending weekend minutes. Call them, find out the best plan and take advantage For your benefit I have put together the five best cell phone plans in the US.
* Sprint PCS recently announced plans to extend their nights and weekend plans which now start at 7 pm instead of 9 pm. But if you want these extra couple of hours, you pay an extra $5.ðBeware of this offer.
* Consumers will need to determine if they live in an area where WLNP will be available. Initial implementation of WLNP will only cover the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas; in all other locations, WLNP will be implemented by May 24, 2004.
* Switching is expensive. My advise is that if your contract is over then switching makes more sense now than later. Why because potential early termination charges and the cost of acquiring a new phone could offset benefits associated with migrating to a new service provider. Unless you have an unlocked GSM phone and are switching between Cingular, T-Mobile and AT&T, expect to spend at least $100 on handsets and switching costs. Do the math before you switch.
* Go to company/ carrier stores for switching. Trust me when I say that the guys at RadioShack, Best Buy and Staples are morons who donÌt know anything about switching right now.
* Adventis folks advise that if you are a user of data services, check with your new service provider regarding the availability of services that you have become accustomed to. Functionality and availability of data services, as well as the customer experience itself (e.g., transfer rates) varies considerably from carrier to carrier.
* Back-up your cell-phone contact list data to your computer by using a data sync cable or bluetooth connections otherwise you will spend an entire weekend punching in phone numbers.
* Expect problems when migrating your number. It is a complex thing to achieve and a mostly untested processes. Combine that with large volumes of customers wanting to port numbers will create a less than optimal WLNP experience, especially in the first few weeks.
* Expect to be without service for hours, if not longer. My advise is that use the post Christmas dinner lull to switch numbers, because by then phone companies would have worked out the kinks.
* Jan-Joost Rueb, founder of Numberportability.com, advises US cell phone users not to act too quickly because prices will drop and plans will be improved as more contracts expire. In the beginning, carriers will carefully watch how many customers switch when they can do so without losing their phone number.
* We anticipate that better deals will be introduced in the market around ChristmasÓ, says Rueb. ÏToday, the wireless carriers have done little to lower their rates, increase their service levels and eliminate their many surcharges. Soon, though, we expect the market to become a battlefield on which the consumer will be the winner.Ó
* Check these sites for regular updates: CellUpdate.com, Numberportability.com. WireFly.com and MyRatePlan.com. They will all help you switch and have some helpful tips. Of course I have this site which will keep you up-to-date on everything.