State of New Jersey

Division of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street, 11th Fl
P. O. Box 46005
Newark, New Jersey 07101




Director and Ratepayer Advocate


National Roll Out of Local Number Portability:
What Consumers Need To Know: Frequently Asked Questions

By Seema M. Singh
Ratepayer Advocate

Beginning May 24, 2004 wireless local number portability becomes available in the entire country, following its initial implementation in the top 100 MSA’s -- or Metropolitan Statistical Areas -- on November 24, 2003.

Q. What is Local Number Portability?

Local Number Portability gives subscribers the freedom to keep their existing wireless or wireline numbers when they switch to another carrier. This is known as “porting”.

Wireline subscribers have had the right to port their landline numbers since 1997, under the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act. However, wireless subscribers were only provided this choice when wireless LNP was first implemented on November 24, 2003 in the top 100 MSAs and then rolled out nationally on May 24, 2004.

Q. How Is Local Number Portability Affecting New Jersey?

Most of New Jersey was included in the November 24, 2003, rollout of LNP, except for Mercer, Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland. As of May 24, 2004, residents of these 4 counties will have the ability to port their number.

How is LNP affecting the entire nation?

Seventy percent of the nation’s estimated 160 million cellphone users were affected by the initial roll out of LNP on November 24, 2003. The remaining 30 percent are covered by the national implementation of LNP, effective May 24, 2004.

Q. How many subscribers have taken advantage of porting?

The FCC reports that over 3 million have ported to and from wireless carriers in the past six months. An additional 229,000 customers ported their landline numbers to a cellphone and an estimated 7,200 ported their cell phone numbers to a landline phone.

Q. What were the most common problems faced by subscribers in the initial implementation of LNP?

During the initial rollout of LNP, many subscribers experienced serious delays of up to six or seven days as well as a high incidence of failed ports. Some customers were stranded with no cellular service or were even switched to the wrong carrier.

Q. What were the main reasons for failed and delayed ports during the initial implementation of LNP and what is the Ratepayer Advocate advising consumers to do?

Validation Failure has emerged as the main cause of unsuccessful and delayed ports.

Validation Failure is when the switch cannot occur because the two carriers have mismatched data, such as not having the exact name and address of the customer. Something as simple as a missing middle initial can prevent validation. The Ratepayer Advocate advises consumers to follow the checklist provided below.

Q. Has there been a rising trend of complaints since the initial implementation of LNP?

The FCC reports that the total number of complaints regarding LNP between November 24, 2003, and April 24, 2004, reached 7,040. However, the number of monthly complaints dramatically declined from the 2400 recorded during the first 30 days of the rollout to 400 during the last 30 days preceding April 24, 2004.

Q. Should subscribers expect similar problems in the national rollout of LNP?

The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate advises patience and caution because national LNP may be even more difficult to implement, with over 100 small carriers joining the estimated 10 major providers involved in the first phase of LNP.

But analysts predict that the national rollout of LNP should benefit from the body of knowledge and experience gathered from its initial release, with smaller carriers tapping into the experience of the bigger providers.

The major cellular carriers say they have made a significant investment of resources to resolve problems and improve coordination among them. This includes increasing the amount of staff at the point of sale and opting for manual switching when automatic processes break down. Wireless carriers have also reduced the number of identification fields from 15 to fewer than half a dozen, increasing the likelihood of successful ports.

The FCC reports that carriers have established dedicated points of contact and conflict escalation teams to resolve porting issues once they are identified.

Q. What is the average time to complete a successful port?

The average time to complete a port is still a day, compared to the two-and-a-half hour porting interval projected by the carriers and prescribed by the FCC before the initial rollout last November.

Q. Who is paying the cost of number portability?

The consumer.

Consumers have paid their wireless providers in their monthly bills an estimated $1 billion to turn the system on for LNP. All wireless consumers pay for LNP irrespective of whether they take advantage of LNP.

The FCC allows carriers to charge fees to subscribers to recover the fixed cost as well as the ongoing costs. But the FCC requires that the charges should not be in excess of each carrier’s cost and may investigate to determine that charges are just and reasonable.

The Ratepayer Advocate has determined that carriers have been charging or plan to charge between 0.40 cents to $ 2.00 per subscriber per month to pay for number portability.

Q. What are the benefits of Number Portability?

The New Jersey Division of the Ratepayer Advocate, which represents the interests of consumers, welcomes number portability for ushering in greater freedom of choice, spurring competition and encouraging technological innovation. LNP removes barriers to switching and provides consumers with a greater choice of carriers and the convenience of keeping their existing numbers. It benefits the ratepayer, the consumer.

Whether they have switched cell phone carriers or not, customers have already started reaping the benefits of lower prices and attractive packages offered by wireless carriers as inducements to keep customers from switching.

That’s the benefit of freedom of choice and competition.

Q. How is the Ratepayer Advocate involved in Number Portability?

The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate has taken the lead in monitoring the complaint data from the FCC and issued several Consumer Advisories with safety precautions and a checklist for ratepayers.

The Ratepayer Advocate has also called on wireless carriers to heed the lessons learned from the initial rollout of local number portability and ensure better implementation during the national roll out on May 24, 2004.

Q. What should subscribers do if they decide to port?

The Ratepayer Advocate is recommending that consumers follow the RPA’s checklist:

Ratepayer Advocate Local Number Portability Checklist

  • Review your existing contract to determine if you will incur early termination fees.
    (Early termination fees may incur if you break your existing contract)
  • Contact your new carrier first and provide it with the most recent bill from your old carrier to ensure an exact match of name and address to avoid validation problems.
  • Hold onto your existing number with the original carrier and keep both phones active until the port is successful.

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New Jersey Division Of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street 11th Fl.
Newark, NJ 07101