Cell Phone Numbers Become Portable Starting Today

As of today, Harvard students disenchanted with their cell phone carrier will be able to walk and take their numbers with them.

A change to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations will now allow cell phone owners to switch service providers without having to switch numbers— known as “number portability”—markedly reducing the inconvenience associated with switching carriers.

According to some, smaller providers will be put at an advantage following the FCC change.

“T-Mobile is set to benefit—it only has a 7 percent market share and has more to gain,” said Paul Binder, manager of the Harvard Square branch of T-Mobile.

Binder also remarked on the actions competing carriers were taking in order to retain their precious subscriber base.

“Some changes have already been made, like Sprint’s 7 p.m. Nights,” he said in reference to Sprint’s recent adjustment of the beginning of ‘evening’ minutes from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For their part, the telecommunications companies have tried to get behind the FCC ruling despite the impact it is likely to have on their profits. The level of competition between cell phone carriers is set to increase as people “port” from one carrier to another, leading to substantial drops in the prices of cell phone minutes.

“This barrier-free process means wireless customers in the top 100 markets can fully expect to switch companies beginning [today] without the kinds of obstacles that some companies have sought to impose,” Verizon Wireless said in an official statement.

Despite numerous challenges by wireless carriers, the FCC has stood its ground in supporting cell phone number portability.

Most Harvard students seem to have been caught unaware of the change but are interested in the opportunity.

Urmi A. Desai, ’05 said that she has always thought the opportunity to switch carriers while keeping her number was interesting but that her current contract restricts her from making a move.

“I’m not going to change anytime soon but maybe when my contract ends,” she said.

Other students seemed skeptical of prices changing quickly in response to the FCC ruling.

“I’m going to wait and see what happens. Prices won’t fall right away,” said Riley P. Soles ’05.