September 29, 2016
The UK’s four biggest mobile operators have backed out of talks that would have seen the time it takes to change networks cut from two days to just two hours.
Orange, O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone have all severed communications with UKPorting, an organisation set up by telecoms watchdog Ofcom to speed up the process of switching networks.
UKPorting was forced to suspend operations last week on the day when the European Parliament voted to speed up number porting, where customers keep their mobile telephone number when they switch networks.
The decision by networks to withdraw support from UKPorting followed a competition tribunal’s ruling in favour of Vodafone.
Vodafone took Ofcom and rival operator 3 to the competition appeal tribunal (CAT) because it believed that the estimated cost of speeding up number porting, which Ofcom put at £5 million, would actually be £37 million per operator, a total of £185 million.
Ofcom has been sent scuttling back to the drawing board with its tail between its legs.
The telecoms watchdog said it is ‘disappointed’ at the decision of operators to withdraw from UKPorting, especially given the progress that had already been achieved.
It sees Vodafone’s challenge as a cynical use of its legal rights to ensure that it continues to be difficult for customers to change networks.
Ofcom added that it will be seeking ‘urgent’ discussions with operators to ensure further progress is made on speeding up number porting times.
Meanwhile, Kevin Russell, chief executive of network operator 3, said the decision of its four rivals will damage consumer choice.
He added that in Ireland, where 3 also operates, customers can move their number between networks in ‘minutes’.