Hither Canadian Celphone Number Portability, Redux

25 Feb ’05

The Globe has a long piece this a.m. on the Government’s surprise budget announcement (don’t you love minority governments?) that it’s going to require celphone number portability.  Quotes:

The regulator hadn’t intended to address the controversial issue until later this year. Now, depending on how the government proceeds, it could bring change in the next few months.

“I think this is going to be very popular with wireless consumers,” said Ian Angus, of industry consultant Angus TeleManagement.

“The fact is, it’s the kind of thing customers love and suppliers hate, because not having number portability means they can lock the customer in. It’s a barrier to competition.”

In the United States, government regulators forced the wireless industry to offer portable numbers more than a year ago. Despite industry predictions that the move would create chaos for companies as consumers hop-scotched from one carrier’s promotion to another, the rate of turnover has been relatively low.

The article also delves into the carriers’ responses, which predictably are uniformly to put their chins in their hands and mutter darkly about how difficult and costly this is going to be, as well as how they really ought to be left alone to decide what is best for us.  Same old-same old from the US carriers when they were forced to do this.  And equally predictably, all of this fear-mongering and rumination over the imminent collapse of Western civilization that will result will be shown later to be wrong.  Always with the fear, they are.

Hey guys, how about being the first carrier on your block to  break ranks, and read from this script, instead!!

Note to talking head: remove chin from hands, stop glowering – now! – you’re scaring the children – and adopt sunny, forward-looking disposition.

"The Government has spoken, and we understand that this is a reflection of a strong need on the part of Canadians.  At [insert name of carrier here], we are fanatical about giving the customer what she wants, and delivering the best wireless experience in the market.  We’ll be early on portability, because we know that when people have the chance to switch, they’ll be switching to us".

Or you could just stay with that fear thing.

My sense is that Rogers will end up being the big winner from portability, at least in Central Canada.  It is always weeks or months earlier than Bell with the latest device, and it is the only network (since the acquisition of Fido) – GSM – on which one can run many of the coolest devices out there.  And my sense is that with the acceleration in ‘cool device development’ we’ve seen over the past few years, that’s going to get more important to the average user.  The arrival of Virgin won’t really change that, I don’t think – the power users are not generally pay as you go users, nor do they want to be branded with the latest pop star, and Virgin seems to be headed down that route.

On a related note, Virgin has managed to dazzle the Globe enough to get a soft-and-fluffy piece in the Globe today to keep the hype up until Branson’s visit next week to launch.

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