In a keynote presentation today at The Yankee Group's Wireless Leadership Summit in New York, Denny Strigl, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless, said his company would adopt easy procedures to allow customers to keep their wireless phone numbers when changing wireless service providers. November 24, 2003 is the start date for the wireless local number portability (WLNP) compliance set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In order to boost customer satisfaction with the wireless industry, Strigl stressed the industry must unite to make it easy and convenient for customers to keep their wireless numbers if they choose to switch wireless service providers. Strigl also laid out a plan that the nation's largest wireless service provider will follow to make switching seamless for customers, and urged other service providers to adopt the Verizon Wireless plan immediately.
"We can start by this industry taking a leadership role in creating a universal process for all carriers. Otherwise, it won't benefit all customers equally," said Strigl. "If LNP is something our customers want, it is critical that the process for them is easy, automatic and quick at the customer's request - both for customers bringing a phone number to us, and yes, for customers leaving us with their phone number. There must be no barriers to easily switching service providers."
While detailing the Verizon Wireless plan, Strigl said that Verizon Wireless will not charge additional fees to its customers who want to take their numbers with them, nor will the company charge its customers a "pre-portability fee" to pay for infrastructure required to make the system operational.
"We will not recover costs in advance of LNP taking effect. The substantial costs we have incurred so far in planning for and implementing LNP processes have been included in our general cost of doing business," said Strigl. "We will not charge any "special fees" for customers who want to take their numbers with them. We will, after November, evaluate what our ongoing LNP costs actually are and how we will recoup our costs. And, I don't believe our costs will be much more than 10 to 15-cents per-customer, per-month going forward."
In essence, the Verizon Wireless plan is a commitment by Verizon Wireless to treat its customers who want to switch providers exactly the same as its other customers.
"Our plan at Verizon Wireless is to treat porting customers the same way we treat any customer today. No change. Whether they are joining us with a number, or leaving us with their number after November 24. No change from today," said Strigl. "We intend to activate customers coming from other carriers in the same time frame we use today. No standing around the store for hours, or waiting days for your new phone to work."
Customers who break existing contracts with Verizon Wireless will be liable for any early termination fees, but the early termination fee will appear on their final bills - which they will receive after moving to another service provider.
"I encourage all service providers to adopt our straightforward plan for consumer-friendly porting, and for the FCC to give its stamp of approval immediately," said Strigl. "It is imperative that all processes be identical, operationally tested and fully functional before November 24. Each service provider has the obligation to ensure it is ready to go and in compliance by that date."
Under number portability, the public must be educated about what number portability really means. For example, the public should be aware that initially, only those customers in the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas will be able to keep their numbers, and that wireless customers can only keep their phone numbers if they stay in the same geographic location - not when moving from region to region, such as from Boston to Atlanta.
"As an industry leader, I'm concerned that we meet not only the letter - but the spirit - of the LNP requirement and get this right for the consumer - or risk justifiable backlash from current and potential customers," said Strigl.
The company has been actively preparing for the November 24 start date for number portability. Just last week, Verizon Wireless began accepting applications for employment at its new state-of-the-art customer call center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which will become the company's hub for number portability transactions. The company announced plans to hire 450 new employees over the next three months, with training starting in August and the call center beginning operations in October.