Begrudging wireless carriers were able to hold it off for two years but as of today, wireless number portability (WNP) will be available to their customers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Québec. Interest in releasing phone numbers was voiced by the government in February 2005 and although there was agreement from phone service providers to do so, little planning for implementation came from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). The following December, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) sped up the process by imposing a deadline of March 14, 2007.
WNP will allow service subscribers to take their current phone number to any service provider they want. Not only including mobile phones, landline phone numbers can be transferred to a wireless carrier and vice versa. Retaining the same phone number has been an issue for many people who are unsatisfied with the performance of their service provider and even more so for businesses. With the advent of long-term contracts, many carriers pre-empted the switch by locking in customers with hefty penalties to prevent breaking away. The United States introduced wireless local number portability in 2003 with millions of customers opting to switch, leaving the major Canadian wireless carriers concerned and moving into a defensive position.
With little acknowledgement of the change, Rogers and Bell rolled out a set of new wireless plans that offer unlimited calling between phones with the same carrier. Bell’s new unlimited plans cover wireless, home and business phones, and make a point to pitch that “because almost everyone has at least one Bell line, that’s a lot of free calls.” Rogers plans are similar except for switching Fido phones for the landline. Fido will only have unlimited calls between other Fido phones, but alternatively will give you per second billing and early evenings starting at 7 p.m.
Telus and Virgin Mobile seem to be delighted with the change and are attempting to lure people in with claims that they have the happiest customers. The Telus website makes it easy for you to “simply pack up your number and move on up” with a section to answer questions about WNP. Virgin Mobile displays a countdown timer at the top of their website dedicated to WNP, creatively titled youcanswitch.ca, and offers detailed information with a 12-hour promotional offer for wireless plans available only today. Perhaps you can even bargain your own special deal with Richard Branson himself.
If you are interested in changing service providers, you should expect wireless to be ported in two and a half hours and landlines to take two business days. Do not cancel your current service first because an active phone number is needed to be able to port it. Also check that your new wireless carrier can support your current phone, otherwise you may require a new one.
Photo by mr.bokeh from Torontoist Flickr pool.