Now That Number Portability Is Out Of The Way, How About Phone Portability?

One by one, consumers are looking to breakdown all the “lock-in” efforts of wireless carriers. While consumers are happy (more or less) that they now have local number portability, some are speaking up about the annoying fact that it’s nearly impossible to take your phone with you when you port your number. There are any number of good technical reasons why this is so: incompatibilities with GSM/CDMA/iDEN/TDMA/AMPS, different data platforms, custom phone software, etc, but consumers are still complaining, and some wonder if, eventually, carriers are going to be forced to allow phone portability as well. Would it be nice? Absolutely. We’re all for things that make consumers’ lives better, but on this one, we’re willing to say that there are some technological hurdles that may be too high. Service providers differentiate their services by the final tweaks they put into their phones, and many differentiations are for the better. Carriers would also be unable to provide support for terminals they did not sell and with which they are not familiar. The end result, at this point, would probably not be worth it. Carriers also heavily subsidize phone purchases, but would do so less if those phones were portable. GSM customers have an advantage here, since (if their phone is not SIM locked) they can simply slip in another SIM card and subscribe to a new carrier that operates on the phones frequency. One thing consumers could demand is a ban on phones that are “SIM locked”, which is where the carrier that locks the customer in to a multi-year contract in order to recoup the phone subsidy (this is fair) also locks the phone to that carrier forever (this is not fair).

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