Rule to give mobile phone users real mobility
Nov 13, 2003 12:00 PM, from staff and wire reportsTruck drivers and others who rely on their cell phones will be able to change phone service providers November 24 without having to change their phone number, according to a new federal regulation.
More than 95% of truck drivers use mobile phones, according to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. Truckers also are the largest single occupational group to report highway incidents to authorities via cell phones, but no longer will they feel stuck with the same carrier because they did not want to lose their current numbers.
About 39 million people changed carriers in 2002, even though they had to change phone numbers. Analysts suggest the new ruling could mean more than 50 million users will jump ship. Industry watchers also say that consumers may see better deals from their cell phone companies in an attempt to keep them in the fold.
The new rule also states that wireless companies cannot hinder or prevent customers from changing phone providers even if they have an outstanding bill or unpaid fees.
In a related move, the Federal Communications Commission also ruled that land line phone numbers could be transferred to cell phone numbers. Now a customer who has wanted to eliminate his land line phone but resisted because he didn't want to lose a long-established phone number would no longer have that problem.
The ability to change numbers will not be seamless, industry officials say, but it will occur November 24 as planned.