Mobile users can switch to a new operator by sending a free SMS

Ofcom switch guidelineOfcom announced major telecom reforms today enabling mobile phone customers in the UK to switch their telecom operator by sending a free text message.

For comparison, India’s one billion plus mobile phone customers need to make Rs 19 payment and clear all pending bills of their existing operator and wait for some time to shift to a new operator under the current mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines.

Around two in five mobile switchers (38 percent) – 2.5 million people – say that they experienced at least one major problem when switching, while seven in ten encountered at least some difficulty.

One of the biggest challenges in changing the mobile operator is the need to speak to your current provider, and facing unwanted attempts to persuade you to stay. Ofcom’s changes, which come into effect in 18 months’ time, will give customers control over contact with their existing provider.

Ofcom said mobile providers will also be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This will put an end to people paying for old and new services at the same time – saving UK mobile customers around £10 million in total each year.

Since mobile operators need to make changes to their systems, and require coordination between mobile companies, the new guidelines will be effective in 18 months. UK phone industry will need to set up the new short codes for people to text, and the means to send instant automated responses to switching requests, as well as new billing arrangements to end notice-period double payments.

“Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process,” said Lindsey Fussell, consumer group director of Ofcom.

How it will work

Mobile customers will request a unique switching code, either by text or online, to pass on to their new provider – who must then arrange for the switch to complete within one working day.

People will text one of two memorable short codes, depending on whether or not they wish to keep their existing mobile telephone number. All mobile providers will have to use the same short codes.

A customer’s existing provider immediately respond by text – with either a porting authorisation code (PAC) for those wishing to keep their phone number, or a cancellation code for those who want a new number. For businesses, they will get this code within two working days.

The provider’s reply must also include important information about any early termination charges, outstanding handset costs, or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

The unique switching code will be valid for 30 days. A customer will be able to pass the code on to their new provider at the point they place an order for their new service, without the need for any further conversation.

Providers will also have to publish and promote clear guidance to help customers follow the new process and make informed switching decisions.

According to another report from Ofcom, 70 percent of survey respondents in the UK said they always had a mobile signal when they wanted to make a call against 65 percent in 2016. 74 percent of people said they could always connect to the internet against 67 percent in 2016, potentially due to the migration to 4G services. UK had 69 4G connections per 100 people in 2016.