By Carl Weinschenk
With Bob Egan, president of Mobile Competency.On Nov. 22, 2003, a law took effect allowing wireless customers in the country's top 100 markets to switch carriers without giving up their phone numbers. The next wave of wireless local number portability will hit on May 24, when the same rules are implemented in the remaining one-third of the country.
This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Empowering a Mobile Workforce. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.
Question: What lessons should enterprises take from the first big wireless local number portability experience?
Egan: Never be first and never be last. Smart enterprises didn't want to put themselves in the position of being martyrs on untried systems from a carrier. And most of them have now begun to do their homework. First it's patience, then it's about doing homework. Now is really the time for the CIO and IT managers to survey end users as well as their existing contracts and begin rounds of "liar's poker" with both the threat of wireless local number portability and the ability to actually exploit it to get a better deal.
Question: The reaction seems to be that it played out pretty much as expected.
Egan: If companies paid attention to what I had to say, they didn't become martyrs. They would have expected WLNP to be a mess, and it was a mess. If you asked the question from the carrier perspective—they said they would do a good job, and they put out all kinds of press releases saying that they were ready. Once again, from a CIO point of view, wireless local number portability was an example of wireless carriers letting down subscribers.
Question: What do you expect from the next deadline?
Egan: I think the rural carriers are going to be using the same kind of third parties and intermediaries that the large carriers do. The subscribers in smaller markets will have the road more paved. [The first deadline] could not have come at a worse time. The carriers were not ready, the holiday season was upon us, and the systems were largely untested. For the May 24 deadlines, the systems have been by-and-large tested; processes have been streamlined. The experience will be a lot less frustrating for subscribers. I think the other benefit will come in March. It's the other deadline that people aren't talking about too much. A lot of enterprise contracts come due in March. As we approach the May time frame, because of movement in enterprises for contract consolidation or as a successful result of "liar's poker," [businesses] probably will see better deals around. That means customers in smaller markets will be able to get better deals.