A decision by the United Kingdom government to assign special prefixes to all new mobile phone numbers has opened a door of opportunity for a U.K. company.
Redstone Network Services Ltd. provides number portability service marketed as Callsure. Callsure numbers are not linked to any physical phone or location, but are delivered to the owner at the location of choice.
“New purchasers will receive mobile phones with the old codes for the next few months, in the knowledge that their number will have to change within the next few years,” said Graham Cove, Redstone managing director. “It makes good sense for them to acquire a Callsure Mobile personal number now, which will stay with them as long as they require it.”
The Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) in London issued a national numbering scheme last month that included policy changes for mobile numbers. Oftel intends to use 07 as a “find me anywhere” range for personal numbering, mobile and paging services.
New 07 numbers will be available sometime this year; full migration to the new numbering system should take place by 2001.
Cove said most heavy mobile users are reluctant to change their airtime supplier because it means a change in phone number, with the associated inconvenience.
“In effect, by changing all the codes, Oftel has removed this final barrier to acquiring a personal number,” he said.
Oftel states, “07 has potentially 1 billion numbers; even the most optimistic growth forecasts suggest that 1 billion would be more than sufficient over the next 15 to 20 years for these services.”
No other country has put aside a billion numbers for personal numbering services, Oftel said; 0700, 070 and 0878 are used worldwide for this purpose, according to the government.
“A single range also reflects similarity between the services, and most mobile and personal numbering services currently have similar charging arrangements. In addition, call diversion and voice messaging services are increasingly being offered by mobile operators providing similar facilities to basic personal numbering. A single range would also facilitate any future move to interservice portability,” Oftel said.
Personal number providers receive some special consideration in the policy. “Oftel recognizes the wish of the personal numbering pro-viders to retain a separate identity, particularly in the initial stages of the growth of the market. 070 will therefore be restricted to personal numbering, and 071 and 072 held in reserve for these services,” Oftel said.
Distinct 07 subranges will be used initially for mobile and paging service and some will be held in reserve for service expansion or new services.
“This is only an initial division of the range. If the convergence of 07 services continues and the demand for interservice portability grows, it may be removed following consultation,” Oftel stated.
Oftel believes existing numbers should “migrate to their appropriate place in the 07 range” to avoid confusion, because other numbering changes have been ordered as well.
“Given the average life of a mobile number is currently around 2.5 years and that new allocations from 1997 will be of 07 numbers, a minority of mobile customers should have to be `forced’ moves. The usual method of migration will be by normal customer churn. Details of the migration will be agreed between operators and Oftel during 1997. This will include consideration of arrangements which may need to be put in place for analog mobile numbers,” Oftel said.