Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Port Side of Telecom Operators

A few years ago in our little country named Belgium, the Mobile Number Portability was introduced. It enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.

I now use a mobile since over 10 years with still the same Proximus number as of day one. When joining my first employer, I had no problem to keep the same mobile number when they started paying the bills for me as it became a work tool. Back then I had only to fill a simple form and a couple hours later, the mobile bills were no more part of my concern - and of my budget. So far so good as this step did not involve any port-out/port-in operation.

So last month, I joined Aliaxis and would still get a mobile from the company. Unfortunately -- for me but not for them they say -- they use another mobile telecom operator named Mobistar.

As I used my number since over 10 years, I asked my company if I could keep it and have it transferred from Proximus to Mobistar, knowing the portability rule would apply and that it was technically possible . My company accepted immediately, which was a real relief to me.

And this is where the crusade began. We contacted Mobistar and requested the transfer. On the next day, they also requested -- god knows why -- a copy of the last invoice concerning my mobile number. So I had to contact one of my former colleague, kindly ask him to dig into the Proximus monthly invoices, find the pages involving my number, scan them along with the cover page, and email me back the resulting PDF. I could then forward it, hoping it would be solved within 2-3 days. After all, I had already initiated port-in of private numbers to the Proximus account of my previous company and it always transferred within hours. Therefore 2 to 3 days did not seem utterly optimistic to me.

Two to three days -- and rather three than two -- were indeed necessary to get notified by Mobistar that we needed to provide them a signed letter from my previous company stating their agreement to the transfer. So I contacted the new Telecom Manager of my previous company, asked him for such a letter, received it (and it was a very nicely letter, very professional), forwarded it to Mobistar, and prepared my minds to wait again for an additional two to three days.

After three days, the push-email service on my Blackberry stopped working. This was anticipated because it used a temporary SIM card and I had received a new SIM card for my own number. I plugged the new SIM card and quickly discovered a very nice message on my Blackberry screen:
SIM card rejected
Of course, this had to happen on a Friday afternoon while coming back from a business trip and with none to call. The idea of spending the weekend without my Blackberry services was not as frightening as the realization that it would surely still not work for my business trip planned on the next Monday.

On Tuesday, when back to my office, I learned that the transfer was not authorized by Proximus because the signature on the letter was not the same that the one in their database. Of course it was not, I was the previous Telecom manager and I left. At that point, I was extremely tempted to modify the letter and use my own signature to have this solved. I resisted to the dark side and decided instead to call the Proximus account manager as I had still her contact info.

From there, it took still four working days, several phone calls and emails to have the situation settled. But on Friday 13 of June 2008 around 6.00pm, my mobile number was finally ported to Mobistar and I could start using my Blackberry 8320 as email and telephone device while dismissing my old Nokia phone.

Now, I "just" have to re-customize my mobile with my own screen background, specific ring tones, and so on. Some say it is the funny side of the job...

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