A New Age in Wireless Technology

A New Age in Wireless Technology

A federal mandate, which takes affect May 24 in Jackson, will allow phone customers to keep their current cell phone numbers even if they change carriers.

By Larry Hook - For the Citizen Patriot
January 11, 2004

The face of the telecommunications industry is expected to change dramatically in 2004.

And a large part of that change is due to a new federal mandate that allows phone customers to keep or “port” their current cell phone number when changing carriers. It also allows them to have the same number for their home, cell and work phones.

Citizen Patriot · Bob Keyes
Peggy Calderone, left foreground, shows a cell phone to Joan Boyer of Concord, right, in the showroom of Comtronics, One Comtronics Place. Things have been busy in the cell phone business now that users will be able to switch phones and keep their numbers.

“The telecommunications industry will change and grow more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50,” said John A. Campau, president and CEO of Comtronics, which is based in Jackson.

“Because the future is wireless, people are taking their home numbers and converting them over to wireless.”

The new regulations went into effect Nov. 24 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas of the United States and Puerto Rico, covering roughly 70 percent of the U.S. population.

In Michigan, the regions already offering portability include Ann Arbor, Detroit and the Grand Rapids/ Muskegon/Holland area.

The remaining 30 percent of the country, including Jackson County, will be eligible by May 24.

“Congress and the FCC decided that landline and wireless consumers deserve to have choices and freedoms,” said Campau, whose 45-year-old Comtronics firm has 20 retail stores in Michigan.

“The courts have made the decision for full competition unanimous, forcing telephone companies to compete for consumers by offering better products, lower prices and innovative services.”

Jeff Wilson, a Verizon Wireless phone customer who lives in Stockbridge, said he is glad the new legislation prevents phone companies from “locking up phone numbers.”

“It’s a good thing they’ve made this change,” Wilson said. “Under the old system, you were tied to one provider no matter what their level of services or rate of increases.”

“If you changed providers, you were going to have to get a hold of every person who might call you to tell them your new number, and that’s a daunting task. The companies knew it was a hassle to change providers.”

Campau said the effects of the new legislation are just beginning.

“It’s slow now because word hasn’t really hit the streets,” he said. “But it’s going to become really huge (in 2004). More and more people are trying to find ways to save money. One way to save is by having just one phone number for your home, work, and cell phones.”

Although sales at the Jackson store, at One Comtronics Place, have yet to be impacted by the new regulations, Campau said Comtronics offices in the big metro cities are already benefiting.

He said many customers are interested in Nextel because of its “walkie-talkie” feature. He believes Nextel stands to gain 15 percent more business as a result of the new regulations.

Pat Gavin, manager at Radio Shack in the Jackson Crossing, said it’s hard to weigh the impact that number portability will have on his store’s revenue.

“In Jackson, we don’t have number porting, so it’s not an issue for us yet,” Gavin said. “At this point all we can do is read manuals and do simulations.”

Gavin said the regulations will likely make the cell phone market more competitive than ever. He said customers who have established credit with their current phone companies will be the prime targets of cellular providers.

“Because of the market, cell phone companies are fighting for people with good credit,” Gavin said.

“That’s pretty much what it’s all about right now.”

Campau said changing companies and taking advantage of number portability is easy.

“It’s just a paper shuffle,” he said.

“It’s as simple as coming down to one of our stores and telling us what you want. It can range anywhere from two to five days. And it will be faster as we move forward.”

According to the Mobile Wirefly web site, those who move to new geographic areas will not be able to take their old phone numbers with them.

Customers who have an existing phone contract may be charged a termination fee when they change companies.

Reprinted with permission from The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright January 2004

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