After exhausting every legal and regulatory appeal, cellular companies seem ready to let you take your phone number if you leave.
Why the foot-dragging? Carriers lose almost a third of their customers annually, and many envision wholesale defections when change doesn't mean sacrificing your phone number. Studies by The Management Network Group Inc. (TMNG), a consulting firm in Overland Park, Kansas, say that churn could approach 50 percent next year but then quickly begin heading downward. Carriers will gain or lose customers, says TMNG principal Jeff Maszal, depending on who responds with service improvements and more attractively priced packages.
Depending on your carrier, you may already be paying for number portability and the number pooling allocation system. Significantly, Verizon Wireless says it won't recoup the millions it's spent so far on number portability and may not charge the 10 to 15 cents per month it figures number portability will actually cost to maintain. Without the nation's largest carrier on board, it's hard to see how others can keep portability surcharges without losing customers faster still.
Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's technology editor. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.