Consumer Checklist for Nov. 24 Cell Phone ‘Independence Day’
What You Should Know About Transferring Your Cell Phone
and Home Landline Phone Numbers
November 24 is “independence day” for cell phone customers – not only will consumers be able to take their current cell phone number with them when switching companies, they also will be able to transfer their home phone number to their cell phone if they live in the top 100 metropolitan areas.
While this new freedom should benefit consumers as phone companies compete for their business – resulting in lower prices and better service – consumers also should be aware of the following issues when “cutting the cord” of their home phone line in favor of cell service.
Price: Most cell plans are priced per minute, and get pricey when you exceed your limit. However, local landline (home wireline) service is often a flat rate in which you pay the same fee no matter how much you use the phone. Many cell phone plans charge for incoming calls, but landlines do not. Take care to consider how much you will use the phone and whether the cell plan includes a sufficient number of minutes for your outgoing and incoming calls.
Extras and Long Distance: Home wireline service typically charge extra for such things as caller ID, voice mail and, of course, long distance. Cell phone plans often include the extras and long distance in their service. If you switch from a home wireline to wireless, your long distance service will not move with you, so make sure to verify your long distance options when changing to a cell phone provider.
Safety: If you dial 911 from your home phone, the emergency operators can immediately pinpoint your location. If you dial 911 from your cell phone at home or on the road, most emergency operators cannot readily locate you, and unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your call will get through.
Service: Consumers frequently complain about wireless service quality, such as dead zones and dropped calls. Overloaded networks and “dead spots” can affect your ability to use a wireless phone in ways that are not a consideration for landlines.
Whether consumers are switching their home phone number to their cell phone, or switching cell-phone companies, they also should consider:
Fees: Companies are allowed to charge a fee to departing customers for their cost of switching over phone numbers, but cannot charge in excess of these “porting” costs. Some companies may pay your current phone provider’s cost in order to get your business. Consumers should remember that if they change service before their contract ends, they likely will pay a termination fee. They should also keep in mind that while they get to keep their cell phone number, they might not be able to keep their cell phone, so consider the cost of a new phone before switching.
Initiating a Switch: If you want to change cell phone carriers, or move your home wireline to a cell phone, contact the new carrier, who will start the process. Do not terminate service with your existing carrier before initiating a switch. Also, know that you are obligated to pay any early termination fees that may apply with your existing cell phone provider.
Switching Time: It should only take a few hours to move your current cell phone number to a new cell phone provider (wireless-to-wireless transfer). It is expected to take several business days to complete a home wireline to cell phone transfer (wireline to wireless). Make sure to ask the cell phone company you are moving to if you will still be able to use your home wireline during the transfer process.
For CU’s general cell-phone service shopping tips click here.
For those consumers living outside the top 100 metro areas, phone companies must implement number transfers by May 24, 2004.