portabilityWe all get attached to our cellular or fixed line numbers, maybe not for sentimental reasons, but practical reasons. I changed cellular providers in January this year and ported my number across to the new network – through my experience and others using different providers, I can now help you make a better informed decision on cellular number portability.

Yes, or no – it depends…

It depends on which provider you are porting from and which provider you will be porting to.

Of course we all have horror stories about cellular providers, I think the best advice on choosing a reseller is to choose a retail outlet that is part of, or extremely close to the cellular provider themselves – for example, Vodacom Direct and MTN Direct. Otherwise when something goes wrong, you have a huge finger pointing situation. Like most of 3rd party dealers I know of who offer “service” which consists of them handing you the phone so that you can “speak directly to the service provider”. Then I ask, why not deal with them right from the start and avoid all the shunting around when you have a problem?

The other advice is about which provider you choose. It really is quite logical. Don’t jump at the cheapest provider – you get what you pay for. Do they have their own network? Do they have a solid infrastructure so that they will be in business in a couple of year’s time? Have they been in business long enough to have learnt from experience, or are they new and inexperienced. Is this cellular service their core business? Remember that most often your phone is your business connection; you cannot afford to make a mistake.

If you port to or from a young provider, you are going to have a mess – and it does not stop there (more about that in another exciting episode) but if you port between the two big players in South Africa, it will happen in a day, with minimum problems.

I ported from Vodacom to Virgin Mobile earlier this year…..rather than waffle on about the details, it took 5 working days, in which time I did not have access to the Vodacom number, nor the temporary Virgin Mobile number – I also called them every 4 hours to check. When the number was moved, it took another week for them to get my voice mail across. Thereafter it took an additional 2 weeks to get data access. The reason they say, was that when they ported the number across, they forgot about voice mail and then forgot about the data. Plus what makes it worse is that you cannot do any automated online purchases of airtime etc, as the systems thinks that your number still belongs to the old network provider, and blocks all purchase options. Don’t do it!

Here is the feedback I got from asking some other people about their porting experience:

From Nick, “I moved from Vodacom to Cell C through a company initiative, the porting was relatively easy, it took a day extra from the intended date but was pretty painless, as most of the detail was handled through the provider called RMCS, which services bundled deals for our group of companies.” I think the message here is that all will be smooth if you have enough clout, in Nick’s case their group of companies is rather important to the provider, and I think things will be even better if done as a bulk deal.

Claire says, “I wasn’t changing service providers, I was swapping numbers within the Virgin Mobile network (two Virgin numbers). It was a NIGHTMARE that took 3 weeks to complete.”

Michelle said, “We moved offices and had no MTN cell phone reception in Modderfontein. I changed to Vodacom. The porting of my number went without a hitch.”

So there you have it, if you need to port your number across to another provider, make sure it is between the big two. If not, change your number – it is far easier. Plus the people who don’t take notice of your new number probably are not worth worrying about.

Note to all, my new Vodacom number is 082 056 8889. – Once bitten, twice shy!

Contributed by:
Malcolm Pearson


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