FCC orders wired-to-wireless number portability

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Telecommunications customers in the U.S. will be able to take their phone numbers with them when they swap their wireline phones for wireless, if a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order issued Monday has its intended effect.

The FCC order is intended to provide guidance to wireline and mobile carriers on "intermodal" porting of phone numbers. In most cases, wireline carriers operating in the 100 largest metropolitan areas have to support intermodal number porting by Nov. 24, the FCC said in a statement Monday. The only exception will be if the carriers can demonstrate that it is not technically feasible to comply with the requirements. Those operating outside the largest metropolitan areas will not have to comply until May 24, 2004.

Currently, when a consumer or enterprise switches wireless carriers or unplugs their wireline phones in favor of cellular services, they face the prospect of losing their current phone number and potentially losing touch with a contacts built up over years. Number portability is intended in part to solve that problem.

The Monday order said wireline carriers will be required to port phone numbers to wireless operators where the cell operator's coverage area overlaps the geographic location in which the wireline number is provisioned, the agency said in a statement Monday. Also in the order, the FCC sought comments on some aspects of implementing number porting.

The agency did not set a mandatory length of time it should take to port a number from a wireline to a wireless phone. It is seeking comment on the issue, according to the statement.

An earlier order, issued Oct. 7, addressed similar issues in relation to wireless-to-wireless number porting, according to the FCC.

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