Verizon Wireless Fights Effort by Companies to Kill Number Portability Through Customer Coercion

BEDMINSTER, NJ — Taking square aim at the anti-consumer, anti-competitive official position of many of its competitors, Verizon Wireless, operator of the nation's largest and most reliable wireless network, today stood firm in support of wireless customers' ability to keep their mobile phone numbers when switching from one wireless service provider to another. In a filing today, Verizon Wireless urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject schemes from ALLTEL, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Nextel and Sprint that would, if allowed, create new barriers to wireless customers who want to change service providers while keeping their mobile numbers with them.

Wireless number portability ("WNP," also known as local number portability "LNP"), scheduled to go into effect in many major U.S. markets beginning November 24, 2003, will allow customers to switch wireless service providers while keeping their mobile phone numbers.

(EDITORS: The Verizon Wireless filing may be found here. The filing by the Wireless Carrier Group is available here.)

Earlier this month, the "Wireless Carrier Group" (WCG), consisting of ALLTEL, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Nextel and Sprint, told the FCC that their understanding of number portability will allow them to impose new barriers to switching that do not exist today, effectively derailing number portability.

These barriers could include special one-time porting fees or severely restricted "porting hours," such as from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. They also include requiring a customer to pay an early termination fee and owed balances on his or her account as a condition for keeping a mobile telephone number. Even if a customer disputes the amount owed, these carriers threaten to prevent the customer from porting until he or she pays up. Other carriers are intending to impose restrictions that will frustrate customers who wish to port, such as severely limited porting hours.

"Now, on the verge of achieving wireless LNP, the Commission faces a direct challenge to it that, if not quickly and firmly rejected, will gut the effectiveness of the mandate," Verizon Wireless said in its filing. The WCG carriers ". . . make it clear that they will slow or block a customer's desire to change carriers and keep the same numbers until the customer 'settles up' his account."

In June, Verizon Wireless president and CEO Denny Strigl detailed the Verizon Wireless plan for implementing number portability: no up-front costs to current customers; no special barriers to switching from one service provider to another; fast service; and no hassle. In his presentation, Strigl said, "We will not charge any 'special fees' for customers who want to take their numbers with them. Our plan at Verizon Wireless is to treat porting customers the same way we treat any customer today. No change from today." Once portability is in place, Verizon Wireless may consider recovering operational costs to the tune of no more than 10 to 15 cents per month on customers' bills. Strigl noted that the company's position on number portability is a natural extension of the Verizon Wireless customer-focused "Worry Free Guarantee."

The official position of ALLTEL, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Nextel and Sprint, however, is that they should be free to impose new costs and erect additional restrictions on their customers who want to switch. The Verizon Wireless filing cautions, "The Commission should not be fooled by the absurd argument that consumers will somehow benefit from porting restrictions."

Verizon Wireless urged the FCC to act quickly — by September 1, 2003 — to make it clear that wireless service providers cannot erect new barriers and hold their customers hostage by making it expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to switch. "Having imposed the LNP mandate," Verizon Wireless noted, "the Commission bears responsibility to ensure that it is implemented effectively so that it can achieve its goals for competition and consumers."

About Verizon WirelessVerizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 34.6 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at