Switching Cell Phone Providers
Poor customer satisfaction is common among cell phone Service Providers
Let’s face it; cell phone service is not without faults. As a group, cell phone providers scored only 66 out of 100 points in a 2006 customer satisfaction survey performed by Consumer Reports.
This was actually a 1 point decline from the previous year’s survey. Aggravation over cell quality was cited as the number one reason for dissatisfaction.
Of those surveyed who had recently switched their cell phone provider, more than half did so because of poor service quality such as: dropped calls, no service at home, fuzzy reception, or dead zones. The survey cited the second highest reason for changing providers as opportunity for cost savings. Other less common reasons included poor customer service and dissatisfaction arising from a merger of two wireless providers.
Some reasons people hesitate to switch cell phone providersMany people today are not satisfied with their current cell phone provider, and yet they do nothing to change their situation. If you are one of these people, what keeps you from taking action? We find that people often delay switching cell phone providers because they:
- Are afraid of losing their current phone number and phone contacts.
- Think that their phone will only work with their current provider.
- Are hesitant to break their existing cell phone contract due to penalties.
- Do not know where to go to take care of all of the needed changes.
Number Portability - Keep Your Existing Phone Number
The ability to keep your current cell phone number while switching your service provider is a fairly recent development in the telecommunication industry. As of May 24, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required all wireless carries to allow for Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP), which means that as long as you are staying in the same local area, you can keep your cellular phone number even when you change carriers.
This ruling has had a significant impact on cell phone providers and on you as a consumer. Before number portability, many unsatisfied consumers hesitated to leave their carrier because of the hassles involved with changing their phone number. Notifying family, friends, and business associates of a number change was not a thrilling proposition. Now that it’s simple to keep the same phone number when changing carriers, cell phone providers find themselves in an increasingly competitive market. This highly competitive market means more choices for the consumer.
Recycling - Your phone does not have to stay tied to your current service provider
There are tools available that allow a cell phone to be “reprovisioned”. This means that you will be able to use the phone you already have with a new service provider. While this should definitely open up more options for you, there are some limitations as not all of the service providers will use the same technology that your phone uses.
Expect early termination fees if you break your cell phone contract
Some service providers offer incentives in order to get customers to commit to a one or two year contract and as a result many people find themselves tied to an undesirably lengthy contract. Here are some tips if you are currently under contract but wanting to switch providers. Usually, your best bet if you are near the end of a contract is to wait until it runs out before leaving the service. If the contract end is a long way off, you can still make the switch, but you will most likely incur an early termination fee. Check your contract details to calculate the damage.
A growing trend is for service providers to prorate the termination fees instead of charging you the full amount. This means that if you only have a few months left on your contract the fee will be significantly less than if you still have two years left. Depending on the amount of the fee, you may find that the cost savings you get by switching to a more affordable provider makes up the difference. If the fee you incur to break your cell phone contract is too much to justify the switch, then you will need to wait out your contract period.
Making the switch – Things to remember
Most likely, you will want to keep your existing phone number when you switch cell phone providers. As mentioned earlier, the WLNP law only allows you to transfer your phone number if you are switching to a service in the same local coverage area as your previous service. The main thing to remember is that you MUST NOT call to cancel your existing cell phone service. Calling to cancel your existing service can result in you losing your phone number since it will no longer be tied to your account. Instead of canceling your service, let your new service provider take care of the number porting process for you.
The porting process automatically cancels your previous cellular service. Since the porting process will cancel your existing service, you should expect to receive a final bill in the coming month from your old service provider. This bill will include any outstanding service charges as well as any early termination fees that may have been charged if you prematurely broke a contract.