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Customer Experiences Hiccup In Cell Phone Portability Switch

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DUNN, N.C. — Changing cell phone carriers is a lot easier than it used to be. On Nov. 24, cell phone portability went into effect.

As part of cell phone portability, wireless or wireline phone numbers can be moved to another cell phone carrier. Overall, portability has gone pretty well.

Five On Your Side received several complaints. The Federal Communications Commission stopped separating portability complaints on Dec. 29. At that time, the agency had 2,400 complaints. Other than a few "hiccups" along the way, the FCC said everything has gone smoothly.

Dropped calls, customer service issues and billing problems are reasons many cell phone customers change their service.

Robert Jordan is one of many people who took advantage of the new cell phone portability law. He wanted to cut the home phone cord with Sprint and switch the number to a Nextel mobile phone so that he could have it at work.

Nextel's Web site showed his number was portable, so he made the switch.

"A few hours after that, my business partner called and asked what was wrong. She said, 'I've tried calling you at home and I keep getting a busy signal,'" Jordan said.

When he called Nextel, Jordan was told Sprint was to blame. So he called Sprint.

"Every time that I've spoken with anyone at Sprint, they have said, 'Sir, you ported your number out to Nextel, it's Nextel's problem. It's not our problem,'" Jordan said.

Five on Your Side called Nextel and Sprint.

Sprint said the problem is that Jordan lives in Dunn -- an area not part of the top 100 markets that are part of the initial portability. That means Nextel should not have accepted Jordan's number and Sprint should not have allowed it to go through.

Sprint spokeman Tom Matthews said there is still a lot to work out.

"Wireless local number portability is new. It can get confusing to the companies that provide it. It can get confusing to customers in particular," Matthews said.

Sprint made adjustments, which made Jordan's number portable.

Despite the confusion, Jordan is happy with the switch.

"I just felt like it was the smart thing to do and this is the bump in the road I hit," he said.

Nextel said there is confusion within its own company about which numbers are portable. It is working to clear that up.

If you live in a questionable area, check with both carriers.

The industry also has a

Web site

with city lists and maps showing which areas are portable. Everyone should be portable in May.