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Ofcom to Make UK Mobile Network Operator Switching Even Easier

Tuesday, Jul 28th, 2015 (10:45 am) - Score 1,228

Switching to a different Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in the United Kingdom could soon become even easier after the national telecoms regulator, Ofcom, proposed a number of changes that they claim would harmonise and thus simplify the process by taking a cue from home broadband ISP migrations.

At present if consumers wish to swap to a different mobile network, such those primarily run by O2, Three UK, EE and Vodafone, then they have two potential avenues and the one you take depends upon whether or not you intend to keep your phone number and take (“port“) it with the service.

The Current Processes

Option 1: A switch which includes a number port requires the customer to obtain a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from their current provider (the Losing Provider ‘LP’) and give this to their new provider (the Gaining Provider ‘GP’), who initiates the transfer. Ofcom calls this a Losing Provider Led (LPL) process or “donor led”.

Option 2: A switch without a port requires the customer to organise the stop and start of the old and new service themselves. Ofcom refer to this as a Cease and Re-provide (C&R) arrangement. Essentially this is just like taking out a new service and contract for the first time.

However Ofcom, which is “concerned that some operators can make [option 1] difficult“, notes that the switching rates for mobile services have fallen (see below). As such they’re looking to improve the current system and to bring it more into line with the new fixed line broadband and phone switching process (details).


The regulator’s new consultation, which will remain open until 6th October 2015, is thus proposing that mobile operators also adopt a Gaining Provider Led (GPL) solution for switching that would put all of the power into the hands of the new provider. In other words, you’d only need to contact the new provider and they’d then automatically handle everything on your behalf.

Alternatively another option might be to simplify the existing process of obtaining a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC), which allows customers to keep their existing phone number when switching providers. But Ofcom seems to devote more column inches to supporting a GPL solution.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said:

Consumers should be able to switch their mobile providers with minimum hassle to take advantage of the best deals on the market. Ofcom has recently made switching easier for millions of broadband users, and we are now focusing on improving the process for mobile customers.”

The adoption of a GPL solution could potentially also make it easier for consumers who take multiple services from a single provider to switch. In particular there’s a growing interest in triple-play and quad-play packages that bundle broadband, phone and mobile services (quad deals also include TV). Bringing mobile more in to line with fixed line migration would certainly be a big help for moving bundles.

Do you support Ofcom's above proposal for easier mobile switching?

  • Yes (80%, 59 Votes)
  • No (14%, 10 Votes)
  • Unsure (7%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 74

On the flip side the adoption of GPL often increases the risk of SLAMMING (i.e. when a service is switched without the customer’s consent) and there’s some doubt about whether a change is really needed. Ofcom’s own research found that 91% of mobile consumers who switched in the last two years stated that switching was very easy or fairly easy, which is above that for broadband (88%) and digital TV (83%).

Finally there’s also the significant issue of handset ownership and unlocking, with many service contracts being tied to a bundled handset purchase. Consumers who switch without first ending their contract might thus be liable for a big bill to cover the remaining cost of that hardware, which the existing operator may then be sluggish to unlock.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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