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UK Broadband Switchers Discouraged by Fear of Phone Number Loss

Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 656

A new survey of 1,110 ISPreview.co.uk readers, which was conducted between 5th Sept and 19th October 2017, reveals that 31.6% of respondents lost their number while migrating to a new ISP and 49.4% said that the fear of losing their number had discouraged them from future switching.

The loss of a phone number during migration, especially if you’ve had it for many years, is hugely disruptive and can require a large amount of administration in order to correctly update all of your contacts. Suffice to say that most people would prefer to keep their number.

Ofcom’s General Condition 18 (“Number Portability“) rule imposes an obligation upon ISPs to offer number portability to their subscribers and to provide portability to other communications providers. Unfortunately such rules don’t cover every eventuality and problems can still occur.


Sometimes switching ISP means losing your current landline phone number. Does this discourage you from switching?
Yes – 49.4%
No – 47.3%
Unsure – 3.2%

Have you ever lost your previous landline phone number while switching broadband ISP?
No – 61.4%
Yes – 31.6%
Unsure – 6.9%

Do you think Ofcom is doing enough to improve number portability between providers?
No – 59.3%
Don’t care, I only use Mobile or VoIP! – 28.3%
Yes – 12.2%

Phone numbers are most often lost when moving into a new home (i.e. you have to get a new line and number installed), which typically occurs because you’ve either shifted to a completely different area code, never had a fixed line phone number before or you’re still in the same region but are being covered by a different telephone exchange.

We’ve also seen various examples where people have lost their number while moving between unbundled (e.g. TalkTalk) and / or BT based providers, even though they’re still in the same house and on the same overall Openreach network. This tends to occur due to a combination of poor communication between ISPs and / or the lack of an effective management system for handling such changes between providers.

For example, we’ve seen a few complaints where people have attempted to switch their phone service from TalkTalk (unbundled) to BT and run into problems. In some cases BT would complains that TalkTalk won’t release the number, while TalkTalk will say that they expect a written request from BT and yet BT allegedly claimed not to do this. Similar problems have also occurred when moving between other providers.

The good news is that more people are now viewing their Mobile number as a primary contact or using VoIP in order to maintain greater control, which affords the end use more flexibility due to not being so reliant on a specific fixed line number. Standalone broadband services are also set to become more common over the next few years, which could in theory help to make future switching even easier.


One caveat of using VoIP is that if you intend to switch your fixed line number to a related provider then the process can take awhile to complete (2-4 weeks according to Vonage), which might discourage some people from attempting it. In general, Ofcom could probably still do more to ensure that numbers are not lost unnecessarily.

Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks whether you currently have a “superfast broadband” connection and if the new ultrafast G.fast services will attract you? Vote Here.

NOTE: ISPreview.co.uk surveys are likely to receive a higher proportion of tech-savvy respondents than most, although the majority of our visitors are normal consumers (i.e. they come to this site for help and assistance with basic broadband problems / questions or when hunting for a new ISP).

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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