Large Businesses Poised to Switch Wireless Providers

Almost one-quarter of large businesses are prepared to switch wireless carriers once they can keep their phone numbers, a new study finds.

Almost one-quarter of large businesses are poised to switch wireless carriers once they can keep their phone numbers, according to a study released Monday.

A survey of 100 companies by The Management Network Group Inc. found that 24 percent of businesses with more than 500 employees are prepared to switch once carriers are required to "port" numbers, beginning Nov. 24. Today TMNG is rolling out proprietary modeling software to help carriers forecast the impact of number portability on their subscriber numbers.

The survey findings are in accord with a recent federal court decision rejecting the wireless industrys effort to undo the number portability obligations. The court—and the survey—found that the inability to keep a number when switching is a barrier to changing carriers. For 60 percent of the companies polled, wireless service is very important to the success of their business. The companies represent a wide range of industries and on average use 128 handsets.

More than half of the companies subscribe to more than one wireless carrier, and a third in that category said that they are likely to consolidate accounts once they can keep their phone numbers.

Dissatisfaction with wireless services today centers on billing complaints, according to the study. Forty-four percent of businesses with billing problems said they had to call their service provider at least four times before the problem was fixed.

Pent-up churn may be greater than the industry realizes. "Twelve percent of the companies said they would churn within first 90 days of WNP," said Jeff Maszal, head of the research practice at TMNG in Bethesda, Md.

The wireless industry has fought stridently to avoid the number portability rules, but the Federal Communications Commission, after delaying the rules several times, held fast to the upcoming November deadline. The industry argued that it is already sufficiently competitive, but the FCC and the court decided that it would be in the public interest to give users more choices.

"Ten million handsets might be up for grabs for wireless carriers," Maszal said, adding that the opportunity could turn a small carrier in into a midsized carrier. "WNP takes away the last real sticky issue in the wireless industry."

Based on the 100 responses, the survey resulted in a 95 percent level of confidence with a 9.8 percent margin of error.