One of my customers has asked for advice, after losing his long standing mobile number. His blog is here.
Long story short - O2 took over the number from Vodafone, for no apparent reason. Both refuse to do anything about it, and now he cannot get calls to his mobile. He can't even pay Vodafone his phone bill!
It is a sorry tale, and I really have very little practical advice. He needs to consider short term (get them to fix it) which is complaining, calling, tweeting, blogging, and maybe even trying to get a PAC to move the number somewhere that works. He also has to think long term to document all of the impacts, loss of business, and so on that result from this. Recorded delivery letters and the like. IMHO (Not a lawyer) vodafone will have a contract with him that may limit liability, but O2 do not, and if O2's actions have caused him loss he has a case in tort against them. I wish him luck.
This is all part of a larger issue.
Who "owns" a phone number?
This is complex. It is originally an identifier for a line used by a telco, e.g. BT. And not really something anyone "owns", but over time phone numbers have taken on a life of their own. People with the same number for themselves or their business for decades feel they have a right to it. I worry that one day IP addresses would ever go the same way (OFCOM did suggest it once, I think).
So if the subscriber "owns" the number in any way, what then? Well you need porting of numbers somehow - allowing the subscriber to choose a different telco but using the same number.
Sadly this is a fucking mess. There is no nicer way to say it. It is horrid.
So how would I do it?
Well, there is a separate problem that also needs solving - that number blocks are at least 1,000 numbers, and sometimes 10,000, and allocated to telcos, and some areas are running out of numbers. This is not the issue for mobile blocks (yet) but an issue none the less, and a solution to porting is also a solution to block allocations and number exhaustion.
The solution, to my mind, and I have said this before, is to separate the "ownership" of a number from the telco handling it. This is pretty simple technically, allocate some new blocks (in mobile, geographic, and even a new range such as 04) to be assigned using enum. Make someone like Nominet handle it - but unlike existing enum where the enum DNS record follows the telco assignment, it is the authority. It allows the owner of the number to point the number at the telco of choice, or even directly to their own kit. It uses DNS. It is not that hard technically, and it needs only one telco such as BT to be the route of last resort and do enum routing to make it work (for which they would charge normal interconnect rates).
Of course telcos would "handle all that for you" with the new ranges in that they could handle the Nominet registration and DNS and call routing and make a "phone line" just work. But ultimately Nominet would record the "owner" of the number as you, not the telco.
Once done the number can be contracted to someone like Nominet for the owner of the number, the subscriber, and the telco handling the number can be independent, and can be changed at a whim (migrated) with no problem.
OFCOM, please consider this!