Adieu T-Mobile

by Volker Weber

My old GSM chip is now dead (as planned). It actually takes a few days before T-Mobile releases my number and transfers it to O2. Don't let yourself be fooled by this announcement:

Diese Rufnummer ist uns nicht bekannt. Bitte fragen Sie bei der Auskunft nach.
The number you are dialing is not listed. Please call directory inquiries.

While we have phone number portability, the service is disgusting. T-Mobile is both unable to deliver the correct message and to release the number on time to O2. Until this transaction is completed I can be reached with this temporary number:

0176-2461 1842

Update: This worked faster than expected. I had been told it will take up to 10 days. Tonight at 4 o'clock however I received an SMS from O2 announcing that my regular phone number has been transferred. T-Mobile, charge the 25 Euros you are asking and the case is closed.


Wonder what the process of transferring a phone number to another provider really involves. I'd say nothing more than a few commands on two computer systems. Are there any (technical or buerocratic) issues that could explain why transferring the number takes several day?

Joerg Richter, 2005-02-27

I believe it is their "fcuk the customer" way of doing business that drove me away in the first place.

Volker Weber, 2005-02-27

Honestly, I believe that most of the hurdles involved when transferring your mobile number to another provider are more or less artifical. The (intended) effect is to discourage a transferral of a mobile number in the first place. The second purpose is to make the user experience as bad as humanly possible without braking any laws or regulations. This serves to make sure that, once you're through the process, you (hopefully) won't consider doing it again.

But then, there might be real technical reasons - like for example call routing. Back in the good old days, where every provider had a defined set of dial prefixes, call routing was fairly easy: check the prefix and hand over the call. Nowadays, you've got to check the whole bloody number so maybe the system now has to have some time to settle down. We all know this behaviour from the beloved way DNS works when updating an existing record.

So, with our tech-savvy T-Mobile being involved, I'd guess that they send out a purge request for the number. Then they wait until the information actually is purged everywhere, which may take some days. Next they hand the number over to the new provider, O2 in this case. O2 now publishes the new routing information and again has to wait for some days to make sure every directory got updated.

Now, it would be fairly easy to mark a number as being "in the process of being transferred" and thus giving an appropriate message to callers. However, providing service to customers who are going to spend their money at an other shop is not exactly one of the things that'll have high priority at any company.

Stefan Rubner, 2005-02-27

That probably depends on whether you expect to see the customer a second time. His last experience will be the longest lasting. In that respect you never have to look better than at the farewell.

Volker Weber, 2005-02-27

Oops, sorry. I was referring to the general attitude of companies in Germany and not talking about what would make sense in a business environment where you have to deal with real customers.

Stefan Rubner, 2005-02-28

In the Netherlands a move takes only a couple of hours (2-4). So technical reasons can't be the reason.

Larry Ligtenbergh, 2005-02-28

IMVHO, the real problems start after the transfer of a phone number. The caller cannot even guess what tariff he will be using when calling a mobile, so the overall call cost can be quite anything. In your case, Volker, you got a T-D1 phone number, but I probably will pay cross-network charges for O2 if I call from a land line.

I guess this is in discussion right now at RegTP, and it would be quite a good argument for normalizing network tariffs in Germany again, bringing all telcos to the point where they only can win by increased service level or value added services.


Karsten W. Rohrbach, 2005-03-01

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