BT told to move early on portable numbers

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The Independent Online
OFTEL has ordered BT to allow telephone number portability in London from October in a bid to increase competition with cable television and telephone operators.

The telecommunications industry regulator said that number portability - taking an old number when moving to a new supplier - should be widespread from next year and would begin for customers of Videotron, a London cable television company, in the autumn. The need to change numbers when switching has deterred many potential customers from signing with the new competition.

Videotron, which has franchises in London and Hampshire, had appealed to Oftel to intervene on its behalf to bring forward the date of number portability. Many other cable companies are likely to ask for the same right.

The move was welcomed by the cable television and telephony industry as removing a significant barrier to competition.

BT attacked Oftel's decision to make a special case for the cable firm. 'This is a short-term and piecemeal solution. There will be a cost and someone will have to bear it,' a spokesman said.

The interim solution for Videotron will mean BT providing special circuits between exchanges. The longer-term plan to begin portability in 1995, which BT supports, will involve all network operators in co-ordinated technical work to enable exchanges to route calls appropriately. 'That cannot happen overnight,' a BT spokesman said.

Videotron said it aimed to ensure that customers would not have to bear any extra cost. The October start is likely to be a trial limited to 900 homes in Kensington, London.

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