Cellulars can use
home numbers

Verizon would allow Oahu
clients to transfer numbers when
a new federal rule takes effect

Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest U.S. local-telephone company, will let Oahu customers move their home numbers to a Verizon Wireless phone when a new federal rule on number portability takes effect Nov. 24.

The agreement between New York-based Verizon Communications and its wireless unit, the largest U.S. cellular operator, affects customers in the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas, including all of Honolulu, said Georgia Taylor, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.

Customers on the neighbor islands will not be included for now, and Taylor could not give a timetable for those customers.

Neither Verizon Wireless nor Verizon plan to charge customers for the service. For more information, call Verizon's local residential customer service at 643-3456.

The primary goal of the Federal Communications Commission's portability rule is to allow most of the country's 150 million mobile-phone users to keep their number when switching wireless providers. Carriers have asked the FCC to clarify the part of the rule on moving landline numbers to wireless phones, saying local carriers, for technical and procedural reasons, may allow only one in eight customers to make the switch.

The FCC has yet to issue a decision on a clarification.

"This really demonstrates the fact that these quote-unquote hurdles can be overcome by the carriers' willingness to serve the best interests of consumers," said John Muleta, the agency's top official for wireless matters.

Muleta said the FCC will clarify the portable-number rules "well in advance" of Nov. 24. He did not go into specifics.

In June, Verizon Wireless broke ranks with rivals by dropping opposition to the FCC rule change. Other carriers, including Cingular Wireless LLC, have opposed the rule, citing the cost of upgrading their equipment and the lack of a clear mandate from Congress backing the plan. Analysts have said that Verizon stands to gain the most from the change because it has the biggest network and market share.

Verizon Wireless customers also will be able to keep their numbers if they move from mobile to landline service, the companies said in a statement.

Verizon Wireless and other cellular carriers have said they'll be ready to move mobile numbers between providers on Nov. 24. Verizon Communications and other regional phone carriers such as SBC Communications Inc. are expected to keep losing local lines as customers depend more on mobile phones, analysts have said.

"We continue to be very interested and motivated to strike these kinds of deals with all other wireless and wireline companies," Nelson said.

Verizon Wireless, based in Bedminster, N.J., is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Newbury, England-based Vodafone Group Plc.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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