Nearly half (45%) of all broadband and home phone users think that switching their broadband or telephone provider is too much hassle according to a study by Ofcom. The telecommunications regulator has announced that it is considering ways to make the switching process quicker and easier and has released a new consultation document on switching telecommunication providers to help build the ground work for new policies.
Initially the work will focus on fixed line and broadband services with a move to looking at mobile and pay TV afterwards. Currently broadband customers in the UK have one of three processes that they must go through to switch provider depending on what kind of broadband they receive, and this may be more complex if they take a bundled package. New services such as next-generation broadband services also need to consider migration in the developments of the services.
The simplest is a cease and re-provide which applies where different technologies are used for providing broadband. The customer would need to contact both providers to cancel and start the new service. This process is used when switching between Virgin Media cable broadband and a BT landline based broadband service.
The second process which may be familiar is using MACs. MAC stands for Migration Authorization Code, a special code that must be requested from the current broadband provider and given to the new broadband provider in order to create a near-seamless transition from one provider to the other. This is used amongst broadband providers who resell BT wholesale's services.
The final process is called NoT, Notification of Transfer, and is used to migrate some broadband lines where an operator has full control of the line (known as Metallic Path Facility (MPF) or full LLU). In this case the customer contacts the new broadband provider and places an order for their service. A notification is then sent to the losing provider who sends out a notice to the customer giving them the option to cancel the process.
Ofcom's favoured approach for the way forward is to implement a Gaining Provider Led system similar to NoT as they result in significantly less hassle for consumers and the gaining provider has an incentive to ensure that the switching process is easy. There are concerns about 'slamming' with this method however which is where a user is switched without their knowledge or consent. Safeguards can be built in to the process however to ensure that this is minimised such as through third party verification, a system which has worked well abroad.
This consultation on switching providers is due to close on 19th November 2010, but Ofcom will be conducting further discussions with industry and consumers. Details on how to respond and the full consultation document are available on the Ofcom website.