Three cheers for phone number portability!   -   February 23, 2004

I've been a long-time Cingular subscriber in San Francisco, CA. I recently decided I wanted a Nokia 6610, and while the phone is supported on the Cingular network, they don't sell it. I dropped into the TMobile store to see the phone first-hand, and I figured I'd give them the benefit of my business. The good news is, phone number portability really does work. In just a few hours they had my phone number switched over to TMobile and working on the new phone. The bad news is, I'm switching back because TMobile does not support Voicemail Message Waiting Indicator (MWI). The most amazing part... This is capitalism at work. I get to give my money to the company that supports the features I want, and Number Portability makes it all possible. Beautiful.

TMobile has essentially the same coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area, in large part because they share the same cellular towers with Cingular. The service started working flawlessly, and the new phone seems comperable to my old 8290 (which I still love) in the ways that count.

After playing with the WAP and SMS features a little bit, I was satisfied that the 6610 was enough of an upgrade to keep me busy for a while. However, then the fun began. I couldn't answer a call, and I received my first voicemail notification. However, it wasn't the classic 'voice mail icon' and alert I was used to. Instead, I merely received an SMS message telling me I had voicemail. This was the normal SMS icon, and the icon went away as soon as I read the message (while I still had voicemail waiting!). I was shocked.

Typing in some search terms [tmobile voicemail indicator problems], quickly yeilded the discussion about it. It seems that TMobile does not support the phone's Message Waiting Indicator (MWI). Instead, they send an SMS message to tell you there is voicemail waiting. This may be seem acceptable to some, but this simply isn't acceptable to me. I often don't immediately check my voicemail. I need the voicemail icon to stay on the phone until I've actually heard the voicemail -- otherwise I will forget and it will sit there for days or weeks.

I called TMobile customer care, mostly because I wanted them to file a complaint so they would know why they are losing a potential customer. The person I spoke with first tried to convince me that the TMobile method was acceptable. I politely reminded her not to argue with the customer, and she acknowledged my issue. Then, at my request, she explained to me how I could switch back to Cingular.

This seems a tradgedy in some ways. A bunch of wasted time because of one companies philosophy about how to handle a phone feature. However, in a much more important way this is a victory. In the past, subscribers have been stuck with a provider largly because of the hassle of switching phone numbers. However, with number portablity, not only was I able to switch providers in an afternoon impulse shopping trip, but I'm going to switch back because I don't like their service. Beautiful.


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Posted by jeske at February 23, 2004 1:21 AM