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Phone Numbers

Raising the bar for phone number porting

Matt Ruehlen Matt Ruehlen
Matt Ruehlen
Bar chart showing growth

For better or worse (I happen to think better), I’ve been involved with phone number portability in some capacity at Bandwidth for eight years. My role has changed from being on the front lines working through carrier rejections with customers; to being involved with the development cycles for our software that make porting easier; to contributing directly in the industry’s LNPA Working Group sessions where representatives from phone carriers regularly meet in order to define and review number porting best practices.         

It’s been a dynamic time with lots of change, but one thing that has remained constant is that the word ‘porting’ tends to be accompanied with an air of negativity, though it shouldn’t anymore. When we’re discussing porting practices with a new client, you can generally feel the air get thicker when porting comes up, as it starts to almost instinctively remind them of the wounds and scars that they’ve been through with other providers.

To me, that accompanying pessimism and the challenge of porting have always manifested as an opportunity. It’s a chance to show our customers, especially new customers, that we will stand alongside them to help drive an order to finish.  In some cases, with our Port-In API, that opportunity is a little more abstract and virtual; we empower a replacement to the hours of tedious order-entry work that our customers can instead apply to more meaningful areas of supporting their end customers. In other cases, it’s more tangible in terms of our people and commitment.      

Roughly a year ago, a customer came to us with a need to port dozens of office locations to Bandwidth. Nearly every aspect of this project screamed ‘complicated;’ the offices were not small (most contained hundreds, some thousands, of phone numbers), they were spread all over the country, and ownership of the phone numbers spanned multiple providers. This was going to be amongst the most complex of projects we’d encountered, and to add to the degree of difficulty, porting needed to be coordinated closely to be certain that each office was prepared for the transition when each office cut over.    

We got to work and established a weekly call to track the project, and worked with the customer on a detailed transition plan. We fought through rejections along the way on the port orders using bill copies and hundreds of pages of CSRs (service records). It was, by no means, easy, but we made it to the finish line without service interruptions and within the project dates we’d established.    

We would not get our true ‘grade’ back for a few months. Our customer happened to manage a large porting project globally for their offices – after our project, he pivoted to manage another few hundred sites in the United States and all over the world. Several months later, when I checked in with him on the ongoing project status, he shared with me that our approach had become his measuring stick. As he began porting with other providers, he’d ask them to follow the same structure that we did with projects, and expect the same level of expertise and care applied. Chiefly validating, he disclosed that our standard had not been approached with other providers.  And we’re proud of that.        

We know that porting isn’t perfect, and we also know well that we’re not perfect, but we seek to represent exactly what this experience validated. That is, we don’t want to stop at ‘doing it well,’ or become complacent with praise, but to continue raising the bar. There is still an opportunity for improvement in the world of porting, and for us, it’s an opportunity that we look to exploit in our rolling software development and quest to ‘make porting easy.’ Our mission: Do for porting what Apple did with the simplicity of computer use.