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The US telecoms regulator yesterday reminded local landline providers not to delay customers who want to switch their telephone number to a cellphone. Wireless carriers had been worried that the Baby Bells would force each carrier to make a peering arrangement. The FCC yesterday said the landline providers ought to be able to make the switch in two and a half hours - which is a target, but not mandatory - even if the departing customer hadn't settled the bill.

US cellphones already use local area codes. But from November 24, US citizens will be able move between cellphone carriers keeping their number. It's expected to cause a huge amount of churn in the short-term, and carriers have reacted with a mixture of bribes and penalties.

T-Mobile is offering some customers 'loyalty minutes' while AT&T Wireless is passing the 'cost' on to the customer in the form of a monthly surcharge. Which may be short-sighted - as the extra tax is there for all to see on the bill, and in itself reminds customers that they can quit.

Some wrinkles need to be ironed out. Although a customer may have two phones, a landline and a mobile, with the share the same area code, each operator may regard 'local' calls differently. The FCC is requesting comments before advising further, particularly for customers who want to move a cellphone to a landline. ®

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