The purpose of this article is to explain in some detail the process of transferring a mobile number into giffgaff from another network. This process is commonly known as porting in.
This article is not intended for the majority of people that want to bring their number to giffgaff, it is a much more technical document describing the process behind number porting. If you are simply wanting to bring your existing phone number into giffgaff you should refer to this article instead.
Mobile Network Operator. An MNO is a company that has invested billions of pounds to create a physical network (phone masts etc.) to carry provide mobile services like calls texts and data to customers. O2 is an MNO.
Mobile Virtual Network Operator. An MVNO is a company that does not own a physical network itself, but instead runs a mobile service (calls, texts and data) by renting the physical network of an MNO - hence their network is 'virtual'. giffgaff is an MVNO that rents the network from O2-UK.
Mobile Virtual Network Enabler. An MVNE is a company that provides technology and services, e.g. network connectivity and billing, to MVNOs that enable them to run their operations.
Mobile Number Portability system. MNP is the system that manages all ports between all UK networks. The MNP is independent of all MNOs.
The independent regulator that sets the rules for all mobile service providers in the UK OFCOM has made several reviews of porting in the UK and issues several regulations that affect both port ins and port outs.
Port Authorisation Code. This is a number generated by the donor network that allows the customer to transfer their keep number to another network.
Service Termination Authorisation Code. This is a number generated by the donor network that allows the customer to cancel the old number and phone service. They will get a new number from the new provider.
This is the mobile number that you want to keep. In the example of porting in it is the number that you want to bring into giffgaff from your other network.
The network (it may be either an MNO or an MVNO) that currently has your keep number.
The network that you want to bring your keep number to. In this case giffgaff.
Here is the happy path for a port in to the giffgaff network.
Note that each of these actions requires the MVNE technology to link to different systems in the network architecture. Note also that the MVNE will also batch these processes in relation to when the keep numbers are released by the donor networks.
It should now be clear why this process can take 24 hours for any network to complete a port (not just giffgaff), even under perfect conditions. It is simply because the process relies on humans to run, process, send and receive files and the humans involved do not work 24/7. They work typically from 9.00am to 5.00pm, and when they go home the process stops.
The most common example is that the keep numbers are not released by the donor network until late in the working day. The file then may take two or three hours or more to be transferred, opened, checked, loaded, and processed. If that cannot be completed it will be finished at the start of the next working day.
This is of course highly frustrating for members who may be without service during this time. But it is a problem with the system itself and not with giffgaff and all UK networks experience this.
The cost of maintaining all the staff needed out of hours, to handle the small % of ports that this happens to is prohibitively expensive and not something that any network would provide let alone a small, low-cost network like giffgaff.
The only way around this is for the industry as a whole to move to a different, more automated porting system as is the case in other parts of the world such as New Zealand.
But as you can imagine this is a complicated task requiring all UK network operators to agree, as well as infrastructure development and a new regulatory framework. Talks and plans are underway but it won't be anytime soon that this happens.
It is logically possible for faults to occur at each of the stages outlined above. And below I have listed a few examples. This list is not exhaustive but is intended to demonstrate the range of things that CAN go wrong and give some idea of how difficult it can be to work out exactly what has gone wrong in any particular case. Some of these issues are much more likely and happen more frequently than others. Many of these have never happened.
Here is a quick video that will guide you through all the steps.