Ofcom today announced plans to make it easier to keep your mobile phone number when switching to a new mobile operator.

The regulator is currently seeking views on its proposed plans . Switching to a new mobile operator is a process Ofcom says should take around two hours when the plans come in to play in 2009.

In the meantime, Ofcom is requesting that this process is completed in two days rather than the current five-day period. The present process is too lengthy, Ofcom says, and places responsibility on you as the customer to make sure the number transfer happens.

Currently, if you want to switch your mobile number to another operator, you have to obtain a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from your current provider. Then you have to wait up to five working days for the number to be transferred to the new network.

Speeding up the switching process

Ofcom said it wants to ensure that you are able to select a new mobile provider, buy a new SIM card and receive calls using your old number as quickly as possible. It also wants to make sure that operators have no reason to be discouraged from letting you take your existing number with you.

"The UK was one of the first countries to introduce number portability and this has helped create a competitive mobile market in the UK," said Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom.

"However, the original process is now out-of-date. We believe that the industry should introduce a new system which will stimulate competition and encourage consumers to exercise choice between competing suppliers with a minimum of inconvenience."

According to Ofcom's own research, about half of those who have switched their number to a new network think the process could be improved. Therefore, Ofcom has decided that, as of 1 April 2008, all mobile operators must transfer numbers no later than two days after a consumer has decided to switch operator. It hopes to introduce the two-hour transfer legislation by September 2009.