The current system takes 2 days once the user obtains a PAC (Porting Authorisation Code), but from 1999 the (fax based) process took up to 25 days.
The PAC should be given to consumer instantly over the phone or within 2 hours if sent by text message (SMS) which is vast improvement over the way it works now as operators can choose to send the PAC by post which can still take up to 2 weeks.
Ofcom has fought hard to make mobile number porting work and in October 2007 completed a consultation where they wanted the MNOs to complete porting within 2 hours to be implemented by 1st September 2009. Unfortunately Vodafone took Ofcom to court (Competition Appeal Tribunal) and the CAT agreed with Vodafone and Ofcom had to go back to the drawing board.
Though Ofcom has now mandated 1 working day process, the UK is pretty much the ONLY country in the world that utilises what’s known as “donor led porting” whereby a user requests a code from the originating network which is donated to the receiving network. As well as being cumbersome for the user, it’s also very inefficient in terms of how the networks actually work (for the technical readers there’s an entry in the originating network’s HLR or home lookup register that points to the new network – at the network level that means all calls to that ported number must first do a lookup in the originating HLR which bounces the call or SMS etc to the ported network).
The global standard is for a ‘Recipient-Led’ system whereby the customer contacts the new network and they do all the hard work for them, this can lead to very quick port times (less than 2 hours), but in some countries it can still take up to 60 days.