Number mobility: 26 days and still holding

I got a new cellphone back on December 5th, swapping out my T-Mobile Sidekick for an AT&T Treo 600 (both good phones, but AT&T has much better coverage in my area). I also signed up to transfer my T-mobile number over to my new phone.

Twenty-six days and about 8 hours on hold with technical support later and I’m still waiting for my number to be transferred. The problem is a classic multi-system gridlock. AT&T sent a request for number transfer to T-mobile through Telcordia, an intermediary that handles number portability communication between the various telcos. They then sent a follow-up with more information, but the follow-up arrived at T-mobile before the main request arrived. This wedged T-mobile’s system and caused both requests to be dropped. Now T-mobile is asking AT&T to cancel and resubmit the request, because they can’t get their side unwedged. Unfortunately, AT&T’s system can’t cancel requests that are awaiting a response. Gridlock.

There’s no one person to blame here. T-mobile’s system clearly shouldn’t have gotten wedged so easily, Telcordia shouldn’t have delivered messages out of order, and AT&T shouldn’t have sat on the request for three weeks when they thought the ball wasn’t in their court. Most importantly, both telcos need more staff to cut through the hour+ hold times.

At long last I’ve gotten the problem escalated at AT&T, thanks to a dedicated number mobility group member named Andrea who was willing to wait through T-mobile’s hold time and patch me into the call. They now say it’ll be another 48-72 hours, which will bring them just under the 30-day return policy on my new phone. Here’s hoping…

Update: And 29 days after purchase, my new phone finally takes calls! (And there was much rejoicing.) FYI, you can cut to the head of AT&T’s customer support queue by dialing 1-888-799-1305 and selecting 3G and English. This is the priority queue used by AT&T stores, though customers can also use it. (Thanks to Nelson and Vyruz Reaper for the number.)