Senate OKs bill on 'lifetime' cellphone numbers

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The transfer from one mobile network to another will be free of charge. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — The Senate approved on Tuesday a bill allowing cellphone users to keep their numbers for life, even if they change service providers or subscription plans.

Senate Bill No. 1636, the proposed "The Lifetime Cellphone Number Act," was sponsored and authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

The bill was passed with 20 yes votes, without abstentions and negative votes.

Under the bill, public telecommunications entities (PTEs) in the Philippines should provide consumers with mobile number portability, allowing them to transfer from one network provider to another free of charge.

Cellphone users can also change their subscription plan, from postpaid accounts to prepaid ones under the same bill.

PTEs are given 24 hours to implement the MNP, or they could be penalized with fines up to P1 million.

"The bill would give consumers them the freedom to choose the provider that would give the best value for their money without having to lose or change their mobile numbers," Gatchalian said.

But the bill also ordered PTEs to keep the user's profile confidential, under the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

Gatchalian said that given the expected entry of new telecommunications players, cellphone numbers should become an extension of every subscriber's so-called digital identity, "so that consumer loyalty will not be determined by the fear of losing their numbers but through the dynamism of competition among players."

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed there are more than 102 million different phone numbers subscribed to the country's mobile networks.