From May 1, 2002, Italian mobile users will be able to keep their personal phone numbers even when switching networks. Previously, customers had been reluctant to change operators even if other companies were offering better deals because of the inconvenience of having to change number.
The Italian telecoms regulator has made the changes to give consumers greater flexibility and freedom. At present, Vodafone and TIM hold nearly 80% of the market. The new rule is likely to stimulate customers to change operators, which will benefit the smaller networks trying to compete in the saturated market.
Operators that poach customers from other networks will have to pay a levy of E27 per subscriber, up until January 1, 2003 after which the fee will either be scrapped or reduced to a maximum of E10.