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Liberty Mobile won’t change numbers of AT&T subscribers in Puerto Rico, USVI

Earlier this week, it was learned that an unspecified number of AT&T customers in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that were not transitioned to Liberty Puerto Rico will be losing their wireless numbers because of the sale of the carrier late last year.

AT&T has limited its comments to saying that it has begun to transition a group of clients who appear to be using their mobile numbers with 787, 939, and 340 area codes, while living or spending most of their time in the US mainland. The carrier is offering them a $100 gift card for their “inconvenience.”

When Liberty Puerto Rico closed its acquisition of AT&T last year, it took over assets — including customers — in Puerto Rico and the USVI and integrated them into its new Liberty Mobile division. AT&T US retained a small block of clients.

While Liberty said it had nothing to do with the decision, it also refrained from confirming if it knew this would eventually happen.

“While we cannot comment on negotiations, we have always maintained that Liberty customers’ numbers, rates and plans would not be affected,” said Giovanna Ramirez de Arellano, senior communications director, Liberty Communications of Puerto Rico, LLC. “This is an AT&T US decision and action, and Liberty has nothing to do with it.”

“This is an AT&T US matter and decision. Liberty has nothing to do with it nor do we have any control over it. Liberty can only make decisions on the Puerto Rico and USVI customers that were part of the purchase. We have no control over decisions made for customers that AT&T USA retained and were not part of the transaction,” she added.

“We don’t have details about why, how many or timing. For further comment on AT&T policies, you will need to contact AT&T (US),” she said.

AT&T has been notifying individual customers via email recently about the impending change. A source with knowledge of the telecom industry told News is my Business that it is costly for the carrier to keep a small group of clients, for which it pays taxes and other fees, active in a market from which it has exited.

Meanwhile, Ramírez de Arellano said Liberty Mobile will not change phone numbers for customers who were transferred to the company with the acquisition.

“Further, Liberty Mobile does not place any restrictions on customers who wish to transfer their numbers to another company. It is completely up to the other carrier to receive those numbers with the area code and keep them unchanged,” she explained.

At the crux of the issue is what is known in the industry as number portability. This means that a subscriber’s wireless number is technically theirs, and which they can take with them if they switch carriers.

However, although provisions are made for individuals to keep their phone numbers when switching networks, those guarantees don’t always apply when users move from state to state or from the Caribbean to the US mainland, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Our customers aren’t being affected. This has no impact on customers who transitioned to Liberty. We welcome any customer from any company if we can provide service in their area,” Ramírez de Arellano said.

“The customers that were transferred to Liberty Mobile — regardless of the area codes — will keep their numbers,” she concluded.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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