Understanding the Ins and Outs of VoIP Phone Number Portability

You can port your phone number as long as you stay in the same area

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Porting refers to keeping your phone number when you change phone service. As long as you remain in the same geographic locale, the Federal Communications Commission has ruled that you can port your existing phone number between landline, IP, and wireless providers.

However, if you move to a different geographic area, you may not be able to port your phone number when you change providers. Also, some rural providers have state waivers regarding porting. If you encounter this rural exception, contact the state public utilities commission for more information.

How to Port Your Phone Number

Check your current phone contract. It may have early termination fees or outstanding balances you are required to pay. Don't end your current service before contacting the new company; it must be active at the time the number is ported. When you are ready to begin the process of porting your number:

  1. Call the new company to start the porting process. The new carrier is not required to accept your ported number, but most do to acquire a new customer.
  2. If you want to keep your existing phone, give the new provider its ESN/IMEI number. Not all phones are compatible with every company. 
  3. Give the new company your 10-digit phone number and other information it requests (often the account number and password or PIN).
  4. The new company contacts your existing company to handle the porting process. You don't need to do anything. Your old service is canceled.
  5. You may receive a closing statement from your old provider.

If you are porting from one wireless provider to another, you should be able to use your new phone within hours. If you are porting from a landline to a wireless provider, the process may take a couple of days. A landline long distance package won't move with you to a wireless provider, but long distance can be included in your new contract. Text messaging services usually take longer to make the transition from one phone to another. Allow three days.

Does It Cost to Port a Number?

Legally, companies can charge you to port your number. Contact your current provider to find out what it charges, if anything. You can request a waiver, but each company has different regulations. That said, no company can refuse to port your number just because you have not paid a porting fee. For that matter, the company cannot refuse to port your number even if you are behind on your payments to your current provider. You remain liable for the debt though, even after the number transfer.