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New phone? What to know about porting phone numbers and transferring service

Taylor Gadsden

Jan 23, 2020 — 4 min read

Just because you’re switching providers doesn’t mean you can’t take your phone number with you.

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Once you finally get your hands on your brand new phone, you’ve got a new look, features and maybe even a new wireless provider. However, the last thing you want is a new phone number, especially when you have so much history with your old one. 

The good news? You can switch providers, upgrade your device and keep the mobile number you know and love. We’ll unlock the mysteries of porting your number and each way you can do it yourself error-free. 

What is porting?

To “port” a phone number simply means to transfer the existing service from one provider to another. Thanks to the federal regulation known as Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP), it’s actually your right as a consumer to do so. 

Porting your phone number is typically a permanent change, as customers usually conclude service with the old provider.

Things to know before porting your phone number

Although the process is fairly straightforward, here are a few things you should know about porting your mobile phone number before you make the switch:

  • You must be located within the same geographic location. Otherwise, the decision to port is at the discretion of the provider.
  • Your existing carrier can’t stop you from taking your number to a new one. That’s even if you owe outstanding termination fees. The new carrier can refuse service, but it’s highly unlikely with most major mobile providers. 
  • You must be the primary account holder to authorize a number port. If the idea of porting sounds a little too easy, it isn’t for just anyone. You’ll be asked by your current provider to complete a few security measures to prove you’re allowed to make the request.
  • You can port numbers between wireline, IP and wireless providers but only to a new line. Numbers assigned to a prepaid account can be ported as long as service is active at the time of the transfer request.

How to transfer your phone number

Before taking steps to transfer your phone service to a new provider, be sure to leave existing service active. You won’t be able to port your current phone number once you’ve already canceled and your number will go back into a pool for the general public.

Contact the new provider and have all your account information on hand including your name, address and the account number on the billing statement. It’s also a good idea to have the IMEI number of your device, just in case you need it as well.

From here, your new provider should do all the heavy lifting. They’ll contact your old provider and begin the porting process on your behalf.  Once service with your new provider begins, your old plan will be automatically deactivated, but it’s not a bad idea to contact the old provider to be sure there’s no outstanding balance on your old account. 

Frequently asked questions about porting your mobile phone number

How long does porting take?

If your port only involves one line and no equipment adjustments, your port should be complete within one business day, according to the FCC. More complex transfers, like porting from wireline to wireless service, may take up to a few days. 

Will it cost money to port my number?

Fees associated with your port will depend on your provider and whether or not you’re exiting an agreement that may incur charges. If you’re unsure, talk to your current provider about the terms of your contract before requesting a transfer to a new carrier. You may be able to waive or negotiate the charges.  

Will I experience service issues during porting?

During a transfer from wireline to wireless service, there may be a time where both your old and new device will operate with the same number. A wireline-to-wireless port could take up to a few days. Before transfer, ask your new wireless provider how long the port is expected to take and how emergency service calls will be affected. 

Do all providers have to port my number at my request?

As long as you remain in the same geographic area, you have the right to request a number port between providers. If you’re moving to a new location and switching providers, you may not be able to keep your current number. Some rural wireline providers may receive waivers from state authorities disabling customers from porting to a new carrier. 

Will my voicemail, apps and contact information transfer to my new phone with porting? 

During the porting process, your service will only be transferred from one provider to the next. All other personal information, including voicemails, apps, contacts, text messages and photos, will require a data transfer between your old and new devices.

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