How to Port a Phone Number to a New Carrier
Any number of situations may arise that will require you to port a phone number from your current service provider to a new carrier.
Whatever your reasons, porting a phone number can be a challenge, especially if you have never before initiated a port.
Today we'll look at the porting process and how it differs between toll free numbers and local phone numbers.
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What is Number Porting?
In practical terms, porting means moving your existing number from a current carrier to a new one like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Google Voice, or a VoIP provider. Porting a number is different from “call forwarding,” which lets you send telephone calls from one number to another.
The need to port an existing phone number can be driven by various motivations. You might have heard of a more reliable service, for example, or standards may have slipped at your current provider. Alternatively, it might be better customer service or cheaper rates that you're seeking.
While the motivations come from the consumer or business, carriers hold all the cards when it comes to porting. Thankfully, consumers and businesses are protected by a long list of FCC-enforced regulations intended to make the process as painless as possible.
Pay-as-you-go phone numbers can also be ported but they must be active when making a porting request.
First, it is essential to understand that toll-free numbers and local numbers are not regulated in the same way.
Toll-free numbers were explicitly designed to be ported to increase competition among carriers to retain high-value business clients. By contrast, local numbers were never intended to be ported at all. However, the rise of cell phones forced the FCC and associated regulatory committees to change the rules to allow porting.
In the next sections, we'll look at the distinct differences between porting each type of number and what you need to know to make the process as painless as possible.
How to Port a Toll-Free Number
Toll-free numbers are considered a public utility, meaning they are technically all government property.
All toll-free numbers are managed in a central database called SOMOS. While you may not have heard of SOMOS, they are an integral part of your toll-free service. Within the database, each toll free number is assigned a Responsible Organization (RespOrg).
RespOrg's are entities with permission to make changes to the SOMOS database. In turn, they manage the individual toll-free subscriptions for end-users - you - and make the changes to your toll-free subscription on your behalf. By default, your telephone company is your RespOrg.
If you are unhappy with your current phone provider, you can make a change with relative ease. Directly contact the new provider you wish to utilize for your phone service and work with them to make the switch.
Your new phone provider will take care of most of the process, but be sure to communicate openly with your old phone service provider to let them know you will be porting the number away from them.To port a toll-free number, the following steps must be followed in sequence:
- Fill and sign an LOA (Letter of Agency). These are primarily permission forms, signed by you, to port a toll-free number away from your old carrier to the new one.
- Provide proof that the phone number is indeed yours by including your account number and, in some cases, a bill of service with the LOA.
- Confirm approval. Once a port request is submitted, the losing carrier (meaning the carrier from whom the number is being ported) has three days to approve or deny the request.
- Complete the transfer. Once a port request is approved, the gaining carrier (meaning the carrier to whom the number is being ported) receives the permissions to access the number in SOMOS, and it is their responsibility from that moment forward to input the proper routing instructions.
In most cases, a number port will not interrupt service. During the porting process, your phone service should work as it did before because porting does not affect standing routing instructions.
However, losing carriers sometimes terminate service early when they know the phone number is being ported away, which effectively turns off your phone service until the gaining carrier turns the number back on.
How to Port a Local Phone Number
Local phone numbers are managed by a central database called the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC). In contrast to toll-free numbers, local numbers are intrinsically connected to the phone company that owns them.
Why such numbers are attached to the local phone carrier is a somewhat complicated subject, but one that summarizes quite well like this: when the government broke up AT&T, they created several regional phone companies across the U.S. These local phone companies controlled their territories with little or no competition. They never created a means to port phone numbers because there was no need to do so.
When cell phones burst onto the telecom scene, consumers began to take and use their local phone numbers all over the place. More and more, they wanted to keep their phone numbers when they switched carriers, and the FCC recognized that to maintain competition in the industry, they had to change the way local numbers were assigned. It took over ten years for regulations to catch up with the times, but they eventually did, and the FCC put together a framework to make local numbers more easily portable.
Porting a local number is a laborious and complicated process. There are many steps involved, and any number of things can go wrong. In specific instances, it could take several days, even weeks, for a phone number to port correctly. You will be at the whims of the phone companies who technically have direct ownership over the phone number. Losing carriers have little to no incentive to drop a billable number, which means they will not put more effort into the port than necessary.
To port a local phone number, you need to carefully consider the phone company you chose for your new service.
Your new carrier will ultimately be responsible for the porting process. Local number porting is too complicated to cover concisely in a brief article, which is why we recommend you speak directly to your new carrier of choice to discuss the process. Some business owners have found the process so annoying that it was less effort for them to take a new number rather than port their old number.
To learn more about the local number porting process, and to view more of the rules and regulations set by the FCC, you can visit the FCC website directly.
Why Is a Cell Phone Number Easier to Port Than a Landline Number?
Did you ever notice in the early days of cell phones that certain service providers assigned specific patterns of numbers? For example, Sprint assigned 541-390 phone numbers in Oregon, whereas AT&T assigned 541-408 phone numbers.
New phone numbers are assigned in blocks of 10,000. Cell phone carriers had to jump through the same hoops as landline carriers to acquire new numbers. When the FCC realized that the numbers assigned to cell phones started to act more like toll-free numbers (meaning they were not geographically attached), they quickly required cell phone carriers to develop a porting system to allow consumers to switch mobile carriers at will, which in turn would increase competition among cell phone providers.
For this reason, cell phone providers developed local number porting systems long before traditional landline carriers. These systems made it easy to transfer a phone number from one wireless carrier to another. However, they face the same pitfalls as landlines in regards to porting from a cellular network to a landline network.
Choosing the Right Phone Number
The changes to local number portability have opened up a whole new sector in telecom: local vanity numbers.
While most business owners and consumers are familiar with vanity toll-free numbers like 1-800-WIRELESS or 1-800-HOMECARE, fewer people are aware that local vanity numbers are available.
Consumers can find numbers that spell their name (i.e., 541-390-JANE) and businesses can find more memorable local phone numbers (i.e., 541-FITNESS). Before the new porting rules, consumers and businesses had to take the phone number assigned to them by the local phone company. Those limitations are no longer true, giving individuals and organizations of any size the ability to leverage the marketing power of a custom, business phone number.
RingBoost offers the most extensive inventory of vanity local and toll-free numbers to fit your business. We also have the tools and experience to port a phone number to your carrier quickly and seamlessly, meaning you can be up and running with your new number in no time.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
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- Written by: Dan Berkman on April 17, 2020
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- Written by: Dan Berkman on July 28, 2021
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