Portability of cell phone and landline numbers
What is number portability?
Number portability means that, with some important limits, you own your phone number. You can take your phone number with you when you switch wireless phone companies. You can even take your home landline phone number and assign it to your wireless phone. In the near future, you may also be able to move a cell phone number to a landline.
So what are the "important limits?"
Basically, the most important limit is location. If you are switching the number between wireless phone companies, both must serve your local area. If you are switching from a landline to a cell phone, the cell phone company must serve the area you are in.
Cell phone portability will also only be available initially in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country. This includes almost all of the population California including Southern California, the Bay Area and most of the Central Valley. If you are in a smaller area, you can ask a local cell phone retailer or look at the map at the FCC website to see if you are covered. (See link below).
What if I am still under contract with my cell phone company?
You can still switch service and take your number with you. However, you will be breaking your contract with the old company and will have to pay whatever termination fees you might owe.
Beware: Many people are still under cell phone contracts without realizing it. If you made any changes to your account or upgraded your phone, you may have started new contract. Review your contract or talk to your old company to find out if you are subject to a termination fee.
So I want to take my wireless phone number to a new company, how do I do it?
All you need to do is go to the new carrier you choose and tell them what you want. Don't cancel with your old company. This may cause you to lose your number. The new carrier will take care of the cancellation for you.
We recommend that you bring a recent cell phone bill with you when you switch. This will help the companies locate the right account.
The only person allowed to request the switch is the designated account holder, so that person must be present to make the switch happen.
The whole process of switching among cell phone companies should only take about two to three hours, according to the FCC. To avoid any problems, UCAN recommends you go to a company-owned cell phone store, rather than deal with an agent that might not be well trained.
And what if I want to take my home wireline number and assign it to a wireless phone?
If you are getting new cell phone service, don't cancel with the old company, just go to the new provider and tell them what you want, and let them take care of it. Again, you should bring a copy of a recent bill on the phone number you are trying to switch so the company can easily access your records.
If you want to keep your current cell phone service, but change your cell phone number to match your home landline number, contact your cell phone company. Your company may require you to enter a new contract or change service plans.
Switching numbers between landline and cell phone will also take some time. Your new service could be interrupted. Right now, the FCC thinks companies will take a few days to complete the switch so ask your new provider how long it will take.
Does it cost anything to switch?
The biggest cost will probably be the new phone you will need to buy. Right now, cell phones that work on one service will not work on another. You will almost certainly have to get a new phone if you are switching to a new company. The carriers are permitted to charge you for changing your phone number. As of now, none have announced any specific charges, but you should still ask. Many carriers have collected "regulatory fees" for years to pay for the cost of number portability, so they should have plenty of money to pay for it.
If a wireless company wants to charge you a switching fee, challenge them; most wireless companies have indicated that they'll waive any switching fees.
Here's how to do it:
1. Tell the new provider you want to "port" your number. Bring a copy of your phone bill and the new carrier will take it from there. But don't cancel your old company yet ...
2. After your number ports: Your old company will consider your account cancelled and send a final bill. If you are still under a contract, you will owe a termination fee.
3. Numbers should be ported quickly: Porting should occur in a matter of hours. Numbers should switch from landlines to cell phones within a few days. If yours takes too long, call your new company, then let UCAN know.
4. You will usually need a new phone.
Most phones are locked to prevent their use on other systems.