Technically Speaking, How Do I Port My Phone Number

Joanna Brown

Joanna Brown

There is no reason to give up your phone number just because you’ve got a new phone system. It makes sense to port or move your number to your new provider, because that’s how customers contact you.

For your new phone supplier, porting a number can be very simple or get very complicated very fast.  And, there’s little indication of what’s coming at the start of the process. The realities of moving a number between competitors can be frustrating, but they will proceed much smoother with planning and patience.

What’s involved in porting a business phone number to another provider?

That’s not really a fair question. There are many different answers depending on the context and what you are trying to achieve.

For the vast majority of people, all that is involved is asking the new phone service provider, “Please port my number.”

That simple request sets off a chain reaction that goes on behind the scenes among a host of telecom players. In some instances there can be as many as five or six providers in the chain. Making matters worse, your new provider has zero power to get information or force these middle-men to act in a reasonable time.

The situation sounds ridiculous, and it is. And for your new provider, it’s the worst. They start a porting process at your request, but have no ability to make it happen on time, or actually get it done at all. And remember, the losing provider does not care – they are losing your business. Fortunately, most countries compel (by regulations), the losing providers to act within certain time-frames.

In New Zealand for instance, carriers participate in the Local and Mobile Number Portability (LMNP) program, use common technology and agree to certain rights and obligations of all the parties involved. The centralized system for handling porting is known as the Industry Portability Management System (IPMS).

Unfortunately, not every country is as organized as New Zealand.

LMNP porting process

You can download the full white paper on IMPS here.

In Australia, the regulatory framework for number portability is a combination of formal government regulation and industry-wide self-regulation. It is co-ordinated and governed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Communications Alliance. Read more about the minutiae of the porting agreements here.

However, while the Australia system sounds good, the reality is (that unlike New Zealand), Australia has no central technology, so porting timeframes are still hit and miss. Worse, if you ask your new provider to start a port in Australia and anyone of the five or six telecom parties in the porting process does not play ball, you’re totally out of luck. The only legal course of action you have, is to lodge a complaint about your new provider with the Ombudsman. The joke is that your new provider has zero ability to actually get information or force any other provider in the chain, to actually act.

Can all business phone numbers be moved (ported) to new phone system providers?

Unfortunately, no. There are several reasons why a port request might fail. An initial port request rejection may still be able to be ported with adjustments.

The majority of carrier rejections can be avoided if you submit the exact information that your current carrier has on file. If you have any question about what’s on file, contact your current carrier ahead of the port request to verify it. The most recent bill from your current carrier will should have all the information you need.

Here are the most common reasons for port request failures:

1 Wrong information – As mentioned above, the details of the port request don’t match the Customer Service Record (CSR) of the old carrier. That could mean there’s a data mismatch on info like authorized user, service address, postal code, etc. Contacting the carrier and adding authorized users are usually enough to correct any mismatches, then the porting request can be resubmitted.

2 Locked numbers – A port request might have all the right info but the number may be switched off for porting. If there is an unpaid balance or a port away fee, those must be taken care of before requesting the port again. The number could just be inactive from lack of use, in which case the carrier just needs to reactivate it.

Another problem occurs when a business operates many lines. The company needs to let the new provider know what the master billing number is for all the lines before it can be ported. Also, Google Voice is one the providers that keeps numbers locked unless you specifically request it to be unlocked before a port request.

Finally, some providers have purchased the number you used from another provider. If the new carrier sees this rejection code, you will need to contact the old provider and get detailed directions on how to port it.

3 Unportables – There are just simply some regions of the world where numbers don’t port from one place to another. In those cases, you may need to forward calls from the old number to the new number. Usually this can be done through an online portal.

How can I tell if my business phone number can be ported to another provider?

Firstly, all phone system number providers are bound by regulations that ensure your rights to port your phone number away to a new provider. The caveat being special numbers and services (such as vanity numbers for instance).

So, the best thing to do is to simply ask your new provider to start the porting process. Once the porting process starts, you will quickly know if there are going to be problems porting your number.

At Spoke Phone we’ve been able to successfully port 99% of numbers for our customers.

The average time to port depends on each country, but Spoke customer ports are averaging about 10 business days.

The one thing to look out for is Skype numbers and numbers provided by low cost cloud providers.  And then there is Skype, who typically disconnect your number the moment you request a port, and you’re left without calls for 20 to 60 days while the port is completed.

If my business phone number cannot be ported, what can I do to get my new VoIP business phone system up and running?

Firstly, all is not lost. A large number of companies change their phone number and their business keeps on running just fine. 

With today’s smart phones, address books, and Google, no one really remembers phone numbers anymore anyway. They simply search, tap, and dial.

The reality is that changing your business phone number is not the big deal it once was. Here is a process to ensure your customers transition to your new phone number with ease:

  1. Update your website with your new number/s
  2. Update your social media pages
  3. Update your company search listing on Google
  4. Update your email signature
  5. Send an email to your customers asking them to update their records
  6. Place a message on your old number/line, telling callers about your new number/s
  7. Leave your old line/s active for 30-60 days
  8. Send out a reminder email to your customers one week before you shut off the old number/line

From our experience, companies that follow a similar process have no issues at all, and most see calls to the old number dry up within days.

Of course, if you have stationary printed it is a pain, but think about what you do when a number no longer rings. You search Google, tap on the number and make the call. 

Changing your business phone number is not the problem it once used to be.

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