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Changing Wireless Carriers? You Can Now Keep the Same Number


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Consumers who would like to keep their wireless phone number when changing their wireless service carrier may now do so. Under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) wireless “local number portability” rule, you can switch wireless carriers within the same geographic area and keep your existing phone number. However, if you move to a new town or city, you will not be able to keep your same phone number. Consumers can also switch their home telephone numbers to their wireless carrier and keep the same number.

If you want to change carriers, the FCC suggests the following:

  • Do not cancel your service with your existing carrier before initiating service with the prospective new carrier. The number must be active to switch.

  • Contact your prospective new carrier, who will start the porting process. The new carrier should confirm your identity and then make a porting request of the old carrier.

  • To help the porting process go smoothly, have a recent wireless bill handy, which will have their correct name and address as it appears in the carrier’s database.

  • Read your existing contract carefully to learn about any applicable early termination fees and other contractual requirements. Once you request service from the new carrier, your old carrier may not refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee.

  • Carriers are allowed to charge a fee to recover their “porting” costs. Carriers may or may not choose to charge a fee, and their fees may vary. If they do charge a fee, it cannot exceed their porting costs.

  • Ask your new carrier whether it has a policy of paying or reimbursing porting charges.

  • Only the authorized account holder can switch a number, so don’t try to delegate this task to another family member. The process can take place in a retail store or over the phone.

  • Before porting either a wireless or a wireline number, ask the new carrier how long the porting process will take and how the porting process will affect a call to 911 services.

  • Ask your new carrier whether or not your current phone will work with that carrier’s network. In some instances, wireless handsets among different wireless service providers are incompatible. If you switch wireless service providers, you may need to purchase a new phone, even if you retain the same phone number.

  • Also, be aware that in a few areas, as you roam, consumers with ported numbers may not be able to send and receive calls; other services, such as caller ID, may not function properly.

For more information on wireless local number portability contact the FCC’s Consumer Center toll-free at 1.888.225.5322 or visit their Web site at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/NumberPortability.

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