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Wireless Number Portability

Appendix: Industry Economics »

In the past, when someone switched wireless providers, they were required to change their phone number. The arrival of wireless number portability in late 2003 enabled customers to take their phone numbers with them if they changed carriers.

Important Things to Keep in Mind about Portability:

  • Most important Sign up with your new carrier before you cancel your old service. If you cancel your existing service first, the number might not be transferable. Once the process is complete, service to your old phone should be automatically disconnected.
  • You can port your number to another carrier even if you are under contract. However, you must still honor the terms of your contract, which in this case probably means a contract termination penalty.
  • You can port your number even if you still owe your current carrier money. However, this does not release you from that obligation.
  • While your number is portable, your phone usually isn't; in most cases, you'll need to get a new one (see page 10).
  • You can port your number between wireline and wireless numbers. Keep in mind that while wireless ports can take as little as a couple hours, wireline-to-wireless moves may take several days.
  • Portability is local. This means, for example, that if you have a Boston number on your cell phone but move to Miami, you generally won't be able to port it directly with a Miami carrier.
  • Prepaid numbers are portable (see page 17), as are fax numbers; 800 numbers and pager numbers are not portable.
  • To be eligible to port a number, you must be the primary account holder. So, for example, if your service is in your company's name, you will not be able to transfer that number.
  • During the porting process, your ability to call 911 may be impacted. As you move from one carrier to another, it is possible that 911 calls may be relayed incorrectly.