Number portability may seem like a simple process on the surface, but it is surprisingly complex in the backend. Once your porting request is submitted to your new carrier, communication between your current and new carrier initiates a list of validations before the technical process can even begin.This process was put in place by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Department of Telecommunication (DoT) to ensure that phone number ownership is properly validated before changing carriers.
If number porting is new to you, simply put, it is the act of transferring a phone number from one telephone service provider (i.e., carrier) to another telephone service provider. Number porting has the advantage of retaining the same phone number while switching service providers. This means that customers will not experience service disruptions and companies can retain their user base from existing phone numbers.
One of the most common questions about number porting is “how long will it take?”. Even though the FCC advocates for consumers stating that,”delays in number porting cost consumers money and impede their ability to choose providers based solely on price, quality and service”. However, it is often not as simple as some businesses have experienced because of a lack of transparency in the porting process. This article will help you understand the process and let you know what you can do at each stage to ensure that your porting application is not held up or rejected.
What happens during the phone number porting process?
Potential delays can be due to the complexity of checks and balances within the porting process. That is, the paperwork that is essential to validate ownership and prevent tampering, fraud, and illegal phone number transfers. This process which the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC), the administrative body of the FCC that facilitates portability for local numbers within the United States and Canada, defines can be broken down into 4 main phases. We’ve also added the activities you can do at each phase of the process to help speed up or prevent your application from being held up.
In most cases, porting a phone number can be completed within 10 business days of submitting your application. For more complicated ports that require custom routing, it can take 15-20 business days. However, if there are any issues at any step, you may be requested to re-submit your application, which can easily double the amount of time needed. Therefore, it’s good to pay attention at each step to ensure that the right processes are followed. Although, do keep in mind that this timeline may vary between service providers and depends on their processes.
Before initiating the porting process, always check with your new carrier whether the phone numbers you want to port are eligible. The portability of phone numbers differs within each country and depends highly on the type of phone number and region you are porting in and out of. These limitations are regulatory as well as technical, as it might not be technically feasible to port phone numbers within certain number ranges.
If a phone number is not portable, then it will not be possible to switch service providers. In that case, you will need to evaluate and plan for a transition to a new phone number and ensure that your subscriber base is informed in advance.
Things you can do to ensure that your request does not get rejected
How you submit a portability request can vary from carrier to carrier. This is often done through a dedicated porting portal or if your new carrier doesn’t have one, raise a portability verification request to the support team.
During this evaluation stage, it’s also beneficial to assess the cost associated with porting out of your current carrier and porting into your new carrier. Within US and Canada, most carriers will charge a port out and port in fee per phone number. Both of these fees are typically required to be paid before the porting can be initiated. Below are items to check before you submit your application to ensure that your request doesn’t get rejected by your current or new carrier
- Check portability of new carrier account: Contact your new carrier to ensure that the account in you have with your new carrier allows for number porting. In some instances, you may have to upgrade a trial account to a full account.
- Pay porting and phone number rental fees to new carrier: Typically (especially in US and Canada), porting and phone number rental fees are required by all carriers. Play it safe by ensuring that your new carrier account has enough balance to cover the phone number rental and porting fees associated with the newly ported phone numbers.
- Possible credit checks with the new carrier: If you’re porting over a large amount of phone numbers or require a post-paid payment plan with your new carrier, you may be subject to a credit check. Ensure that this step is complete before submitting your application.
- Pay porting and all outstanding dues to current carrier: Ensure that there are no outstanding dues with your current carrier including termination, port-out, and prior usage fees. Any outstanding charges may lead to a rejection of the port request from your current carrier.
- Activate all phone numbers with current carrier: Check with your current carrier that the phone numbers you wish to port are active and in service during the entire porting process. Any service interruption during this process will lead to the cancellation of the port.
- Cancel all conflicting service requests: When another service request (e.g., porting request) pending with the current carrier, this may lead to a rejection. This can be resolved by requesting your current carrier to suspend all conflicting service requests so that the new porting request can be processed.
Once the new operator confirms the portability of your phone numbers, you can submit your porting request to the new operator. Essentially, you are presenting validation documents to the new service provider so that they can contact your existing operator to release your phone numbers. This typically requires a signed Letter of Authorization (LOA), a Customer Service Record (CSR) or recent invoice, and the wireless account PIN/Passcode if you’re making a wireless port.
Things you can do to ensure that your request does not get rejected
Validation of your phone numbers is taken very seriously, as phone numbers can be attached to large customer bases and privacy can be a serious concern. This is why it’s important to know exactly what your new carrier is requesting and what your current carrier has on file regarding your account and your phone numbers. If you are unsure, then request the information from your current carrier before you submit the application. Below are specific things that you should pay attention to:
- Request application templates: Ask your new carrier for templates of the required documents to ensure that your application adheres to their standards. Every carrier will have their own set of documents and standards.
- Match all the information provided: Ensure that all the documents you provide have the same name(s), address(es), and signature(s) and that it matches what your current provider will have on file. If you’re unsure, you can request this information from your current carrier.
- Match account number to all phone numbers: Ensure that the account number of all of the associated phone numbers in your porting request match the account number your current carrier has on file.
- Use a valid BTN: When the billing telephone number (BTN) is used as a master number to identify your account with your current carrier, ensure that it matches the one on file with your current carrier.
- Authorize the correct contact: Make sure that the person authorized to make changes on the account is the same person indicated on the porting request and also signed the Letter of Authorization (LOA). If you are unsure, you can ask your current carrier to provide this information.
- Correct wireless pin/passcode: The PIN provided for a wireless phone number must match the one on file with your current carrier. This is only applicable to wireless phone numbers. You can obtain the PIN from your current carrier.
Once the application is received, the new operator will communicate with your current service provider to validate that the person requesting the port is indeed the owner of the phone number(s). More specifically, your new carrier provides all of your validation documents to your current service provider. The ownership is validated after all the information matches of that in your current carrier’s database and a confirmation is sent to your new operator along with a Firm Order Confirmation (FOC) date. The FOC date is the official date that the new operator can port the phone number.
Things you can do to speed things up
Even though the subscriber has no control over the FOC date, you may be able to request a specific activation date (must be after the FOC date) for the ported phone numbers. Typically, if there are no issues with your application documents, then your current carrier can confirm your ownership within a few business days. However, you can notify your current carrier of the port-out request to ensure that the request came through and ask if they can prioritize your request.
The actual technical aspect of porting takes milliseconds to complete and involves routing updates in the systems of both your current and new carriers. This phase should not cause any service disruptions as your current service provider should deactivate service only after the porting is complete with the new carrier. There’s not much variance in this part of the porting process. However, once porting is complete, test all of your newly ported phone numbers to ensure that they are working properly.
The phone number porting process might seem daunting at first, but once you successfully complete your first porting request, all following applications are just duplications of the first. Since porting is a highly regulated affair in North America, carriers can be extra careful with new porting requests from customers they are unfamiliar with, so follow your carrier’s request for information diligently and ensure that all of your information is correct before submitting your application.