When you want to transfer a phone number from one carrier to another, what happens? Number portability seems like a simple process, allowing you to retain the same phone number while switching service providers without experiencing service disruptions, but it’s surprisingly complex for regulatory reasons. The current 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 carrier changes. The process is overseen by the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC), the administrative body of the FCC that facilitates portability for local numbers within the United States and Canada.
One of the most common questions we get about number porting is “how long will it take?” In most cases, porting a phone number can be completed within 10 business days of submitting an application. For more complicated ports that require custom routing, it can take 15–20 business days — though this timeline may vary between service providers. If there are any issues at any step, however, you may be requested to resubmit your application, which can double the amount of time needed.
Here are a few tips on what you can do to ensure that your porting application is not held up or rejected.
What happens during the phone number porting process?
Submitting a porting request sets off a flurry of communication between your current and new carrier. The process is subject to delays due to the complexity of the checks and validations required to prevent tampering, fraud, and illegal phone number transfers before the relatively straightforward technical porting takes place.
The process has four main phases: eligibility, application, validation, and porting. In the first three phases you can undertake certain activities to help speed up your application or prevent it from being delayed.
Before you initiate the number porting process, check with your new carrier as to whether the phone numbers you want to port are eligible. The portability of phone numbers differs among countries and depends on the type of phone number and region you are porting into and out of. These limitations may be regulatory or technical.
If a phone number is not portable, you can’t switch it to another service provider. In that case, you’ll need to 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 doesn’t get rejected
How you submit a portability request varies from carrier to carrier. Requests are often made through a dedicated porting portal. If your new carrier doesn’t have one, raise a portability verification request to their support team.
During this early stage, you should consider the costs associated with porting out of your current carrier and into your new one. Within the US and Canada, most carriers charge port-out and port-in fees per phone number, both of which must be paid before the porting can be initiated.
Here’s a checklist to follow before you submit a porting application to ensure that your request doesn’t get rejected by your current or new carrier.
- Check porting eligibility of new carrier account: Check that the account you have with your new carrier allows for number porting. In some instances, you may have to upgrade from 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 of a balance to cover the phone number rental and porting fees associated with the newly ported phone numbers.
- Ask the new carrier about credit checks: If you’re porting over many phone numbers or require a post-paid payment plan with your new carrier, you may be subject to a credit check. Do this before submitting your application.
- Pay porting fees and any outstanding payments due to current carrier: Ensure that there are no outstanding payments due with your current carrier, including termination, port-out, and prior usage fees. Outstanding charges may lead your current carrier to reject the porting request.
- Activate all phone numbers with current carrier: Check with your current carrier that the phone numbers you want 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: Having another service request pending with the current carrier may lead to a rejection. Request that your current carrier suspend all conflicting service requests so that the porting request can be processed.
Once the new operator confirms your phone numbers’ eligibility for porting, you can submit your porting request to the new operator. That means 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 or passcode if you’re making a wireless port.
Things you can do to ensure that your request doesn’t get rejected
Phone number validation is important, as phone numbers can be attached to large customer bases and privacy can be a serious concern. You must find out exactly what your new carrier is requesting and what your current carrier has on file regarding your account and your phone numbers. If you’re unsure, request the information from your current carrier before you submit the application. Here are specific things you should pay attention to:
- Request application templates: Ask your new carrier for templates of their required documents, to ensure that your application adheres to their standards. Every carrier has their own set of documents and standards.
- Match all the information provided: Ensure that all the documents you provide have the same names, addresses, and signatures, and that they match what your current provider has on file. If you’re unsure, request this information from your current carrier.
- Match account number to phone numbers: Ensure that the account number of all of the associated phone numbers in your porting request matches 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 that they signed the LOA. If you’re unsure who it is, ask your current carrier.
- Use the correct wireless PIN/passcode: The PIN provided for a wireless phone number must match the one on file with your current carrier. You can obtain the PIN from your current carrier.
After you file the porting application, the new operator will communicate with your current service provider to validate that the organization requesting the port is indeed the owner of the phone numbers. More specifically, the new carrier provides all of your validation documents to your current service provider, which validates it if all the information matches what’s in your current carrier’s database. At that time, the current carrier sends a confirmation to your new operator along with a Firm Order Confirmation (FOC) date — the date that the new operator can port the phone number.
Things you can do to speed things up
Even though you have no control over the FOC date, you may be able to request a specific activation date (sometime 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 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 porting is complete with the new carrier. There’s not much variance in this part of the porting process. Once porting is complete, test all of your newly ported phone numbers to ensure that they’re working properly.
Successful phone number porting
The phone number porting process might seem daunting at first, but once you successfully complete your first porting request, all subsequent applications are just duplications of the first. Since porting is a highly regulated affair in North America, carriers must be extra careful with new porting requests from customers they are unfamiliar with, so ensure that all of your information is correct before you submit your application.