A new phone system means new capabilities, especially if you've chosen a hosted VoIP service. Some advantages of switching to VoIP include: mobile softphones, video call links on your website, rich call data, and integrations with CRM platforms.
One of the first steps in your transition to the new service is moving your phone numbers from your old provider to your new one. If you’ve never done this before, you may feel like a flying trapeze artist who must trust that their partner is in the right position to catch them. Rest assured that porting your business number is nowhere near that level of scary. Especially if you educate yourself by reading through our frequently asked questions, tips, and best practices.
Local Number Portability Questions and Answers
Q: What is number portability?
The process of transferring a phone number from one service provider to another (landline, wireless or IP) is known as Local Number Portability (LNP) or Number Portability for short. The U.S. federal government mandated this ability, one of the many provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to allow consumers to keep their phone numbers if they switched telephone providers and remain in the same geographic area. A goal of the act was to increase competition among providers.
This protection has its limitations, however. The Federal Communications Commission website lists two situations where porting a number may not be possible:
- If you are moving to a new geographic area.
- If you are using a rural wireline service provider. The site mentions that some of these providers may obtain exemptions from the LNP mandate from state authorities. As a consumer, you can contact your state public utilities commission for more info if this is the reason you cannot port your number away.
If you have trouble porting your business phone number to a new provider, check out our blog post for alternative solutions.
Q: Can I find out if my numbers are portable before I sign up for new service?
Your new service provider should make it easy to perform a phone number portability check and see if you can keep your business phone numbers. For example, OnSIP has two ways to check. Either call 800-801-3381, ext. 7678 (PORT) or email the numbers to email@example.com and ask.
Q: What's the typical port process?
To begin the porting process, contact your new service provider and give them every 10-digit phone number you want to keep. You will probably have to provide a copy of your most recent phone bill (dated within the last 30 days), so have that ready beforehand. This bill proves that you (or your business) own the phone numbers that you want to port. Make sure the bill clearly lists:
- The customer or business name
- The billing / service address
- Each phone number to be ported
If you don’t have a recent bill, request a Customer Service Record (CSR) from the provider you’re leaving. The FCC mandates that all telephone service providers must supply a CSR upon request by the customer. This document will list all of the required information.
Once you provide a proof of ownership document to your new service provider, they will ask you to sign a Letter of Authorization (LOA). Your new provider must have this letter on file—it's proof that you, as the owner of the phone numbers, authorized them to initiate the port and remove the numbers from the current provider. Complete, sign, date, and return the LOA to your new service provider.
Once all of the paperwork is in, you just have to wait for the LNP process to complete!
Q: How long does the LNP process take?
Porting a local phone number typically takes 2 to 4 weeks, while porting a toll-free number typically takes 6 to 10 business days.
Q: Are there any fees involved?
Your new service provider will usually charge a fee for porting numbers to their database, and it will vary from provider to provider. This fee covers any paperwork that is involved in the local number portability process, as well as the staff's time for retrieving the numbers from your current provider. Trust us—it is an intricate process with a lot of moving parts!
If you are porting a large block of numbers, your new provider may offer discounted rates. If they don't mention a discount, it's worth asking for one.
The FCC site also lists conditions regarding porting fees. One such provision is that your current provider cannot refuse to port your number away, except for the two LNP limitations we already mentioned. This is true even if you owe an outstanding balance or service termination fee.
Q: Can I port a toll-free number to a new provider?
Yes, you can port toll-free numbers to a new service provider.
Phone Number Portability Check Tips and Best Practices
- Check with the provider you’re leaving to find out if there are any early termination fees or outstanding balances that you have to pay for closing your account with them. Inform them that you will be porting away your phone numbers.
- Do not terminate the service with your former provider until after your numbers have been successfully ported to your new provider. Otherwise, your old number may be returned to the public pool of numbers and it’s next to impossible to get it back.
- While your LNP process is underway, set up the call routing rules with your new service, as well as any features that you require, such as voicemail messages, auto attendant menus, or ring groups. This will ensure that when your numbers do port over, calls will route as you want them to in your new service.
- Ask the provider you are leaving to Remote Call Forward (RCF) the numbers that are being ported to new, temporary phone numbers on your new service. You should be able to purchase or obtain these numbers from the new provider. This process will forward all calls made to the numbers that are being ported onto temporary numbers with your new provider. Once all your phone numbers have been ported, make sure to remove these temporary numbers from your account, unless you wish to use them for other purposes.
- Once your numbers have been successfully ported to the new phone service provider, cancel your service with your old provider.