When switching to a new business phone service, you will have to decide whether or not to keep your existing phone number(s). If so, you will need to take action to transfer your phone number(s) from one provider to the other. In most cases, this process, called ‘porting’, occurs without any issues. However, there are certain cases where it’s not possible to keep your business phone number. In this blog, we will outline why this might happen, and offer some workarounds and alternatives.
What does porting a phone number mean?
Porting, or more formally, Local Number Portability (LNP), is the process of transferring a phone number from one service provider to another. It is mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Customers are responsible for providing the details of a port and initiating a request with their current provider. The provider is responsible for working with other providers to complete the port request and updating customers on the status of the port request.
According to the FCC, porting is not always possible:
“If you are moving to a new geographic area, you may not be able to keep your current phone number when changing providers.
Also, some rural wireline service providers may obtain waivers for the porting requirement from state authorities. Their customers may be unable to port their number to a new provider. If you are unable to port your number for that reason, contact your state public utilities commission for further information.”
There are a few other situations where a business phone number may not be able to be ported:
- A phone number cannot be ported if the customer has already cancelled service with their old provider and the number is no longer active or has been assigned to a new customer.
- A phone number cannot be ported if the new carrier does not have an interconnection agreement with the donor carrier.
- A phone number cannot be ported if the new carrier does not cover the rate center associated with your number.
- Pager phone numbers are typically owned by the paging company and cannot be ported away from them.
What to do when you can’t port your business phone number
Depending on the situation, there are a number of alternatives in the case that you cannot port your business phone number to your new provider.
The first option is to purchase a local or toll free vanity phone number that closely matches the non-portable phone number. Most providers have a pool of phone numbers available for purchase and immediate use from an online administrative portal. In this case, you should notify existing customers and contacts of the change in phone number via email or other communication channels.
If your phone number is highly visible and changing it would significantly impact your business operations, another option would be to use Remote Call Forwarding (RCF). This is a feature offered by service providers that allows a customer to maintain a phone number in a different geographical area than their physical location. In this case, you would purchase a local phone number with the new provider, and have the current provider use RCF to direct all calls made to the existing phone number to the new phone number.
OnSIP customers also have a third option, which is to use our inbound bridge feature. This is similar to RCF, only the service is provided by OnSIP rather than your previous provider. This is particularly useful for companies who want to have international phone numbers for customers based outside of the U.S. In this case, the customer will need to use a third party (such as DIDWW, FlyNumber, or Voxbone) and add an inbound bridge to their OnSIP account to link the international number to OnSIP.
If you’re planning on switching phone service providers, notify both parties early to understand what your business phone number porting options are. This reduces the likelihood of unexpected changes to your business operations, and gives you time to evaluate alternatives in case a port is not possible.
If you’re not sure whether you should port your existing phone number(s) or purchase new ones, read our pros and cons comparison of the two options. If you’re considering buying a vanity and/or toll free phone number for your business, here’s a guide to business phone number availability.