So you’re looking to switch mobile providers. You may be wondering if you can keep your old number when making the switch. The answer is, absolutely! Not only is it possible to retain your current mobile phone number, but there are also actually protections by law that will enable you to do so.
But keeping your current phone number isn’t as simple as switching on a new phone. You will need to take some specific steps (in the correct order) to ensure everything goes according to plan. We’re going to take you through them so you can find out exactly how to hang onto that familiar mobile phone number.
Why Should You Keep the Same Phone Number?
The most obvious reason for hanging onto your existing mobile phone number is convenience. When your number stays the same, you don’t have to update all of your friends, family, and colleagues regarding your new number. You don’t have to change your contact details with the many businesses and organisations that have your records. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you didn’t have to update your phone number for the doctor, the bank, your children’s school and utility providers? Definitely!
There’s also the bonus of familiarity. You yourself won’t have to learn and memorise a new phone number (that’s a lot of digits) which just removes some general stress from your life.
Your Legal Rights
When you first sign up for a phone service, the provider issues you a telephone number, allocated by ACMA. Your contract with the phone company allows you to use this number. At this point, you become a Rights of Use holder (ROU holder) of that number. In brief, the number is yours to use with any service provider.
You have the right to move to a new service provider and retain the same phone number. This is known as ‘number portability.’ The process of moving a mobile number from one service provider to another is known as ‘porting.’
If you request to port your number to a new provider, your current phone company is obligated to do so on your behalf. This is true even if your service has been suspended---the rights to the number are still yours.
Your new phone company is not required to accept a port request, however. If keeping your old mobile number is a priority for you, be sure to select a service provider that is willing to accept the port request. You can check this before making the switch.
For more information: The Numbering Plan and the Rights of Use of Numbers Code provide specifics about the obligations of phone companies with regards to issuing, porting, disconnecting, and the quarantine of numbers.
How to Switch Mobile Providers and Keep Your Old Number
So you are ready to take the leap. Here are the steps to follow in order to hang onto your current mobile phone number.
1. Find your new service provider
The first step is to identify the new phone service provider you’ll be using. Make sure they are willing to accept your port request for your number.
Important: Don’t cancel your current phone service! This is essential for the successful completion of the number porting.
As you’re selecting a new service provider, you’ll want to look at some other factors as well. If you’re keeping your current handset, determine whether or not the device can/will work on your new provider’s network.
This is a good time to confirm that your phone is unlocked. This is necessary if you want to use the same handset on another provider's network. While many mobile phones are already unlocked, you originally obtained your handset on a contract. If this is the case, your current provider will have to unlock your phone for you, sometimes for a fee.
2. Sign up with your new service provider
Once you’ve selected your new provider and you’ve ensured your device is unlocked and ready, it’s time to register with your new telco.
What if my service has been suspended?
If your service has been suspended with your current provider, you can still have the number ported. However, you are still obligated to pay any outstanding balances or settle any debts with the old provider. And while your number can be ported in these circumstances, bear in mind that the new provider will still perform the standard credit checks at the time of application.
What if I have a contract?
If you’ve been a postpaid customer on contract with a provider, you may be cancelling your service before the contract is up. It may be necessary to pay an early termination fee to complete this process.
3. Request your number be ported
During sign up with your new provider, whether in person or online, you will be given the opportunity to make a port request for your current number. It is typically as easy as inputting your number and stating the name of your existing service provider. You can also plan ahead to have your number ported, specifying a date and time up to 30 days in the future to start the port process.
Note: Only the authorised customer retains the rights to their mobile number. This is the person whose name is registered on the account with the phone company.
4. Let the telco handle the rest
Signed up with a new provider and porting your number? Great! There’s little else that you need to do as part of the transfer process. The remaining activities will be handled by the telcos on either end.
The only thing you will need to do is activate your new SIM card. If you’re transferring to us, our guide on how to activate a Southern Phone SIM might come in handy.
You can expect a successful port to be completed in as little as 3 hours.
Not porting your number?
If you choose not to keep your old number, the telcos don’t manage the process for you quite as seamlessly. You will have to manually cancel your service with your current provider. Do so only after you’re sure that your new service and new number are working properly.
5. Tidy up any loose ends
Once your new service is activated, your old service will be cancelled and you should be good to go. But as a customer, you may have to make arrangements or tie up loose ends with your old provider.
Postpaid customers can expect a final bill from the old provider following the transfer. You’re still responsible for paying these fees even if you’ve already switched.
Changing mobile phone providers isn’t always a 100% straightforward process. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about switching over.
What happens if my phone number has been disconnected?
Unfortunately, number porting can only occur with an active service. If you’ve had your phone service disconnected, you may be able to get your old number back with a few extra steps.
Following service disconnection, a telephone number is placed in “quarantine.” This means it can’t be reissued to another customer. Generally, the quarantine lasts for a minimum 6-month period. It may be longer, such as a 12-month minimum if service was disconnected due to nuisance calls.
To get your number out of quarantine, you will need to ask your previous phone provider or whoever originally allocated the phone number. (You can find out who initially allocated a number by searching in ACMA’s Numbering System). You’ll have to make the request to resurface your number before the end of the quarantine period. Only the previous ROU holder can make the request or a person who has taken over a business which previously used the number.
Unfortunately, the phone company is not required to re-allocate a disconnected phone number, so ideally you should request a number port when the service is still active.
When should you change your mobile number?
Are there any circumstances in which it makes sense to change your mobile number? Perhaps. The primary reason to do so is if you’re receiving excessive spammy calls on the number, or if you’re being harassed. In such cases, it will prevent a great deal of stress, in the long run, to have the number changed.
Telcos generally will change your mobile number at your request, but there may be an associated fee to do so.
Want to pick your number? There are opportunities to handpick a specific number combination for your mobile phone number, but these are considered “premium” numbers and you’ll pay handsomely to get them.
What if someone ports my number without permission?
Occasionally, there are those who obtain numbers and port them without authorisation. Fortunately, you have recourse in such circumstances.
If an unauthorised port occurs, contact your previous provider as soon as possible to request a port reversal. ACMA also recommend contacting your bank and changing bank passwords, reporting the fraud to the Australian Federal Police, and contacting IDCARE for assistance and support regarding identity crime and cyber-related security.