General Question

rskaletz's avatar

Can you take your phone number if you switch from one service to another?

Asked by rskaletz (81points) April 22nd, 2010

I want to get out of AT&T and switch to something cheaper but don’t want to lose my phone number. Is this possible?

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28 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Yes you can port over your phone number.
You’ll have to have AT&T release your existing number so Verizon can pick it up.

DeanV's avatar

I know Verizon switches numbers, but only some. You’d want to check in with the people you are switching to to see if it’s even possible with your number.

Seek's avatar

Yes, in most cases.

I recently switched to Straight Talk, the prepaid service sponsored by WalMart. I had the option of switching over my number, but it would have taken a couple of days. I go a new number, but mostly because I wanted an area code that matched where I live now.

Allie's avatar

Yeah, it’s pretty common. Just tell your new provider that you want to keep your old number and they should be able to help you out.

rskaletz's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – how is Straight Talk working out?

Seek's avatar

It’s perfect for my husband and I. We’re not really into apps and all the bells and whistles – just talking and the occasional text. Can’t beat the $30 a month.

Evan's avatar

There was a law passed a few years back (on a Federal level) that required phone companies to allow customers to keep their (mobile) phone numbers, regardless of switching between providers.

So the short answer is YES, YOU CAN KEEP YOU’RE PHONE NUMBER

The slightly longer answer is that there is a small caveat that I’ve come across when doing a phone number port on my own:

Essentially, you can keep you’re phone number, but only within the same area code meaning that if you have a NYC phone number, and move to LA, you can’t have an LA billing address and still have a NYC area code phone number. The law technically reads that they can only port numbers within a single area code.

The easy way around this (if you want to keep your phone number, and switch carriers) is to use some alternate billing address within the other area code that you want to keep.

This recently happened to me, because I lived in DC, but had a WA area code.. so when i went to switch services and port my number.. I had to set my billing address as someone I knew back in WA, so that the new service provider could then give me a temporary WA number.. and then port my real number over to that temporary WA numbered phone.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Now I realise I’m a crazy foreigner but why would a mobile phone need an area code?

Seek's avatar

Because there are far more people than possible combinations of a seven-digit phone number.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes. But as the phone is not tied to a physical geographic location why not use area codes that differentiate mobile phones from land lines so that when you move (heaven forbid) to another area code you don’t need to change your number?

Axemusica's avatar

Jenny? your number still 867–5309? I’ll give ya a call sometime. Maybe we can catch up on good times.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Yep,I’ve done it:)

Seek's avatar

More people than two sets of possible combinations of seven digit phone numbers.

There are, what, 350 million people in the US? How many combinations of a seven digit number are there?

Lightlyseared's avatar


But why does the phone number of a mobile phone have to be tied to a physical area code? Why can’t you use a specific range of area codes to designate that a number is a mobile phone in the same way that 800, 822, 833, 844, etc indicates a toll free number?

slick44's avatar

Yes indeed.

thriftymaid's avatar

Yes, as long as it’s the same type service within the same local exchange.

jaytkay's avatar

But why does the phone number of a mobile phone have to be tied to a physical area code?

Just a different way of doing things. Either way has advantages and disadvantages.

njnyjobs's avatar

@Lightlyseared because in the U.S., Mobile numbers are also associated with certain Local Calling areas, hence they can be called locally by landline users and not incur long distance charges. I realize in other countries, a landline user calling a mobile number across the street gets hit with long distance charges.

Evan's avatar

So clearly all this talk of area codes for mobile phones is a bit off-topic, but I’ll just support @Lightlyseared by saying that despite all the differences, there’s still no reason why we couldn’t introduce certain area codes that were dedicated national mobile codes, thereby offering a choice to people who frankly don’t give a damn whether anyone can call them locally (especially since “long distance” charges are quickly becoming a thing of the past).

The reason, you might say, why that doesn’t happen is probably a combination of things. My guess is that there’s not really a big push for it, since it really only serves people who move around AND want the ability to port their number from one service to another whenever they want. Given that most (i stress most, not all) mobile operators in the US still use a contract system (more often 2-year than 1-year), the % of people switching carriers, who are also moving between area codes is still relatively small.

The other reason is of course the money. Localities (City, county, even state) in the US make a substantial amount of tax revenue off mobile phone charges and fees. The introduction of a national mobile area code would pose the contentious question of who gets that tax revenue, and more importantly, local governments aren’t going to be very supportive of allowing mobile users living within their jurisdiction that can avoid the local taxes by getting the “national” area code instead..

njnyjobs's avatar

@Evan…I think you just contradicted yourself with your post.

filmfann's avatar

@Lightlyseared Let’s say I have a mobile phone with the seven digit number 765–4321. I live in Concord, CA, so my area code is 925. dpworkin lives in New York, so his area code is 212, but he has the same 765–4321 number. We go to a fluther convention in San Francisco, and run into YarnLady, who has the same number for the 415 area code.
Now, if we don’t have area codes for our mobile numbers, won’t all our phones ring when YarnLady gets a call?

jaytkay's avatar

@filmfann let me mediate.

@Lightlyseared is saying there could be a separate area code, let’s call it 555.

If you own 555–765–4321, DP and Yarnlady have to get different 555 numbers.

Evan's avatar

Okay not to nit-pick.. but that’s exactly what we were saying could happen. you’d have a separate area code that was dedicated for something like “national service” so that you could live anywhere, and it’d be a mobile-only area code.

I realize it seems like i was contradicting myself.. but in fact i was just agreeing that it made sense to do some kind of “national area code” for mobile numbers.. but then just listed a couple of reasons why such an idea (probably not that original of an idea) has never gotten any serious consideration.

jaytkay's avatar

Localities (City, county, even state) in the US make a substantial amount of tax revenue off mobile phone charges and fees.

I live in Illinois with a Michigan cell phone number. I am paying monthly “MI State Telecom Surcharge $3.42”

I guess I have to compare an Illinois bill.

Evan's avatar

@jaytkay – Exactly – since you have a MI area code, MI is getting your $3.42, regardless of where you actually live.

njnyjobs's avatar

@jaytkay, @Evan . . . and NY charges more than CA, not only is it different in the tax levy but take a look also at the 911 surcharges. I have a mobile number from LA County since 2000 that I use in NJ/NY

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dabbler's avatar

Seems to me it mattered a lot more when call costs were very different for local (unlimited usually) and long-distance and possibly regional in between.
But people do associate most area codes each with a location which may or may not be useful to you.

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