Number porting is the act of moving your phone numbers from one carrier to another. You might do this as part of moving to a new phone system, to change carriers, or to consolidate to fewer carriers. Alternatives would be to obtain new numbers and abandon your existing ones, or to move a circuit from one system to another.

Porting can seem intimidating as much of the process is out of your direct control, and yet can affect you greatly. You’re depending on the gaining carrier (where you’re porting your numbers to), the losing carrier (where you’re porting from), and likely a partner. The process becomes much less intimidating when you understand how you can prepare for a port, what you can control, and what the rest of the process looks like.

Generally, the process involves you gathering information that you’ll provide to the gaining carrier, along with some authorization documents. The information that you need to gather is typically a list of all the numbers you wish to move, a copy of your latest bill, and you’ll need to find out who is an authorized signer on the account. This last part might take some extra work if all the people listed as authorized has left the organization. If that’s the case, you’ll need to first get at least one new person added to the account. Your account might also have a PIN that you’ll need to provide. If you can’t locate it, you’ll have to work with the losing carrier to set a new one. As you can imagine, this may take some time to put together!

You’ll submit this information to the gaining carrier’s porting or customer service team, along with a signed Letter of Authorization, or LOA, which gives the gaining carrier your permission to port the numbers away from the losing carrier. The gaining carrier may have other information that they require, they will let you know if this is the case. They will review the information you’ve provided, and then they will submit it to the losing carrier. The losing carrier will review the information for completeness, accuracy, and any technical issues that the port may cause or that may block the port.

Once both carriers are happy with the information, they’ll set a date for the port. This process is led by the losing carrier but must also work for the gaining carrier. You now have a Firm Order Commitment, or FOC, which is confirmation of the port activity by the losing carrier. Your FOC/Port date may be a week or two after you’ve submitted everything to the gaining carrier. The date may be later depending on the carrier, the country, and how busy the carriers are. On your port date, ports are typically quick to complete once they’ve started, even with a large quantity of numbers. The gaining carrier will provide you with updates via email or phone call, or they may provide a conference bridge for you to join – the technicians performing the port won’t be on this call, just the customer service or porting team from the gaining carrier.

Notice that you didn’t have any say in the determination of the port schedule. Once you have a FOC, you can usually work with the gaining carrier to move the port back to a later date, if this works for both carriers. You may or may not be able to request a specific time, and you should be aware that most port happen during business hours, often at the start of the business day. This does mean some interruption to your service, but it also means that both carriers have staff available to address any issues quickly. You may be charged for rescheduling a port date, and you may be limited as to the number of times you can reschedule.

There are several other items that may affect your port. The gaining carrier can help you with these:

  • Depending on the country involved, you may be able to port just some numbers on a circuit, this is called a partial port. In other countries you will have to port all the numbers.
  • If you’re doing partial port, you cannot port the billing number for a circuit. This is sometimes in use in an organization, often as the main number. If this is the case you can work with the losing carrier to assign a new BTN (and then don’t assign it to anything!)
  • You can’t have two (or more!) losing carriers on the same port.
  • You may not be able to have multiple ports from the losing carrier active at the same time.
  • You likely cannot mix tolled, mobile, and toll-free numbers on the same port order.
  • “Rolling back” a port is usually not possible unless the carriers determine a technical issue.
  • Make sure you pay your bill. The losing carrier may not approve a port otherwise.
  • Some carrier specific features, like permanent call forwarding, can block a port. The losing carrier will identify and report these.
  • You must have your organization name, account number, and address on the LOA exactly as it appears on the bill. “Close” usually doesn’t work. If there is a character or field size limit, work with the gaining carrier on this.
  • All numbers at the losing carrier must be active, and not frozen or reserved.
  • New requests or open requests on the service to be ported are not permitted.

Now that you are equipped with knowledge of the porting process, you’re all set to get your documents and authorizations in order before you submit your port request. The gaining carrier’s customer service, porting, sales team, or your partner can help you get started. If you are porting to or from Microsoft Calling Plans, you can read more about their specific requirements here.