What is Number Porting? Impact on Small Business Phones

what is porting

What is porting? Number porting is a very important concept when you relocate or switch to a better phone service provider.

As a small business, continuity is a challenge when you move to a new location.  While the physical move will displace some of your customers until they get used to the new location, your phone number can come along with you. In short, you don’t have to get a new number.

The same goes for switching phone service providers. You need to maintain continuity of your phone service.  This is where porting your phone number to the new phone provider is crucial.

The right provider makes this easy and works with each customer to ensure they are able to carry on business as usual while their numbers port over.

Nextiva Growth Marketing Manager Cameron Johnson suggests looking for a company known for providing both scalable solutions and reliable customer service, in addition to a healthy product roadmap that will suit your needs well into the future.

Johnson adds, “Partnering with the right provider will ensure not only a flawless setup, but, with a provider like Nextiva, you’re guaranteed a customer service team that is passionate about delivering solutions that best fit your business.”

What is Porting a Phone Number?

Phone number porting, or porting, is the ability to keep your existing number if and when you decide to move your phone service to another provider or switch locations.

It’s really a simple concept.  You transfer your phone number from one telephone service to another.

And you have the legal right to do so.  According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), if you want to switch to another service provider and you are staying in the same geographical area, you can keep your existing phone number. And the process can be carried out between wireline (landline), IP phone and wireless providers.

How Do You Get Started Porting Your Phone Number?

Transitioning your business phone number? It’s essential to make the process smooth and avoid any disruptions. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:

  1. Evaluate Your Needs: Determine which numbers are vital for your business operations. Remember, you can choose to port any or all of your numbers based on your requirements.
  2. Review Your Current Contract: Take a close look at your existing agreement to identify any obligations or conditions that could impact your decision to port.
  3. Check for Early Termination Fees: Make sure to understand any fees associated with ending your current service, especially if you’re considering making a move before the contract’s end date.
  4. Consider Outstanding Balances: Before making the switch, ensure all dues with your current service provider are settled to avoid unexpected bills.
  5. Maintain Service Continuity: It’s crucial not to terminate your old service before activating the new one. This step ensures there’s no service interruption and safeguards your number from being lost.

Contact the New Phone Service Company

Once you meet your obligations of your previous contract, contact the new company to start the process of porting your number.

This requires providing your 10-digit phone number and any other information the company may require. This will vary from provider to provider.

Today, with a good service provider the process of porting your phone number is easy. Unlike 15 years ago when porting a phone number might involve paper and faxing, today the process is usually electronic.  For example, companies like Nextiva use an electronic signature app so you can apply to port a number online with no hassle.

Generally, a Letter of Authorization (LOA) must be filled out and signed by the authorized user for your current provider to begin the porting process, along with the most recent and correct Billing Telephone Number (BTN).

How Much Will Porting Your Number Cost?

what is porting

Usually there is no charge today.

According to the FCC, companies can charge to port your number if they choose, and the fees can vary from provider to provider. The agency’s website says you can ask for a waiver or negotiate the fees.  However, most of the major operators don’t charge separate porting fees today.

The FCC also says a company cannot deny you to port your phone number because you have not paid for porting. When you request the service of a new company, the FCC says the old company cannot refuse to port your number. This is even if you have any outstanding balance or termination fee.

How Long Does it Take to Port a Number?

what is porting

This will depend on how many phone numbers you have, the operator, and the type of service, such as landline, wireless and IP.  The FCC website contains the following statements:

  • For a wireless-to-wireless transfer, the porting process should take approximately two and a half hours from the time the porting request is made of the old carrier. The FCC has not mandated a specific time frame for the wireless-to-wireless porting process. Two and a half hours is the time frame agreed upon by the wireless industry, and the FCC encourages carriers to use that time frame.
  • A wireline-to-wireless port will probably take longer to complete, and could take several days. Before porting between wireline and wireless phones, consumers should ask their new service provider how long the process will take.

The Transition Period

what is porting

The FCC warns there will be a transition period in which you will have two numbers when you port from wireline to a wireless number. The agency recommends users to ask if you will continue to use your current wireline number during the transfer process, however long it takes.

This is important because wireless 911 location and call back services can be affected during the transition. The FCC wants you to ask your new company if your 911 service will be affected during the process.

Another service that will be impacted during the transition period is long distance service. Your landline or wireline long distance company is not going to move with you, so make sure your new company has a plan you can live with.

You Can’t Always Port Your Number

The FCC says it is not always possible to port your number to a new geographic area when you change providers.

Also, some rural areas require you to contact your state public utilities commission for further information.

Number Porting Tips

Navigating the intricacies of number porting can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. Yet, with the right tips and insights, the process can be smoother than you might think. Here are some key pointers to help you manage this transition seamlessly:

  • Stay Informed: Before initiating the porting process, thoroughly research your new provider’s policies and any potential fees. This way, you can avoid unexpected costs or hurdles down the road.
  • Maintain Both Services Temporarily: Don’t rush to disconnect your old service. Keeping both active for a short while ensures you don’t miss any crucial calls during the transition.
  • Backup Essential Data: If your phone service also integrates with other data services, ensure you back up any essential voicemails, contacts, or settings. Some information might not transfer automatically.
  • Regularly Communicate with Both Providers: Regularly checking in with both your old and new service providers ensures you’re kept in the loop regarding the port’s status. It can also expedite the process if they know you’re actively monitoring it.
  • Update Your Customers: If you’re a business, keep your customers informed about potential changes or disruptions during the porting process. It maintains trust and ensures they know you’re making improvements for their benefit.

Maximizing Business Continuity with Number Porting

Number porting ensures your business maintains its established communication channels, preserving customer trust and minimizing disruption during transitions. Here are strategies for leveraging number porting effectively:

  • Pre-Planning: Before initiating a move or changing service providers, assess the impact on your communication strategies. Identify critical business periods when porting might have the least impact.
  • Communicate with Stakeholders: Inform your customers, suppliers, and partners about the porting process well in advance. Utilize multiple channels, such as email newsletters, social media updates, and website notifications, to ensure the message reaches all stakeholders.
  • Seamless Customer Experience: Ensure your team is prepared to manage customer inquiries about the transition. Providing clear and consistent information can help prevent confusion and maintain customer satisfaction.
  • Technical Preparation: Work closely with your new service provider to ensure a smooth transition. This includes setting up call forwarding during the porting process to avoid missed calls and testing the new system before fully switching over.
  • Review and Adjust Marketing Materials: Update all marketing materials, business cards, and online listings to reflect any changes in your communication channels post-porting, ensuring your contact information remains accurate and accessible.

what is porting

Integrating New Technologies Post-Porting

Switching service providers or moving locations is an opportune time to evaluate and adopt new communication technologies that can enhance your business operations:

  • VoIP Solutions: Consider adopting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology for more flexible and cost-effective communication options. VoIP services often offer advanced features such as virtual meetings, voicemail to email, and mobile app integration.
  • Unified Communications: Explore unified communications platforms that integrate voice, video, text, and email communication into a single system, improving team collaboration and customer interaction.
  • Automated Call Distribution: For businesses with high call volumes, automated call distribution systems can route calls to the appropriate department or individual, improving response times and customer service quality.
  • Cloud-Based Systems: Cloud-based phone systems offer scalability and remote access, enabling your team to communicate effectively from any location, which is especially beneficial for businesses with remote or hybrid work models.
  • Data Analytics and Reporting: Utilize phone system analytics to gain insights into call volumes, peak calling times, and customer service effectiveness. This data can inform business decisions and strategies for improving communication efficiency.

By carefully planning the number porting process and embracing new communication technologies, small businesses can ensure seamless operations and set the stage for future growth and innovation.

Small Business Identity

Your business phone number is one of the identifying features of your company. Just like your address, logo and other identifying features, your number, especially if it is a vanity number, is a great way for your customers to identify with you and build a relationship.

So if you have to move or switch phone service providers, make sure you port your number with you to continue that relationship.

Number Porting Overview Table

What is Porting?The process of retaining your phone number when relocating or switching to a new phone service provider. It ensures business continuity.
Phone Number PortingTransfer of a phone number from one telephone service to another, supported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) within the same geographical area.
Getting Started with PortingBefore porting, businesses need to evaluate their needs, review contracts, consider fees, settle balances, and ensure service continuity. Contact the new service provider after fulfilling past obligations.
Costs InvolvedWhile porting is often free, some providers may charge fees. The FCC allows negotiations on these fees and ensures companies cannot deny porting over unpaid porting fees.
Porting DurationVaries based on number of phones, provider, and service type. Wireless transfers take around 2.5 hours, but wireline-to-wireless may take days.
Transition PeriodDuring wireline to wireless porting, there's a phase when both numbers might be active. It's essential to check impacts on services like 911 and long distance services during this period.
Porting LimitationsPorting may not always be possible when moving to a new area. Some regions might require additional steps or information.
Number Porting TipsEnsure understanding of provider's policies, maintain both services temporarily, back up data, stay in communication with providers, and update customers about changes.

Using Phone Photo via Shutterstock

Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 9 years. He currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.