Call porting is the process of keeping the same phone number between phone services

What Is Call Porting How Does It Work?

Daniel WeissLast updated on January 2, 2024
10 min

Ready to build better conversations?

Simple to set up. Easy to use. Powerful integrations.

Get started

Perhaps you think you’re missing out on a wide variety of business phone features, but finding a new system sounds like too much work. Call porting could be the answer to updating your phone system without the hassle. Switching your phone service scares a lot of people. Understanding more about porting phone numbers takes the fear out of it.

Having to contact all your current customers and change your information listings is daunting. That’s especially true if your business has hundreds or thousands of customers, vendors, and stakeholders that you need to keep in regular contact with.

You might be interested in the idea of updating your business phone service if you had the assurance that you could take your numbers with you. By learning some definitions related to call porting, understanding more about how it works, and recognizing who the players are, you can get the best of both worlds—an efficient phone system without changing your phone numbers.

Quick links

What Is Call Porting?

In the simplest terms, call porting is transferring an existing phone number from your current phone service provider to another service provider. Call porting is more than forwarding calls or temporarily switching phone services. With phone number porting, you close the old account once the transition to the new carrier is complete.

Phone number porting gets its name from the word port. A port is a connection that allows information to flow from one program to another.

Communication with your customers is a huge priority. As much as you might want to update your phone system so you can get all the call center features you need and want, you don’t want to worry about the hassle of changing all your phone numbers. More importantly, you don’t want to worry about the risk of missing important calls from prospects and customers.

And it’s not as risky as you might think. In spite of what you — and many other business owners — might believe, phone service providers don’t own your phone numbers, you do. The FCC has rules that let you transfer your phone numbers if you decide to switch your phone service to a different phone service provider. When you transfer your phone service, it’s the service that’s being transferred, and you get to take your phone numbers with it.

How Phone Number Porting Works

Now that the worry over losing your business phone numbers has been put to rest, there’s a bit more to know about how number porting works. You may run across the term WLNP which refers to wireless local number portability. It’s the technical term for call porting.

Once you’ve had all your questions answered and you’re sure you want to switch phone services, how do you begin changing services? Start with the new carrier—they start the process of call porting. You’re perfectly within your rights to change phone service providers if you choose to. The FCC won’t allow your old carrier to keep your phone numbers, even if you owe them money for outstanding termination fees.

Most phone service providers will transfer your phone numbers quickly, but you should also be aware that the FCC doesn’t have any rules for how long they can take to complete call porting. Most phone service providers can complete the process in less than 30 days. During the transition, don’t cancel your old service until the numbers are fully active and working well. If you cancel service with your previous carrier before porting has been completed, you may lose your numbers.

To change phone services, you have to be the primary account holder and show proof. You’ll also have to complete some forms for compliance purposes.

Questions to Ask Around Number Porting

The more you learn about number porting, the more questions you’ll have. Here are some questions that businesses commonly ask about number porting:

Can I transfer my phone numbers to another service provider during a trial period?

Call porting is a semi-permanent process, so it’s not wise to transfer your phone numbers to another service during a trial period. Trial periods give you a short time to try out the service, but you won’t want to make the final switch until you’re ready to make a long-term commitment. Many companies won’t allow you to transfer your numbers until you’ve signed an agreement.

What information do I have to provide to switch phone service providers?

You’ll need to give the new service provider your name and address including the full name of the owner of your numbers. You may have to verify that you have a valid address or business registration in that country. You’ll also want to be prepared with the local office addresses for your numbers.

You’ll also need the phone numbers that you want to transfer, the name of your current carrier, the range that you need to cover, and a copy of your last bill. Your true service provider may actually be another VoIP service. If that’s the case, you’ll have to ask them for the name of the underlying carrier.

Can I transfer all the numbers my business uses?

In most cases, yes. The new service provider will be able to tell you if your numbers are portable. You may have to ask your current service provider to unlock your numbers so they can be ported.

Can I cancel my old service once I apply for the new service?

You should keep the old service active until porting phone numbers is totally complete. You could cause problems with the transfer if you cancel your old account before everything is finalized with the new carrier.

Will my phone service be shut down at any time during call porting?

In most cases, you won’t have any interruptions in your phone service. There’s a slight potential for a short amount of downtime depending on how efficient your old carrier is. New carriers generally work with you to prevent any disruptions in service. Typically, call porting occurs without any disruptions in your phone service at all.

How much does it cost to port my numbers?

The cost to port your phone numbers depends on the type of phone numbers you’re porting (geographic, toll-free, national) and the number of phone numbers you are transferring. Your old carrier may charge a termination fee.

Difference Between Call Porting & Call Forwarding

When people call your main business line, you may want to have the capability to receive calls somewhere other than your office, so you don’t miss important calls. That’s call forwarding and it’s quite different than porting phone numbers.

Call forwarding, also called phone diversion, is a feature of phone systems and it’s a term that most people are fairly familiar with. When you use call forwarding, you’re using technology that intercepts an incoming call and automatically sends it to another number that you programmed into the service. Essentially, your phone service provider bridges the two calls together so calls reach you at your desired number.

When you want to move all of your business phone numbers to another phone service provider, it’s called call porting. You might also hear the term in connection with other terms like “taking your number with you” or “transferring your number”.

The differences between call forwarding and call porting are clear. Call forwarding directs incoming calls from one number to a different one, regardless of provider. With call porting you’re simply moving the same number from one phone service provider to another.

With a cloud-based phone service, it’s easier to forward calls and you can send them to unlimited forwarding numbers.

International Numbers vs. Domestic Numbers

Calling numbers all over the world is simple today. All you have to do is set up different phone numbers for a particular geographical area. Domestic phone numbers will be fairly close to home. International phone numbers make it possible to make and receive calls between different countries.

International phone numbers have different protocols than domestic phone numbers. They can be local numbers or toll-free numbers (these have a specific toll-free area code).

Domestic phone numbers result in either local or long-distance calls within your current country. These numbers have an area code and a seven-digit phone number.

Cloud-based phone systems use virtual phone numbers.  In the tech world, virtual phone numbers are sometimes referenced by the term DID, which stands for direct inward dialing or DDI, which stands for direct dial-in (for European markets). Virtual phone numbers aren’t connected to a direct phone line. They’re hosted in the cloud. These kinds of numbers redirect incoming calls to the phone numbers the business owner chooses.

Virtual phone numbers can be connected with local numbers or toll-free numbers and they can be routed from traditional phone lines, VoIP (voice over internet protocol), or mobile phones. That means that any business can have an international presence regardless of their size or location.

Service Providers for Porting Phone Numbers

Before you go on the hunt for a service provider, it’s helpful to get acquainted with a couple of other terms, especially if your business plans to set up international phone numbers.

EMEA is a common term in the telephone industry. It’s an acronym for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. EMEA is a concise way to refer to the three continents collectively. Governments, marketers, and businesses all use the term EMEA. There were 116 countries in EMEA as of 2019.

Carriers are companies that phone service providers purchase numbers from. These can vary between countries, especially in EMEA and North America. Voxbone and Twilio are two of the most common carriers used for purchasing numbers.

Internal ports occur when the numbers you request to be ported are hosted by the same carrier. For example, a Twilio to Twilio port would be considered an internal port.

Phone Number Porting Compliance Best Practices

The issue of compliance is something you need to take very seriously whether your business uses domestic calls or international calls. It’s vital to use the proper forms and document the transfer appropriately. Compliance measures vary between countries. It’s illegal to activate numbers without the proper documentation and there’s no way around it. Failure to comply with these regulations is a serious issue and could have negative legal consequences for your business if done incorrectly.

Best practices for phone number compliance will help you get it right.

  • Make sure you have all the proper information and documents for your new service provider.

  • Use the proper Letter of Authorization (LOA) for the geographical area to initiate call porting.

  • The Letter of Authorization should be the same as the one that’s on file with the losing carrier.

  • Identify the true carrier for VoIP services.

  • Get acceptance from both parties when a range holder is involved (an additional carrier that’s the original carrier-also called the subsequent port).

  • Only the authorized person should authorize the transfer.

  • Cancel your old numbers only when the new ones are up and running.

  • Wait until after your trial period before porting your phone numbers.

  • Be prepared to present proof of a physical address or national identification card if it’s needed.

Why Aircall

Aircall is committed to working with you to ensure that you have all the proper documents signed in all the right places and all the necessary documents to ensure total compliance. Only then, Aircall will activate your numbers so that you won’t have any problems moving forward.

Cloud-based call center software by Aircall is the solution for companies that currently use or want to set up call centers for sales or support. With Aircall you get software that’s packed with all the call center features that you need to onboard your call agents successfully and give your customers the kind of experience they expect. Aircall will walk you through the process of call porting and make sure that it’s done correctly so you won’t have any worries over compliance. To expand your capabilities even further, check out Aircall’s App Marketplace for software integrations to manage all of your business functions using a single source. Then, you can get to work training your call agents on all the tools and call center features that will make your call center improve customer service and run efficiently.

Published on September 21, 2020.

Ready to build better conversations?

Aircall runs on the device you're using right now.