Teen girls on mobile phones

How can I switch phone networks and keep the same number?

Changing providers doesn't mean you have to lose your number. Here's what you need to know.

When you change carriers for whatever reason (we won't judge), you're entitled to take your mobile phone number with you. This is really convenient because it means you don't have to update all your contacts with your new number. Not only do you gain the possibility of better reception by switching carriers, you can also take advantage of special offers to make the most of your mobile experience.

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Transferring your mobile number to another network is known as "mobile number portability", and it's a process that's designed to be quick, easy and free.

When you're opening an account with your new provider, you will be asked if you want to transfer or "port" your number. If you do, your new provider will contact your old provider to transfer your number over.

How long does it take to port my number?

According to the mobile number portability industry code, 90% of mobile number transfers should be completed within three hours, and 99% should be completed within two days. Most telcos only operate porting facilities Monday to Saturday, and not on Sundays or public holidays, so keep that in mind when you decide to switch providers.

The reality for mobile number portability is that the time it takes can vary considerably; some customers report that their numbers were transferred within a matter of minutes, while it took hours for others. Bear in mind that your new provider can only port your number from a "live" service with your old provider; you can't cancel the service and then request mobile number portability.

What can I do if the port doesn't work?

It's not entirely unheard of for problems to occur. If you've requested mobile number portability and it hasn't taken place within two days, tell your new provider that the process hasn't gone through. Your new provider will then check whether or not your old provider has released your number or if another error has occurred. The full process for this is defined in the Telecommunications Numbering Plan.

You need to give your provider a chance to rectify the problem, but if the problem drags out over an unreasonable period of time, you can complain to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

How can I stay connected in the meantime?

Most mobile number portability requests are completed within three hours, but if you need constant communication facilities, pick up a prepaid SIM and activate it before you begin the mobile number porting process. Most prepaid SIMs come with enough call and data credit to get you through at least a few hours.

Are there any advantages to not keeping my number?

Your new provider can give you a new number at no additional cost to you, and that can be preferable in some cases. A new number can represent a clean break from the old number, which can protect you from unwanted calls from your ex or an annoying telemarketer. If your old number was similar to an existing business number and you received a lot of misdialled calls, it may be wiser to shift to a new number. If your old number was particularly hard to remember, a new number might offer you an easier experience, although you won't be able to pick the exact combination.

Keen to switch to a new provider? Check out these billed monthly plans offering unlimited calls and at least 2GB of monthly data:

Image: Shutterstock

Alex Kidman

Alex is the Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for the best part of two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts.

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