Changing phone numbers is inconvenient and, at times, unnecessary. Maintaining the same phone number while changing phone plans or carriers is entirely possible. If you left a plan and did not hold the number for a new plan, it may be lost forever. The carrier maintains the number, however, and you can inquire about reinstating your old number.
Inquire Before Canceling Plans
If you plan on canceling a phone plan and want the number to remain attached to your name, inquire immediately. After the cancellation is complete, the number returns to the carrier, and your chances of retrieval decrease significantly. Most carriers offer options for the phone number, including parking and porting. Unless you use one of these services, you lose the number to the carrier, who reassigns it to a different user.
Inquiring with the carrier is best done in person when feasible to expedite the process. You receive documentation of the result on paper during a store visit, which provides peace of mind. You can also achieve the same result by calling the customer service line for the carrier. Depending on the carrier, the call center process may require more wait time to connect with an agent.
Port the Phone Number
Porting is the process of moving your phone number from one carrier to another. You can only port the number while it remains active on the old network. For example, when porting from Verizon to T-Mobile, you must initiate the porting process before the contract with Verizon is canceled. After the contract is canceled, the number reverts to the carrier if it was not successfully ported.
The Federal Communications Commission requires carriers to allow porting so the user can keep a phone number as long as desired. The only stipulation is that the user must remain in the same geographical area, although this requirement is not strictly enforced. The new carrier performs the porting, but the old carrier must release the number for the transfer.
Initiate the porting process by informing the new carrier of your desire to keep the number. The carrier handles the transfer entirely in many cases. The old carrier may require your verbal approval to release the phone number, however. Calling the old carrier and informing it of the porting is prudent and may save time communicating between carriers.
After the new carrier has successfully ported the phone number, cancel the old contract, and you are free to use the same number with your new carrier. If you change to a different carrier in the future, the same rules apply; you must port the phone number before canceling the contract.
Park the Phone Number
Parking a phone number is a service offered by most carriers. It allows you to keep the phone number without having a service plan. Parking is ideal for international travel and other times when you don't require a domestic phone plan. Without a porting or parking plan, the phone number returns to the carrier and is unlikely to be available in the future.
Parking is a fee-based service; it costs a small amount each month to maintain the phone number. The parked number is easily ported to the new service provider if you decide to open a new account under a different carrier in the future. When opening a parking plan, make sure the carrier allows the number to port without additional fees in the future.