Why Does My Mobile Phone Tell Me "You Will Be Transferred to an External Operator"?

By Cee Jay

This message surfaces only when your service provider encounters a billing issue on your account. If repeated attempts to reach you are unsuccessful, you'll hear, "You will be transferred to an external operator ..." followed by a short ring. It is temporary and will cease once you speak to your provider to resolve the problem.

Why It Happens

Your provider transfers you to an operator automatically to get your attention. The company knows that if you use your cellphone regularly, it is the fastest way to reach you. This tactic is preceded by reminders to call them as soon as possible once your bill becomes overdue. The redirects usually occur if the bill is more than one month overdue, at which time you risk a possible disruption in service if the calls are ignored.


In the beginning, only outgoing calls are redirected. Every call you place sends you to your provider, but you'll still receive incoming calls and texts. Use an alternate phone in the meantime, and respond to your texts by phone to inform them you can't send messages at this time. This is only a temporary solution, as incoming calls/messages will be blocked eventually.


Pay the bill, or at least pay the past due portion to get your account in good standing. If this is not possible, call the company with payment information and ask about post-dating the payment, giving you more time. The provider at least needs a promise to pay so the redirects can be stopped. In the meantime, reduce your calling plan or remove services you rarely use to get your bill under control.


Though you can set up payment arrangements or pay only a portion, your services will be terminated if you don't make good on your promise. The redirects will resume, and eventually your cellphone is disconnected completely. You'll receive a final bill, with an added cancellation fee if you had a contract. The fee applies to each phone on the account, which can amount to a hefty debt.

Other Causes

Occasionally, you might get transferred because of poor service in your area or roaming issues. If you recently got your mobile phone, it might need to be activated. In this case, dial customer service from a different phone so you won't be asked to make a payment before the call is made. If all else fails, take it to your provider's store and ask an employee to help you troubleshoot.