How to switch mobile phone providers (and keep your phone number)

28 September 2017

Keep calm and port your number

Changing your mobile phone provider can seem like a daunting proposition. We often get asked about how long it takes, whether you can keep your number, and when exactly your number changes hands. If you've got concerns about switching telcos, read on! 

The great news is that it is very easy to change carriers in Australia, and there are even laws that protect your right to switch and ensure you always keep your phone number.

Your phone number is held by your carrier, but only as long as you allow them to. There is a system called Mobile Number Portability which means that the old carrier automatically relinquishes the number and transfers it to the new carrier each time you activate a new service.

Here's the switching process:

  1. Find a new plan and order a new SIM card online, over the phone or in-store.
  2. When signing up you will be asked whether you want to 'port' or transfer your existing number to the new account. Simply provide your phone number and specify your current provider.
  3. After you receive your new SIM card, you need to activate it. Doing this begins the process of transferring your number.

Importantly, your old service will continue to work until the porting has been completed.

Your new service will be activated within in a few hours in most cases. Sometimes it can take minutes, but there's cases where it can take a day or two.

SIM cards store very little information these days, which means all of your contacts, phone numbers, emails and photos are either stored on your phone or in the cloud. Switching carriers will not delete any of your personal information.

We've gone over the above steps in this video:

Will I get this option automatically?

You'll always have the option to keep your existing number when signing up for a new phone plan, no matter which new service provider you choose. With an online store, look for the options to keep your number - remember it is may be called Mobile Number Portability or 'porting'.

What happens with my old mobile phone service?

Requesting your number be ported to your new provider is the last thing you need to do to cancel your old service. The rest of the process is handled by the telcos, so you don't need to manually cancel your old service. Simply start using your new service. If you've been using a postpaid service, you should expect a final bill from your old provider after you transfer.

If you choose not to port your number, or even sign up for a new service, you will need to contact your current provider to cancel your service, either by calling the support team, using the online chat, or visiting a store.

I thought it was harder?

Transferring your phone number between telcos used to be harder than it is now. Carriers would try to lock you in by making take up a new number if you switched sides. 

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled that this wasn't fair, and spearheaded reforms which make it easier to keep your mobile number. Officially this is called Mobile Number Portability (MNP), and it's one of the main drivers of competition in the mobile industry.

For more information from the ACMA, visit the website.

Tips from the ACMA

  • If you change your provider and keep your existing mobile number, remember you're not taking the service with you; just the number. You can only take your mobile number with you if you're the authorised customer, i.e: the person who is registered by name with the mobile service account with the mobile phone company.
  • Do not cancel your contract with your current provider before changing your service provider. Only connected phone numbers can be transferred.
  • If you have outstanding debts with your existing provider, you'll still be liable for paying them, even if you transfer your number to another provider. Having a debt cannot prevent you from changing providers, but your application for an account with a new provider will be subject to the usual credit checks.
  • Look into any technical and handset issues you might experience when you change providers. If you're keeping your handset, check whether it is compatible with the mobile technology used by your new provider.
  • If you're a prepaid mobile customer, your mobile phone may be SIM-locked, and your current provider may charge you to unlock your SIM card if you want to use the same handset with another provider's network.

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