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

Summary: When you switch mobile phone carriers you always have the option to take your number with you. This is called Number Porting, and it is very easy to do.

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If you are concerned that the process of switching is either too difficult or time-consuming to bother with, read on.

The great news is that it is very easy to switch between carriers in Australia, and there are even laws to protect your right to switch and that 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 sign up with a new carrier online,over the phone or in-store
  2. When signing up you will be asked whether you want to 'port' your number to the new account - simply provide your phone number and your account number with your current provider.
  3. Your new service will be activated within in a few hours in most cases, but this can sometimes take longer than a day.

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

Plus, all of your contacts, phone numbers, emails and photos are stored on your phone itself, so switching carriers will not delete your personal information.

Will I get this option automatically?

Yes — you should easily find a number portability option as you sign up for new mobile phone and plan, no matter where you sign up. With an online store, look for the options to keep your number - remember it is officially 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 cancel your old service. Simply start using your new service, and expect a final bill from your old provider in the near future.

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

I thought it was harder?

It used to be harder than it is now. Carriers would try to lock you in by making you start again with a new number if you switched sides. This was not fair to customers and thankfully it's now been changed.

We have The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to thank for the reforms which make it easy to port your number to a new mobile carrier. Officially it 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 pre-paid 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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