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Keeping your number

Mobile number portability FAQ

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Background

  1. What is mobile number portability?
  2. What is 'porting'?
  3. What are the benefits of porting? 
  4. What are the issues to be considered with porting?
  5. Do I have to keep my number? 
  6. How do I assess whether I should take advantage of mobile number portability? 
  7. Can I switch providers if I'm still on contract with my existing provider? 
  8. Can I change providers if I owe my existing provider money? 
  9. Can I keep my number and change providers if I'm on a pre-paid service? 
  10. Can I change providers and go to a pre-paid service? 
  11. Does mobile number portability mean that any provider I approach must accept me as a customer? 
  12. Do I need a new handset when I change providers? 
  13. Can I get a new handset when I change providers?
  14. If I'm considering porting to a new mobile carrier, how can I find out whether that carrier has adequate coverage for me? 
  15. I've decided to port. Who do I approach - my current provider or the new provider? 
  16. What should the new provider tell me before I port?
  17. Should I cancel my existing service?
  18. What are the steps involved in porting and how long will it take?
  19. Can I nominate the date and time at which my service is ported?
  20. Will I get a bill from my previous provider after I port my number? 
  21. Can my number be ported without my permission? 
  22. How do I transfer my contacts on my old SIM card onto my new SIM card?
  23. How do I take advantage of special call rates/free calls on same network connections? 
  24. I travel overseas and roam onto other networks. Will international roaming be affected?
  25. I am having difficulty porting my number, who can help?

Background

Mobile number portability allows a user to keep their existing mobile service number when changing from one service provider to another.

Mobile number portability was introduced in Australia on 25 September 2001.

Taking your number to another provider is known as ‘porting’. Porting means you can shop around for the best mobile rates and services without the hassle of changing your number.

The Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (numbering plan) sets out the rules for portability. The numbering plan states that providers must:

  • have the capability and technology to provide portability
  • allow a customer to port away their number if they request this
  • provide an equivalent service on the ported number if it agrees to a provide a service on the ported number.

Mobile number portability covers all mobile service numbers except for satellite-only mobile services.

1. What is mobile number portability?

Mobile number portability is the ability to take your existing mobile number to a new service with a new provider.

2. What is 'porting'?

'Porting' is the act of transferring your number to a new service, either with a different network or a different provider, or both.

3. What are the benefits of porting?

The main benefit of mobile number portability is freedom of choice. You are free to choose a new provider without losing your existing number.

If you are not satisfied with your existing provider, you don't have to stay just to keep your number. If you are in business, keeping your number when changing phone companies means you will avoid missing calls, reprinting stationery and having any signage redone. For individuals it means avoiding the inconvenience of having to notify friends and associates that you've changed your number.

NOTE: It’s important that you don’t cancel your existing mobile service before changing to a new provider. You will not be able to use your existing mobile number if you disconnect your service.

4. What are the issues to be considered with porting?

There are a number of issues that consumers should take into account. These include:

  • the features of the new service you want. See question 6.
  • your existing contract (if any). See question 7.
  • whether to change to or from pre-paid. See questions 9 and 10.
  • whether to get a new handset. See questions 12 and 13.
  • the timing of the change. See question 19.  
  • possible effects on international roaming. See question 24.

5. Do I have to keep my number?

No, you do not have to keep your number. You can still change to a different provider and get a new number.

6. How do I assess whether I should take advantage of mobile number portability?

Mobile number portability is only relevant if you see a benefit in changing providers. You need to consider if you are on a contract already, and what you might have to pay out to your existing provider. This is covered in more detail under question 7.

Think about what you want from a mobile service and whether the benefits of changing outweigh any costs.

  • Are you on the right plan? Could you lower your bills by changing the mix of access and call charges? (You may be able to move to a more suitable plan with your existing provider).
  • Does your network have the coverage you need?
  • Would you, your friends or family benefit from discounts if you changed to a particular provider?
  • Do you want to change the way you pay for your service, by changing from pre-paid to post-paid or vice-versa?

Changing providers does not cancel your contract obligations with your current provider and you may still need to pay out your contract. Some providers may charge an early termination fee or porting fee to transfer the number to another provider. If you feel fees are excessive or were not outlined appropriately in your service contract, the TIO may be able to assist. See question 25.

7. Can I switch providers if I'm still on contract with my existing provider?

Yes, you can, but you will still have to pay out your existing contract, just as you would if you simply cancelled your service.

Moving to a new provider may cancel your existing contract, but the obligations you may have to your existing provider remain. You will be required to pay all outstanding call charges. If your existing service is cancelled during a minimum term contract, you will generally also have to pay out your contract or an early termination fee. You will need to find out from your existing provider exactly what is required in your case.

You should ask your existing provider:

  • when does my existing mobile service contract expire?
  • will I have to pay an early termination fee or ongoing costs under my existing mobile service contract if I move my number to a new provider? If so, how much is it?
  • if I have an outstanding bill, can I pay it in instalments or does it have to be paid in a lump sum?

8. Can I change providers if I owe my existing provider money?

Yes, but be aware that this does not change the debt. You will still owe that provider any outstanding charges.

Your existing provider cannot refuse or delay a request to port your mobile number to a new provider because of any outstanding debt. However, you will continue to receive an account from your previous provider until this debt is fully paid.

Even if you're up to date with your bills, you will get a bill from your existing provider for at least the call charges and network access up to the time you ported.

9. Can I keep my number and change providers if I'm on a pre-paid service?

Yes, you can, but your handset may be locked. Handsets sold as part of a pre-paid service are often 'network SIM-locked' to prevent customers using a SIM card with the handset other than the one issued for the pre-paid service.

If you want to use the same handset you may need to arrange with your existing provider to have your handset unlocked. Some providers may charge a fee to unlock your handset. This does not apply if you already owned the phone when you obtained the pre-paid service, or if you are prepared to get a new handset with the new service. But remember that new handsets may increase the cost to you.

If you have been a pre-paid customer and you want to port, you should ask your existing provider:

  • is my handset SIM-locked?
  • if so, is there a fee to unlock it and how much is it?

An important point for mobile phone users on a pre-paid service is that you will lose any credit you have on your service at the time of the change. That is something to take into account when selecting the timing for the port.

10. Can I change providers and go to a pre-paid service?

Yes, but this will not cancel any contractual obligations you may already have with your current provider. Ensure the new provider is offering a service that suits you. Be aware that you may have to shop around to find a service that suits you.

Note: You should be aware that there are legal requirements about providing name and address information when buying a pre-paid service. Refer to Buying a pre-paid mobile service for further information.

11. Does mobile number portability mean that any provider I approach must accept me as a customer?

No, it doesn't. Your current provider must allow you to move to another provider, but a new provider is able to make a commercial decision about whether to accept you as a customer.

12. Do I need a new handset when I change providers?

No, in most cases you will not need a new handset when you change providers. Your new provider is usually able to provide you with a new SIM card for your existing handset if you want to keep your existing handset. SIM cards are network and account specific and even if you put the card into a different phone, the charges for the call would appear on your bill or be debited from your pre-paid account.

13. Can I get a new handset when I change providers?

Yes. In most cases you will be entering into a new relationship when you move to a new provider and you may choose to get a new handset. But you don't have to get a new handset if you are happy with your current handset.

If you do get a new handset, and sign a contract to pay for that mobile phone, it is particularly important to check any existing contract in case you are still paying for your current phone.

14. If I'm considering porting to a new mobile carrier, how can I find out whether that carrier has adequate coverage for me?

Providers should be able to supply coverage maps on request. Ask your potential provider if coverage is offered in areas where you wish to utilise your service. It is important that you identify whether a particular carrier can provide coverage in areas you wish to use. Many providers also provide coverage maps on the Internet.

15. I've decided to port. Who do I approach – my current provider or the new provider?

Go to the new provider. The new provider will make contact with your existing provider as part of the porting process and inform them that you are porting. Your new provider will also announce to all other Australian network providers that your number has been ported. This is to ensure calls to your number are successfully routed to your new service.

16. What should the new provider tell me before I port?

The new provider must:

  • inform you that there may be costs and obligations associated with porting your number away from your current provider, which means you may have to pay out your contract, pay an early termination fee and pay any outstanding call charges. For example, if you cancel your service when you are part way through a 12 month minimum term contract, you may be required to pay an early termination fee or continue to pay the monthly minimum until the contract is fully paid out.
  • provide you with information about the new contract terms and conditions. Make sure you have a record of any special offers or incentives.
  • alert you to 'related services' as part of the porting process; if you use your mobile service with separate numbers for fax or data. This is important because if you do, arrangements would have to cover all the elements of your service at the same time.
  • advise you that if you intend to use your existing handset you may need to unlock and/or re-programme your handset prior to porting.
  • advise you to not disconnect your existing mobile service if you want to port your number, as your current service must be active before a port can be activated.
  • obtain your (or your agent’s) authorisation before processing a request to port your mobile number. Only an authorised customer can request a port; the authorised person is the authorised customer (or customer’s agent) whose name is on the mobile service account with the existing provider. Confirmation of authorisation may be via a written form, an electronic form or verbal.

If the new provider fails to warn you about possible obligations to your existing provider or the port is not properly authorised, the port is invalid.

 

17. Should I cancel my existing service?

No. Only an active number can be ported to another provider. It's important that you do not cancel your existing service if you want to keep your number. The existing service will be cancelled automatically once the new service is activated.

18. What are the steps involved in porting and how long will it take?

The first step is to choose your new provider.

  1. You will be asked by the new provider to give authorisation to make the change. That could be in writing (if you sign a form), electronic (by agreeing to certain conditions over the Internet) or verbally (by agreeing to certain conditions over the phone; this conversation must be recorded with your knowledge).
  2. You must be advised that you may have obligations to your existing provider as part of the authorisation process with your new provider. It is up to you to follow this up.
  3. The new provider will ask your existing provider to check that you are the authorised customer, and make sure that your personal information is correct. Personal information includes the account number for post-paid accounts and a reference number or date of birth for pre-paid accounts.
  4. The new provider may undertake a credit check. Once this is complete, the new provider will advise your previous provider and the number will be ported to the new provider. The new provider must inform other carriers of the port so that they can correctly route calls to your new provider.
  5. You will receive a new SIM card. If you are using an existing handset with your new SIM card, you may need to deactivate any existing security measures enabled on your handset before the new SIM card will work.
  6. If you arrange to change your provider over the phone or through the Internet, you will have to wait until you receive your new SIM card. In this case, you will probably want to arrange with the new provider to activate the change only after you have the new card, otherwise you could be left without a service during the changeover period.
  7. If you request a port over the phone and a handset is to be couriered to you, the porting process is likely to be completed only when you have received your new handset and you are ready to activate your new service. Your new provider will advise you how long the process is expected to take.
  8. The automated porting process enables porting to take place in a couple of hours. However, the provision of wrong information, system malfunction or periods of high demand may cause your port to take slightly longer.

 

19. Can I nominate the date and time at which my service is ported?

Yes, you can and it may be helpful to choose that date and approximate time carefully.

If you are moving from a pre-paid service, you may want to use up your credits before you move. If you receive a lot of calls, you may want to time the port to be activated at a non-busy time; note that porting is only available during business hours. If you have to wait for the new SIM card/mobile phone to arrive by post, you may want to postpone the activation of the new service until it has arrived.

You can nominate a date for porting up to thirty days in advance.

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20. Will I get a bill from my previous provider after I port my number?

Yes, you are likely to get one or more final bills to settle any outstanding contractual obligations or to pay for the calls and network access you used between your last bill and the time of the switch.

21. Can my number be ported without my permission?

No, only the authorised customer (or the customer’s authorised agent) of a mobile service can authorise a port. The new provider is required to verify the customer’s personal information before processing a port request.

If an unauthorised port does occur and you wish to remain with your previous provider, contact your previous provider as soon as possible to arrange for the port to be reversed.

22. How do I transfer my contacts on my old SIM card onto my new SIM card?

It’s best to discuss what options are available to you with your new provider. Some providers have the capacity to download your contacts from your old SIM card onto a computer and then to upload your contacts onto the new SIM, but this is not a standard capability for providers. If you are keeping your handset, check the phone’s instruction manual to find out if there is an option to save the information from the SIM card onto the handset.

23. How do I take advantage of special call rates/free calls on same network connections?

Some providers offer special low call rates between same network connections, making these calls very attractive. The ability to recognise networks is lost with number portability. To avoid unexpected call charges, mobile users should check with the person they are calling as to whether they are using the same mobile network. For more information talk to your provider.

24. I travel overseas and roam onto other networks. Will international roaming be affected?

Availability of international roaming is generally dependent on agreements between your network operator and network operators overseas. The new provider might not have the same agreements as your previous provider. If you would like to utilise international roaming services with your new provider, you should check what services are offered and any associated costs before moving to your new provider.

25. I am having difficulty porting my number, who can help?

If you are having difficulty porting your mobile number and you are unable to resolve the problem directly with your provider, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for assistance. The TIO is an independent dispute resolution service that aims to assist individuals and small businesses resolve disputes with their telephone or internet service provider. The TIO can be contacted by calling 1800 062 058 or via the TIO’s website.

Further Information

Contact us

Network Safeguards Section
telephone.service.regulation@acma.gov.au  or (03) 9963 6800

Last updated: 11 September 2014

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