Mobile number portability means you can keep your existing mobile telephone number when you change your service provider.
Mobile number portability is simply keeping your mobile phone number when moving from your existing service provider to a new provider. It means you will use the services and features offered by your new provider and not take your existing service and its features with you. Before changing service providers, you should check with the selected new provider to ensure it can provide the services and features you need (such as voicemail, SMS or related services such as fax and data).
Current contractual obligations
When you use mobile number portability, your mobile service (and associated services for example data or fax services) with your existing service provider is cancelled. However, it is important to note that although your existing service is cancelled, your contract with your existing service provider may or may not have been cancelled. This means that you may still have to payout your contract or pay an early termination fee. It also means that you will be required to pay all call charges.
Alternatively, you may choose to wait for your existing contract to expire before changing providers, but you should make sure that you still have an active service.
You can only change providers and move an existing mobile number if you are the authorised customer--that is the person who has the mobile service account with the existing provider.
Handsets purchased as part of a pre-paid package
Since the introduction of MNP, a mobile number issued to a customer as part of a pre-paid service can also be moved to a new provider. However, handsets sold as part of a pre-paid service are often 'SIM locked' to prevent customers using a SIM card in the phone other than the one issued for the pre-paid service. If you wish to use the same handset you may need to make arrangements with your existing service provider to have your handset unlocked. A fee may be charged.
Personal SIM locking
Handsets can also be 'SIM locked' by the customer as a security precaution. This involves setting a special code in the phone that must be dialled before the phone can be used. Personal SIM locking must be de-activated before you change to a new provider.
Moving between different technologies
The two digital mobile technologies in use in Australia are GSM and CDMA, each requiring a particular type of handset to connect to the network. CDMA handsets can only be used on a CDMA network and GSM handsets can only be used on a GSM network. You can move your mobile phone number across technologies-from GSM to CDMA or from CDMA to GSM-but you will need a new handset. When moving between different GSM providers you will need a new SIM card, but in most circumstances not a new handset.
- When does my existing mobile service contract expire?
- Will I have to pay an early termination fee or ongoing costs (access charges) under my existing mobile service contract if I move my number to a new provider?
- Is my handset SIM locked and will I have to pay a fee to have it unlocked before moving my number?
- Am I the authorised customer?
- What do I want from my mobile service? Which provider best meets my needs?
If the new provider fails to warn you that you may have existing contractual obligations or you do not properly authorise the transfer of your existing mobile number you do not have to proceed with the move.
What will I have to do to keep my existing mobile number?
The following processes have been introduced by the telecommunications industry to make porting your number as quick and easy as possible. They are designed to avoid the need-in most cases-for customers to have to contact their existing provider when changing to another provider and keeping their existing mobile phone number.
When you contact a new provider for a mobile service and you want to keep your existing mobile phone number, the prospective provider is obliged to:
- advise you that you may still have outstanding charges payable or unfulfilled obligations with your existing provider; and
- ask you to give authorisation confirming your request to change providers and retain your existing mobile number.
Confirmation of authorisation may be:
- written (for example, where you sign a form)
- electronic (for example, where you agree to certain conditions on the Internet before proceeding); or
- voice (for example, where you agree to certain conditions described to you over the telephone by an operator or a voice recording).
The prospective provider will also:
- make sure your personal information is correct, which helps to ensure that you are authorised to take the mobile number to your new provider. Personal information includes your mobile number as well as your:
- account number or date of birth for post paid contracts; or
- reference number or date of birth for pre-paid contracts and
- send messages to your existing provider to confirm:
- you have the mobile service and mobile number with that provider; and
- you have requested to change providers and retain your existing mobile number.
When notified by your new provider, your existing provider will arrange for your mobile phone number to be moved to the new provider. The new provider will make arrangements with other carriers for you to receive calls on that number with your new service.
If you believe your mobile number has been moved to another provider without your authorisation you should contact your existing provider.
How long should it take to move my number to a new provider?
Most changes should be made within a few hours. The processes are designed to make moving your number to a new provider as timely and straightforward as possible, but delays may be caused by system interruptions or periods of high demand.
Can I get a new handset when I move my number to a new provider?
Certainly. In most cases you will be entering into a new relationship when you move to the new provider and that is often the point at which people decide to get a new handset. However, if you are getting a new handset, and therefore entering into a contract during which you will be paying for that phone, it is particularly important to check any existing contract in case you are required to make payments.
Other factors to consider
Existing contractual terms and conditions
You are advised to check all terms and conditions of the contract with your existing provider before deciding to change. If you are unsure of your contractual obligations, including whether a cancellation fee applies, contact your provider. Service providers have to provide information about contract terms and conditions quickly and free of charge to their customers. You are also advised to carefully check and consider the terms and conditions of your new mobile service contract.
Reliance on prefixes to determine to which network a number belongs
Prior to MNP, mobile phone users may have known by looking at the prefix of a mobile number whether the number belongs to the same network. Some mobile providers offer special low call rates between same network connections, making these calls very attractive. As more users change service providers but keep their existing numbers, the ability to recognise a mobile network by the number prefix will be lost. To avoid unexpected charges, mobile users should be careful to check which network provides service for the number called.
Inclusion of mobile numbers in directories
Mobile phone numbers are included in directories on an opt-in (customer choice) basis, free of charge. Many customers have not requested that mobile numbers be included for various reasons, including privacy. The benefit of being listed will increase now that users are able to keep their mobile phone number when changing providers. You can arrange directory listing with your mobile phone service provider.
For more information on mobile number portability, contact the ACMA's Broadband Applications and Services Section.
Detailed information about the mobile number portability process and service providers' responsibilities is in the Mobile Number Portability Industry Code and the Mobile Number Portability Customer Information Guideline. These documents are on the Communications Alliance Ltd.
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.