Wireless local number portability (WLNP) has been available in the U.S. since November 2003 (in the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)) and May 2004 (in the rest of the country). A consumer wishing to port a number should contact the prospective new carrier, who will start the process of porting by contacting the consumer's current carrier. Commission rules require carriers to port a number when they receive a valid request, and carriers may not refuse to port. However, consumers are still legally bound by their existing service agreements and should be familiar with any fees they may incur for canceling an existing contract before deciding to port a number to a new carrier.

Factsheet on Keeping Your Telephone Number When You Change Your Service Provider
Checklist - What are the steps to take?
Recent Developments

Frequently Asked Questions

What is wireless local number portability (LNP)?

  • Wireless LNP is a wireless consumer's ability to change service providers within the same local area and still keep the same phone number.
  • Wireless LNP allows consumers to switch from one wireless carrier to another within the same general metropolitan area. It does not allow consumers to keep the same phone number when moving to a new town or city.
  • Wireless LNP also allows consumers to move a phone number from a wireline phone to a wireless phone in some cases.

Who should consumers contact if they want to port their number to a new carrier?

  • Consumers should contact their prospective new carrier, who will start the porting process. The new carrier will first confirm the consumer's identity and then make a porting request of the old carrier. When consumers go to their new carrier to port a number, they should bring along a recent bill, which will have their correct name and address as it appears in the carrier’s database. This should aid in making the porting process go smoothly. Once a valid porting request has been made, the old carrier cannot refuse to port a number. 

Are carriers allowed to charge for number porting, and, if so, how much can the charges be?

  • Companies may assess fees to recover the costs that they incur in providing number portability. Fees may vary between companies, and some companies may not charge any fees.
  • Companies may not refuse to port a number because a consumer has not paid for porting.
  • When considering a switch, consumers should ask the new company whether it charges any number portability fees and whether those fees can be waived.

Can different carriers charge different amounts?

  • Yes, because different carriers have varying costs of operating due to numerous economic factors. Although the FCC does not regulate the amount of such charges, all such charges must be just and reasonable. 

If a consumer has a long-term contract with a carrier, is that consumer still obligated to pay an early termination fee even if he/she ports the phone number to a new carrier?

  • Yes. While consumers who wish to switch carriers may request service from and port numbers to a new carrier at any time, they are still obligated to pay any early termination fees they may have under an existing contract, and they are obligated to pay any outstanding balance owed to the old carrier.
  • Consumers interested in switching providers should review their existing contract to determine what fees or charges would apply.
  • However, once a consumer has requested service from a new carrier, the old carrier may not delay or refuse to port a number even if that individual owes money for an outstanding balance or termination fee.

Can consumers port a wireline number to a wireless phone?

  • Wireline-to-wireless porting is possible in some cases. Consumers interested in porting a number from a wireline to a wireless phone should check with the prospective new wireless carrier to see if wireline to wireless porting is an option for them.
  • If you port a number from a wireline phone to a wireless phone, your wireline long distance carrier will not move with you. Your long distance service will generally be provided by your new wireless carrier.
  • Pursuant to a court-ordered stay, most small wireline carriers currently are not required to port numbers to wireless carriers until the FCC completes and publishes a study about the effect of the porting rules on small carriers.
  • After the FCC completes and publishes its study about the effect of the porting rules on small wireline carriers, these carriers may still have an exemption from the porting requirements if they have received a state waiver. The law permits state public utility commissions to grant certain small wireline carriers waivers from the number portability requirements. Customers who want to port a wireline number to a wireless phone and are told that they cannot should contact their state public utility commission to find out whether their wireline carrier has been granted a waiver. Click here for contact information for state commissions.

How long will the porting process take?

  • For a wireless-to-wireless transfer, the porting process should take approximately two and a half hours from the time the porting request is made of the old carrier. The FCC has not mandated a specific time frame for the wireless-to-wireless porting process. Two and a half hours is the time frame agreed upon by the wireless industry, and the FCC encourages carriers to use that time frame.
  • A wireline-to-wireless port will probably take longer to complete, and could take several days. Before porting between wireline and wireless phones, consumers should ask their new service provider how long the process will take. 

If consumers port a number to a new wireless carrier, can they still use their current phone?

  • For various reasons, wireless handsets are often incompatible among different wireless service providers. Consumers will likely need to purchase a new phone, even when they retain the same phone number. Even when a phone can be reprogrammed to work on a new network, most carriers may have policies against doing so.

Will porting my number cause any problems with E911?

  • During the time the number is being ported from the old carrier to the new carrier, there may be a period of "mixed service" when E911 service is affected. If customers call 911 during this period, the call should go through. However, the 911 operator may not be able to call consumers back if the call gets disconnected.
  • Before porting either a wireless or a wireline number, consumers should ask their new service provider how long the porting process will take and how the porting process will affect emergency services.

Do the porting requirements apply to paging carriers?

I’ve heard that some consumers experienced difficulties while attempting to port their numbers during the initial rollout of wireless LNP. What should I expect if I try to port my number now?

  • Since the rollout of wireless LNP began, the FCC has been monitoring wireless and wireline carriers’ progress in implementing number portability. While there were a few technical bumps in the road during the initial stages of the rollout, carriers have resolved most of these issues and we expect the remainder of the implementation process to go smoothly, in most instances.  

Recent Developments

FCC Increases Consumer Choice By Speeding Number Portability.
News Release: Word | Acrobat
Report & Order: Word | Acrobat
Copps Statement: Word | Acrobat
Adelstein Statement: Word | Acrobat
McDowell Statement: Word | Acrobat

REPORT & ORDER:Telephone Number requirements for IP-Enabled Services Providers. The Commission took a series of steps designed to ensure that consumers benefit from Local Number Portability (LNP). Docket 95-116, 04-36, 07-243. FCC No. 07-188.
Report and Order: Word | Acrobat

FCC Seeks Comment on Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis in Telephone Number Portability Proceeding.
Public Notice: Word | Acrobat

FCC Considers Reducing the Time Interval for Number Porting Between Wireline and Wireless Carriers.
NPRM: Word | Acrobat

FCC Observes First Anniversary of Wireless Local Number Portability.
News Release: Word | Acrobat

FCC Clears Way for Local Number Portability Between Wireline and Wireless Carriers.
Order: Word | Acrobat

Wednesday, May 18, 2016