Can we take our phone number when moving offices?

 In Technology, Telecoms

The short answer to this question is “Yes” – moving offices doesn’t mean losing your current number. And its due to the combined influences of cloud-based telecommunications infrastructure, virtualisation, and technologies like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Moving offices can be stressful enough, without the added burden of wondering whether your partners, suppliers, and customers will still be able to contact you when you get to your new location. Thankfully, there are mechanisms in place to ensure that you can retain those existing telephone numbers that your contacts are familiar with – and even add new ones which are more memorable.

Redirecting Your Calls

With analogue phone lines running on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), lines are all connected to a local telephone exchange which operates over a certain area. If you’re moving offices outside the coverage area of your existing local exchange, retaining your business phone number/s isn’t an option with traditional telephone lines.

At the location of your new exchange, you’ll be assigned a new telephone number. But if you wish to avoid the hassle of notifying all your existing contacts of the change (and having to alter your listing on your company website, stationery, local directories, and so on) you can arrange to have all calls to your previous phone number redirected to the new one – for a fee, of course.

This approach should be adopted as a temporary measure really, since charges for a service like this are typically made per minute on each incoming call. Over time, this could take a serious bite out of your budget.

Number Portability

Telephone systems based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) have a native quality known as number portability, whereby it’s standard for subscribers to be able to keep their existing phone numbers when moving offices or relocating their homes. “Number porting” may also be achieved between cabled, IP, or wireless telecom services if you’re switching between providers in the same geographical area.

In some parts of the world, mobile networks may assign subscribers a new telephone number when they relocate to a different city or region. As a work-around to this for individual consumers or business users wishing to retain their numbers when moving offices, special procedures are required to ensure “mobile number portability.” Typically, this involves acquiring a special porting code from your provider, then completing formalities at one of their branch offices to get your number assigned to a new SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card.

Changing Service Providers

If you’re moving offices or simply want to switch to a different service provider while retaining your existing phone number, procedures similar to those for mobile number portability generally apply. Subscribers request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC, or similar) from their old service provider, then inform their new provider of this code, to schedule the switch.

In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protects subscribers’ rights to keep their phone numbers when moving offices under what’s known as the Wireless Local Number Portability (LNP) policy, which obliges all wireless carriers to allow number porting. But subscribers can only keep their existing numbers if they’re moving to a service provider operating within the same local area.

Other conditions apply – including the fact that while a service provider can’t prevent you from taking your number with you when you leave, a new provider isn’t under any obligation (other than the fact that it makes good business sense) to accept you as a new customer. Some smaller carriers dealing with pre-paid subscribers may fall into this category.

During the transition from one service provider to another, there are also some issues to look out for:

  • You need an active account with your previous carrier to be able initiate a number transfer – so don’t cancel your service before contacting the new provider.
  • You may need to provide your phone’s uniquely identifying ESN/IMEI number (typically found on the back of the phone, or under the battery), if you want to keep using the same device.
  • Even if you still owe money to your current provider, you can port your number to a new one. But you do remain liable for any outstanding debts, and will have to pay an early cancellation fee if you’re still under contract.
  • You’ll still be able to make outgoing calls on your old mobile phone, but all incoming calls will go to your new one during the porting process itself – which may take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of working days, depending on the interplay between old and new service providers and the date when the process is started.
  • Your existing service should be automatically terminated once the new service becomes active – but it’s a good idea to contact your original carrier to confirm this, and resolve any outstanding issues or debts that may be relevant.

Virtual Phone Numbers

In the early days of telephony – when the phone company would assign a single line delivered to a single business via a dedicated (and expensive) PBX system – phone numbers were intimately linked to actual physical locations and hardware.

Nowadays, there’s a “virtualisation” of IT and telecommunications due to technologies like VoIP, and the delivery of infrastructure, software, and services from remotely located resources via the cloud. Phone numbers can be virtual now, and no longer tied to a specific location or device. Calls to virtual phone numbers are managed by a remote service provider or proxy, and redirected to the subscriber according to the rules set out in their service contract.

So if you’re moving offices, your phone number can easily move with you. Moreover, the same number can be redirected to as many devices as you specify, so that incoming calls can be received simultaneously by (for example), an office phone and your hand-held mobile.

As well as keeping and porting your existing business phone number to as many devices as you choose, virtual phone systems also give users the option of acquiring new numbers – including local area codes, toll-free numbers, vanity numbers (1-800-LAWYERS, etc.), and even international ones.

Moving offices now gives business users the opportunity to retain the familiar (your existing phone numbers) and ring in the new, to enhance your operations and improve your brand identity.

If you have any further questions about porting your number, or would like more information on your technology considerations when moving offices, please get in touch with the telecoms experts at LG Networks today.

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