The foremost thing you have to understand about ports is that when you take your number from one service provider, and port it to a provider, it is a clean transfer.
That is, once the port to your new virtual PBX is complete, the phone number is no longer associated with the losing carrier, in any way. This leads us to the second most important point, which is this:
The old phone will stop working.
Let’s say that 555-1234 is your primary business phone number, and this number is attached to a desk phone in your office. What makes it possible for that desk phone to ring when people dial 555-1234?
It rings because the service provider, whether AT&T, or Comcast, or whoever, has activated the line going into this phone by attaching the number, 555-1234, to that line. When you port that number away to your new provider, the line will deactivate.
This is understandably confusing for everybody, so please allow a crude illustration to shed some light on what is actually happening.
Remember Ben Franklin’s electricity experiment with the kite in the storm? Imagine that the string is the phone line that your provider gave you, the key hung on the string is your phone number, and the kite is your desk phone.
When someone places a call to that number, it strikes the key and rings the phone. Your service provider supplies the string and attaches the key so that calls can get through to you.
So when you port your number to a virtual PBX provider, you remove your key from the old kite and take it with you. Now when people call your number, it cannot reach the old kite and string because you removed the key. When your port completes, that means that you have attached your phone number to a new string.
To put it more simply, the phone that had this number before will no longer ring because the phone number has been removed when you ported it away. If you still want that phone to be active, all you have to do is contact the old provider and ask them to attach a new number to it.
Whatever features were attached to the number are cleared after the port.
Any features that your phone number had before you ported it away will not follow the number to the new provider. This means that if you had this number set to forward to another line, for example, that feature is cancelled when you port it away.
Once again, remember that the number no longer has any association with the old provider, once it is ported away, which is why any of those features are cancelled.
The phone number will not be down during the porting process.
Another important thing to understand is that, although it takes an average of 7-10 days for your phone number to successfully transfer to the new provider, the number will not be down at any point during the porting process.
It will continue to work on the old phone with the old carrier as normal, until the day your port completes. The losing carrier will provide a Firm Order of Completion (FOC), and on that completion date, the number will seamlessly transfer to your new virtual PBX.
Phone number ports are a routine practice, and as antiquated as much of the telecom infrastructure is, carriers actually do know what they’re doing, or at least most of them do.
The key thing to remember is that a port to a new service provider makes a clean break with the old provider, so that the number doesn’t have anything to do with the losing carrier anymore. Whenever you port, just be sure to contact the old provider before you start, so that there are no surprises that may cause delays.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.