Porting a landline number to Google Voice

Post date: Jan 20, 2017 7:12:31 PM

Part of the homemade key system project was getting my folks' landline number from their old house in the city to forward to their new number at the lake house. As you are probably aware, you can only port mobile numbers to Google Voice. If you want to use your current landline (or VOIP) number with GV you first have to port it to a mobile.

I prefer to port important numbers to Google Voice because they let you move access to voice and text from device to device. Years ago, in the dark ages of the 90's, email services were largely provided by residential ISPs. Changing your home ISP or moving to a new city meant changing your email address. It was absolutely barbaric. Web companies like Hotmail became popular because they allowed you move ISPs and even whole networks without changing your email address. Web-based email also let you check your email from work, school, or your relatives' house. Google Voice provides exactly the same functionality, mobility, and convenience.

I have ported 3 numbers to GV thus far, two of which have been landline/VOIP numbers. The first number that I ported was my own personal mobile number. My old job paid me a stipend for a smartphone and data. My current job just issued smartphones. I didn't like the idea of carrying two smartphones, so I waited for my personal contract to expire and then I ported the number to GV. This lets me use my work phone for everything. It's been over 5 years and the only time I have had any trouble with my phone has been when I have been messing with a new app and screwed up my calling settings, which I will admit, happens kind of often :-)

The second number that I ported was my home phone number. I have used a number of VOIP services over the past decade for my home phone, and at one point I even had an old school landline. My landline had a really cool number (lots of repeating digits) so I decided to hang on to it. Instead of porting it to different VOIP services (which I have done at least twice) I decided to port it to GV. Now I can shop around for VOIP services and just use GV call forwarding and change the outbound caller ID to match my GV number. Or just use a device like an Obi ATA to VOIP without any hassle.

Porting your VOIP/Landline number to GV is a multi-step process. Over the years the process has sped up significantly, but the cost is still around $40-$60.

Things you will need:

  1. A cheap mobile phone compatible with a prepaid carrier.
    1. You can save some money here if you have an unlocked GSM phone on hand. Look in that drawer in your kitchen. You probably have like 5 old phones in there.
    2. We'll call this the Donor Phone.
  2. A small number of prepaid minutes.
    • Don't worry about the per-minute price.
    • You probably only need about 10 minutes, so even at $0.75 per you shouldn't spend more than $10.
  3. A working non-Google Voice phone number that is neither your number to be ported, nor your Donor Phone number.
    • In the case of my in-laws' home phone number, I just used my father in-law's mobile phone.
    • We'll call this the Recipient Phone.
  4. A Gmail account. Preferably a new one dedicated to the business of your ported number. Or not. I can't tell you how to live your life :-)

The process works like this:

Step 1 - The Donor Phone

First, you need to get a prepaid phone and some minutes.

I have only done this with t-Mo, but I assume that you can do it with other carriers. I buy a prepaid sim kit and a $10 airtime card and use one of my old unlocked GSM phones. This has kept my initial cost for this phase around $16-$20. If you don't have a phone on hand, that will cost you more.

I tried doing the number port and buying minutes once the process is successful. t-Mo has told me it will work, but it never does. So trust me, you need minutes on the phone before you start the port process.

$10 should buy you 30 minutes that last for 30 days. Once you get this process started, you are on a clock. You need to move to step 2 pretty much immediately.

Step 2 - Port your landline number

Now you port your landline number to the Donor Phone

This usually involves getting a bunch of info from your phone service and calling customer service for your prepaid carrier. Most of it is name address and phone number type stuff, but you also need an account number and the pin, and possibly a copy of the bill. Most services don't really do paper bills any more, but you may have to create a PDF or some other digital copy of the billing info from your service.

In the past, this has taken a few business days, but this last time, it took just 24 hours, once I realized that I needed a working t-Mo account with minutes for the number to port to.

You can check to see if your number ported by rebooting your phone and calling an Automated Number Announcement Circuit (ANAC), which will read your number back to you. My favorite is the MCI line, 1 (800) 444-4444. I call it all the time for various reasons, mostly to test outgoing VOIP lines. Sometimes I just call it from payphones, business lines, and wiring blocks that I find.

Once you call the ANAC and hear your ported landline number instead of your prepaid number, it's time to move to step 3.

Step 3 - The Receiver Phone

Before you can set up a Google Voice number, you need a "real" phone number to forward it to. This is the non-Google Voice, non-prepaid, third number that we call the Receiver Phone.

Even if you plan on doing a bunch of slick batphone type stuff, you need to start with a real number to get GV working. In the case where I was porting a home phone number for someone, I just use their mobile number for the initial setup. When I did this for my home phone, I used the number for the Vestalink service that set up. In the case of my personal mobile number, I used the number for my work mobile.

Also, beware of using a number that was given to you by a mildly shady provider, but this is just a preliminary step. Once your GV account is set up and ported number are working, you can then remove the Receiver Phone number from Google Voice add whatever other number you would like. As long as it isn't another Google Voice number, and is not in use elsewhere.

If you are desperate for a 'real' working number to use temporarily, there are plenty of options if you think outside the box :-) Any number that you can call and answer will work. I have used conference room phones from work and once, at DefCon I used a payphone at the Riviera Hotel that would receive incoming calls.

Step 4 - Port your landline number again

Now that your landline number is on the donor phone, you need to port it again, this time to Google Voice

Since your account with t-Mo or whomever is very new, you should have the account number and PIN and everything handy. The process for Google is pretty much the same as the first number port, but it's totally online. This process is another $20, through Google Pay, so make sure that is all up to date with your current debit card.

At this point you need to keep an eye out for either the confirmation email (SUCCESS!!) or message about how the port didn't work. (ERROR!!)

The process can fail for billing errors, incorrect info about your account with your prepaid carrier, or other things like that. The process is pretty much free from human interaction, so it really doesn't tolerate errors.

Step 5 - ???

Step 6 - Profit

Now that your cool important number that everyone has is in the cloud you can go crazy with it. Have fun!