I’ve been going through the process of moving my landline phone numbers to Google Voice and wanted to share my experience with others who might want to do the same thing. Technically I am moving from Vonage (having ported there from a wired landline a year ago) but the process is the same regardless of whether on Vonage or an actual landline (as both are treated the same from a porting perspective).
A Note For Those Moving From a Cell Phone to Google Voice: Congratulations – it’s very easy. You can port directly from a mobile phone to Google Voice without the workaround discussed here.
Why Move to Google Voice?
Google Voice allows you to take a telephone number, ring multiple phones when someone calls it (such as multiple cell phones, or a cell phone and an office line, or, like in my case, a cell phone and a Skype number), forward texts to multiple devices, and keeps a history of voicemails both on its website and emailed to addresses of your choice.
In our case, we had a home landline that received virtually zero calls due to friends and family calling our cell phones. The problem we had was that the number had been mine for over a decade and it was still the number on file with our banks, credit cards, emergency contacts, etc, so disconnecting it could have a number of issues.
In a second instance, I had a home-office land line that I have used for my business for over 10 years. This number is used in many places, but I only used the phone attached to it on rare occasion – I was already forwarding calls after 2 rings to my cell phone. Paying $50+ per month for this line no longer made sense, but I didn’t want to lose the number.
The Problem: Google Voice only allows number porting from mobile numbers (as of this writing).
The Solution: A temporary cell phone!
As of a few years ago, you are now able to port a landline number to a cell phone carrier. This means that you can transfer your landline number to a cell phone, and then transfer your cell phone number to Google Voice.
The key is to do so as inexpensively as possible – you don’t want to get into some sort of contract on a phone if you are going to transfer it away.
AT&T has a line of prepaid phones called “GoPhone”. With these you purchase blocks of prepaid currency (the minimum being $15) which goes towards calls at $0.10 per minute. Looking on their site, I found a refurbished F160 GoPhone for only $15.99 with no contract. Better yet, AT&T allows number porting to GoPhones.
Step 1: I set up a Google Voice account with a temporary phone number. This allowed me to set the account to forward as I like, set up my voicemail, etc.
Step 2: Purchased AT&T GoPhone for $15.99. AT&T assigned a temporary number to the phone.
Step 3: After receiving the phone, I activated it and called the AT&T porting center at (888) 898-7685 and arranged for my landline number to port to the GoPhone. Because this was coming from a landline, the process took about 3 business days to transfer.
Step 4: I purchased $15 in usage for the GoPhone. This is the minimum allowed, but it’s needed for the number to transfer. To help make sure I didn’t miss any calls, I set the cell phone to forward calls to my temporary Google Voice number (which in turn directed them to my cell phone and other numbers).
Step 5: I checked the http://www.wireless.att.com/lnp site until it showed the date and time my number port would be confirmed. That date and time is only for when your existing carrier has agreed to allow you to port the number – it does not mean the number will automatically work on your temporary phone at that time.
Step 6: Right after the port confirmation date and time, I again called the AT&T porting center at (888) 898-7685 to have them finish the port. Within about 10 minutes my landline number now worked on my temporary cell phone. While you have someone from AT&T on the phone – ask them for the account number for your GoPhone. You can only get this from someone at AT&T and it will be needed to port the number from the GoPhone to Google Voice!
Step 7: Immediately following the landline number now ringing to the cell phone, I went to my Google Voice account, to Settings, and started the process of porting my number from the cell phone to Google Voice. This took 24 hours and has a one-time cost of $20.
At that point, my old land line number was working on Google Voice!
All told, I had $41 in cost ($16 for the phone, $15 for the usage, and $20 for the Google port) and going forward with Google Voice I would save $35 per month on my land line! The total process from beginning to end took 4 business days from when the GoPhone arrived to my home to when the number was active on Google Voice.
What about a second number?
I already had the GoPhone in hand, and I wanted to port my other number (my home office line) to Voice. The biggest hurdle with this one was that I needed a new, unused SIM card. I went to the nearest AT&T store and asked a guy who worked there for a SIM card for a GoPhone, and I told him I would activate it at home. He handed me one at no charge, and when I got home I went to https://www.wireless.att.com/GoPhoneWeb/goPhoneLanding.do?method=activatePayGo, entered the number from the SIM card, and put it into the GoPhone. From here the process was exactly the same as before. 4 days later and my home office number was ported, saving over $50 per month!
Obviously, your mileage may very, but all in all it proved a great way to keep my legacy numbers for no ongoing cost.
Update 11/1/2011: A few days after the migration of my second number from Vonage to Google Voice, I received word from a few of my contacts that they were getting a “this number has been disconnected” or “this number is not in service” message when they called from Qwest or certain VOIP providers. After much digging, it looks like there is a not-uncommon issue of Vonage failing to delete the number fully from their systems after cancellation, causing odd routing issues. I ended up posting to this thread on Vonage’s forum, and I was contacted by someone saying it would be deleted within 24-72 hours. So here’s hoping!