Now that I have two phones for the first time in my life, I’m itching to heavily rely on Google Voice. But as I said when Google Voice first opened its doors to Grand Central members, the missing number porting is holding me back. You actually […]

3147798491-googlevoice_03Now that I have two phones for the first time in my life, I’m itching to heavily rely on Google Voice. But as I said when Google Voice first opened its doors to Grand Central members, the missing number porting is holding me back. You actually can port a Google Voice number, but only from the service, not to the service. Therein lies my issue, as I have one main number and now one secondary number with my recent Palm Pre purchase. Far too many people have my main number for me to change it now.

We’ve heard that number porting to Google Voice is coming soon. While we’re waiting, I’ve been thinking about why we’re waiting. I’m sure there are some FCC hurdles here in the U.S., other legalities that I’m not privy to and some technical challenges as well. But there’s one unique aspect to number portability that just hit me: Google might have to convince carriers to give customers another phone number.

Let’s use my situation to explain that. I have my main number on AT&T with my iPhone. I’ve had that number since I first became a Verizon Wireless customer around the turn of the century. I later ported it to AT&T and it’s the number I want to use as my Google Voice number. That’s an ideal scenario since there’s no transition to the hundreds, maybe even a thousand people, that have my main number. So what happens to my AT&T iPhone when it loses the number? Obviously, AT&T is going to have to provide me a new number; one that I really won’t even use, other than to include it in my Google Voice settings.

We’ve had number portability for a few years now. But when we’ve exercised that right up to now, we’ve generally left a carrier or device behind. That’s not the case with portability and Google Voice. As I mentioned, there are likely several roadblocks for Google to overcome here. Regardless of the reason, I personally can’t wait for it to happen. Forwarding calls from one phone to another works great, but you have to remember to configure it each time you swap handsets.

  1. Kevin, right now if Google Voice were capable of receiving ported in mobile numbers, which I doubt they will be able to do, when you port away, your old account is closed. For your scenario to work they would have to add some kind of an option whereby you can port away without closing the account, and there they could assign you a second number.

    1. I think we have our wires crossed. ;)

      Yes, you can port your number away from Google Voice today. That’s not what I want to do. I want to port my existing AT&T cell phone number to Google Voice, but I don’t want to close down my AT&T account. I’ll need AT&T to give me another number for a phone & account I already have with them. Google is looking into solving the exact problem I want solved, but they’re not there yet.

    2. I’m going to have to make the same decision too. I was planning on porting my AT&T number to the Pre, but porting to Google Voice may be a smarter choice.

    3. Hey what up man I need a invite so I can use this I need this so bad

  2. We offer a unique number forwarding service that many use in combination with Google Voice currently. NumberGarage allows you to park or forward your number similar to a domain name. You still would need to keep a carrier or service number, as you mentioned.

  3. Neil Haldar Monday, June 22, 2009

    Actually, Kevin – if I may – Jalapeno hit the nail of your problem on the head.

    FCC told the carriers to accept number portability — but in my discussions with carriers, there is no distinction between a number and an account. Porting a number out *requires* an account to close.

    Funny enough, I actually wrote to the FCC prior to the rulemaking (as a typical Joe consumer) and told the FCC that my telephone number and my contractual obligation to maintain an account with the phone company should be two different things. At issue, I think, is understanding WHO owns the underlying number, and what rights, if any, a consumer has to that number when it has become a unique identifier of mine. (Homework: what does this say about email addresses?)

    However, the phone companies don’t see things this way — phone numbers and accounts are the same thing.

    As a result, to port your number out from AT&T and to Google Voice (when Google is ready) will either take 1. a possible re-up of your contract into a new agreement period with a new number, or 2. some serious re-working of the system by FCC and carriers. (In either case, closing the account prior to the contract end triggers the ETF fee, and very few cases exist where the carrier walks away from that).

    One thing is for sure: having a single number to spread voice across my connected devices is too powerful for the carriers to give away.

    Untying phone numbers with contracts seems to be a carrier’s psychological kryptonite.

    1. You’ve got a better handle on this situation than I do. So does Jalapeno, for that matter! Thanks to you both! :)

      So that’s a HUGE hurdle: having a phone number and an account being considered one and the same. My gut says that the FCC will have to modify old rules. When they were made, most phone numbers went with phones. Makes sense. But in tomorrow’s world, phone numbers could easily be assigned to services, not physical devices. Hmm…..

  4. Can’t wait for this to be released! Does anyone have an invite they want to share? (if there is such a thing)

  5. If you are w/ ATT (or a carrier with a family plan) and are out of contract, you can add a second line ($9.95 w ATT), then port away the primary line. You may have to pay an activation fee. If you add the 2nd line w/o a phone, there is no contract extension.

  6. Travis Carnahan Monday, June 22, 2009

    Does anyone know if google voice is addressing the ability to forward to an extension? I would happily jump on the bandwagon if that were the case!

  7. The other wire-across-the-road-at-shoulder-height for Google is the problem that number portability doesn’t extend to forcing moving the number geographically. Portability refereed to moving the number from one carrier to another in the same geographic region to open up local competition.

    The impact of this for Google is that they have to have a call service center in the right place to handle an area code for a number to be ported to them. They could start rolling out, as Vonage did, or wait and do the big bang approach.

  8. 12There is a another service thatI am in the BETA for which actually can help with your problem Kevin. Take a look at http://www.ribbit.com/everyday/. It lets you forward your main number to their service which will in turn ring multiple phone devices. It may solve the issue for you without any hassle

  9. I am anxiously awaiting GV’s inbound portability. I already have a GV number though so I am not sure how that would work ( I would certainly give it up).

    I am in a different situation than you Kevin. I have a home number that I am stringing along with the intention of canceling if I can port it to GV.

    I am ready when Google is.

  10. Hi Kevin,

    Actually there are no bureaucratic or technical challenges to porting numbers for Google Voice at all. Level3 is their partner carrier for Google Voice (GV just ordered 1M new numbers from them last week.) Level3 supports porting numbers through an API that GV is no doubt integrating with. The delays are probably just attributable to working to make sure L3’s API can scale to handle the demand. Also, GV needs to build an interface to allow the process to be automated, which requires the customer to fill out exact service address and digitally sign an acknowledgement form. But its all very straightforward. The only hitch is that the FCC doesn’t require instant porting like it does between mobile carriers, so the port can take 10-14 days, almost all attributable to the out-porting carrier which is in no hurry to comply.

    I know this because my company Toktumi also works with Level3 and we port numbers into our system all of the time. Toktumi is like a professional-grade version of Google Voice, designed for businesses who don’t want to trust their calls to a free service. We offer live customer support and additional features like auto-attendant, 800 numbers, a PC softphone, fax, desktop sharing, and a new mobile app called Line2 launching on the iPhone in a few weeks.

    1. Edwin Copeland Monday, December 14, 2009


      I am trying to port my google voice number to Toktumi, is this possible?

      1. Yes – no problem. We can port just about any number into our system, and we do it for free, unlike other carriers who charge up to $50. Because both google and toktumi use level3, porting will be especially trivial because it not really a port, just changing which servers the number points to. If you have any questions email me at psisson [at] toktumi /dot/ com.


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