How to Change Your Cell Provider and Retain Your Existing Phone Number?

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One of the biggest challenges of switching from one cell phone carrier to another is the fear of losing your current phone number. Previously you needed to give a 30-day notice to your current carrier of the intended shift but with CRTC, this is no longer a requirement.

Switching from one carrier to another has become quite a simple process and you can terminate services straight away and move to another provider along with your old number.

Number Porting Rules and Guidelines

When porting your phone number for one provider to the other, you need to ensure the following:

  • Plan a transfer with your new provider before you terminate your existing service. If the number is deactivated, porting will be impossible.
  • If you are changing locations, you need to first consult your new cell phone provider to confirm whether porting is possible from your current location to a different province or city.
  • Your current provider cannot block you from porting your phone number, but the new provider may accept or reject it. Although your new provider will obviously be happy with a new customer, some prepaid cell phone plans do not accept ported phone numbers.
  • Only primary service subscribers can request number porting. If you want to port a number for a share/family plan, you need to have an isolated service with the provider before launching a port request. If the number is registered under your company’s name, it won’t be possible to port the number.
  • In case you have any outstanding payments with your current carrier, you can port your number to another carrier, but you are still liable for any debts. You may also be required to pay early termination fees, in case you are under contract with the current provider. Some providers pro-rate early termination fees making it financially feasible if your contract is still on hold.

Which Are The Portable Numbers?

  • It is possible to port both your landline and cell-phone number. Any pre-paid numbers need to be active during the service transfer period.
  • You can also port a fax machine number, but a pager number cannot be ported.
  • It is not allowed to port a number to an already existing account. Porting is possible only when you are subscribing to a new service with the provider.

Number Porting Process

  1. First thing – Do not terminate your current service before contacting your new provider. If the number is already deactivated, porting cannot be carried out.
  2. Choose your preferred carrier, cell phone device and plan, and then contact your new provider of choice. You will be required to give your name, full address and details about your old account.
  3. If you wish to retain your current device, you have to provide the phone EMEI/ ESN number (found at the back of the device or underneath the battery).
  4. The new carrier will now contact the current provider for the porting process to start and it will be complete in approximately 2-3 hours.
  5. Upon completion and your new service activated, the old account will automatically be cancelled. It is always advisable to call your old provider to complete the transfer and negotiate any applicable charges. Your outstanding debt will be sent within a month or so.

Is My Phone Usable While Porting Is In Progress?

Through the process of porting, your phone can be used as normal but some few services may be interrupted. A phone or device that is locked to your old carrier needs to be unlocked to operate with your new service. Click here to read about CRTC recently banned cell phone providers from charging any unlocking fees

The porting process involves transferring your location details for the old carrier to the new carrier database. This makes it difficult for emergency 911 services to locate you using your number during the porting process. It is therefore necessary to provide your accurate location to operators in case of an emergency.

Costs Associated Number Porting

Porting service costs varies from one carrier to the other. Most carriers will charge for porting, but the cost may be waived or too low due to the high competition between companies. It is important to confirm the porting charges and negotiate to get them waived.

Guidelines for a Smooth Transition

  • Do Your Research Right – You need to check for a cell phone plan that works best for you. Ensure your provider of choice is registered and licensed to operate in your city. If you need a new device, research the best phone to upgrade to. You can use our tool to compare cell phone plans.
  • Carrier-Locked Phone – If your phone is locked to your provider, you have to first unlock it so that it can work with your new service.
  • Network Coverage – Consider the coverage for your new company to ensure that you can get good reception in your location.
  • Handset – Network Compatibility – Some hardware are not compatible with some types of mobile technology and you will need to buy a new device that is compatible with new network. This is different from carrier-locked handsets.
  • Debts And Charges – You are still liable for any unsettled debts and other charges like termination and porting fees.
  • Pre-Paid Airtime – Prepaid airtime is not transferable to your new service. If any you need to exhaust it or just give it up.
  • Features Transfer – Some service features are also not transferable to your new account including voicemail messages, caller ID and call forwarding. Listen to your voicemail messages before porting and set up all other features on your new account.


In some areas where only 2G networks can be used, a phone meant for a GSM network will not work on CMDA networks. Fortunately in most area all providers use identical 3G technologies for voice and text. In this case it doesn’t matter whether your phone is GSM or CDMA with exception of phones bought from the US.

US CMDA carriers only work on CMDA-3G technology and are incompatible with Canada’s 3G networks. However, for 4G LTE both the Canadian and US 4G carriers use the LTE as standard hence are compatible.

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