Link to POSSIBLE method of porting a landline phone number to Google Voice for free (well, except for the $20 that Google Voice charges)


This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog.

Google Voice will only allow you to port cell phone numbers to their service (don’t ask ME why — seems stupid, but that’s their rule) so if you want to port a landline number, you first have to temporarily port it to a cell phone provider, then from there port it to Google Voice. Most of the published methods that I have seen for doing this involve paying out some small sum (usually around $20) to get a “disposable” cell phone (so after adding the $20 that Google Voice changes to do the port you are out almost $40), however I just stumbled across a thread that suggests it may be possible to do it for free, IF you have (or can borrow) an old Verizon or Page Plus cell phone that’s not currently being used.  Note this may not work in all areas (there are still areas of the country where Google Voice can’t port numbers) and I don’t guarantee it in any case because I haven’t personally tried it, but if you’ve been thinking of porting your landline number to Google Voice, this MIGHT save you a few bucks:

Post on Forums

Again, although it’s not clear from this thread, Google Voice will still charge you $20 to do the port, but if you can get this to work it could save you some money.  Note that if you are served by some Podunk (independent) telephone company there’s a good chance it won’t work, so keep that in mind if losing your number would be a major catastrophe for you.

12 thoughts on “Link to POSSIBLE method of porting a landline phone number to Google Voice for free (well, except for the $20 that Google Voice charges)”

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason Google Voice will only port cell numbers and not land line numbers is that cell numbers port very quickly and are less hassle than porting a land line.

  2. This would be a good service IF we knew if/when google will start to charge for calls either inbound or outbound. Wouldn’t it be a hassel if you ported the number and at the end of 2012, google announces it will start to charge incoming/outgoing calls? Since I have been using google voice, its been free but always with the “free until the end of 2010”, 2011 and now 2012.

  3. I’m mystified by number portability – something that I and every US landline user has been paying for for years but, curiously, doesn’t buy anything. I believe that Google will only port cellphone numbers because they have bought presence in the call centers of all the US cellphone providers but have *not* bought presence in all the landline providers (particular Frontier Communications, who bought Verizon’s landline operation and ended up covering most of rural US.)

    My understanding, and my understanding is limited and obtained by observation, is that numbers are not moveable to a provider if the moving provider (GV) does not have an existing contract to buy connectivity with the provider. So, for a landline, to port a number to a provider the moving provider (Gv0 has to have an allocation of numbers (possibly unused!) with the local exchange of the number being ported.

    So lots of guys suggest bait’n’switch on a landline number to a 3rd party cellphone provider (the provider *does* have an allocation within the local exchange/station number) then swap to Google, apparently (again I’m usinig a scientific method and this is a hypothesis based on observation) only accepts this if it does actually have an allocation within the local exchange aka station (the first six digits).

    I think.

    BTW I know GV isn’t a provider, rather a user, because they own the numbers innocently “ported” to them (read, given with $20), but sense is not part of telephony.

    John Bowler

    1. You may be right about needing to have a contract/allocation of numbers; however, I think you are over-complicating it. Portability is handled by a database. Just like with an 800 number call, a database is consulted to see how to route the call. Cell phone portability came out first before land-line portability. The cell carriers are probably all in one huge shared database. The FCC also requires that cell phones be ported very quickly. Landline ports from one company to another are possible, but are not as quick as cell phone ports and can be a big hassle. By the way, land-line ports (and perhaps cell ports) can only be done in the same geographical area, so both carriers have to serve the same market area.

  4. Robert Coates said:

    “By the way, land-line ports (and perhaps cell ports) can only be done in the same geographical area, so both carriers have to serve the same market area.”

    What is a “geographical area”; can you give me a reference to the legal defintion? It sounds from the rest of the paragraph that you are paraphrasing what I said but without a mechanistic explantion. My mechanism is a hypothesis, my observations are consistent with your statement. What seems to be missing here is an explanation of the mechanism of portability.

    John Bowler jbowler @ aCM.ORG

    1. John, perhaps I can help with this. In order to port a number from one landline company to another, the company that will be receiving the number must have a POP (point of presence) in the same LATA as the company that the call is being transferred from. LATAs generally (but not precisely) follow area code boundaries, although there can be multiple area codes in the same LATA (often due to area code splits). As an example, in Michigan, generally speaking the 231, 269, and 616 area codes are in the Grand Rapids LATA, one of five LATAs in Michigan (the others are the Detroit LATA, the Lansing LATA, the Saginaw LATA, and the Upper Peninsula LATA). As noted, LATA boundaries do not precisely follow area code boundaries; for example, near the Michigan-Indiana border there are a few exchanges in the 269 area code that are in the Lansing LATA, even though the bulk of 269 is in the Grand Rapids LATA.

      A company can have more than one POP in the same LATA (for example, some companies might have a POP in Grand Rapids to handle AT&T exchanges, and another in Muskegon to handle Frontier exchanges) in order to reduce costs. But they must have at least one in the LATA or they cannot port numbers from within that LATA. Typically the POP is either colocated in the same building as the incumbent telephone company, or in a building a short distance away, in one of the major switching points within the LATA. The POP could be a self-contained phone switch, or just a remote unit that concentrates all the traffic back to a switch in another location (which could be in another LATA). But either way, there has to be some sort of equipment in that LATA that can accept calls from, and deliver calls to the incumbent telephone company (and possibly other competitive local telephone companies).

      Also, bear in mind there might be other reasons a port cannot take place. A company may not have an interconnection agreement with a smaller telephone company, or in increasingly rare cases, a small company may be using older equipment or software that doesn’t permit porting (I’m not sure if that is still an issue, but I do know that many companies will only port from the larger phone companies, such as AT&T or perhaps Frontier in Michigan).

      Although I believe that cellular companies also have to have a POP in every LATA they serve, I think the rules for porting are a bit different with them. But, I don’t know the specifics on those differences.

  5. I’m sure when reading this you’ll think the process is much more complicated than it needs to be. Such is the life of telcos and the FCC.

  6. This all matches my intuitiion based on what I’ve seen about the work-rounds for non-portability, but I think there’s a missing subtlety; “must have a POP (point of presence) in the same LATA as the company that the [number] is being transferred from”; that is ambiguous. If a number has been transferred previously (and I think all the work-rounds you are suggesting depend on that) is the LATA that of the number, or is it the LATA it was last transferred to?

    The Coates reference adds mystery to this; there is a centralized database (the SS7 database) of all numbers that all providers must reference to find the correct destination of a call:

    As a result LATAs become irrelevant – it is the signalling channel and the respository of databases connected by that channel that matter.

    The Coates reference then alludes to an LNP database; in essence a single database for all US telephone numbers (there is a fallback for unported numbes which don’t yet exist in the database, but that is irrelevant.) Unfortunately there seems to be no such thing.

    The document as good as says that the restriction on portability only to a service provider in the same area is a legal restriction; there is no engineering reason for the restriction. It is, presumably, solely there to protect the interests of service providers.

    This takes us back round the circle; from the simple engineering we know that numbers are portable regardless of whether the provider to which they are ported has a POP in either the original LATA or the last but one LATA. That doesn’t help.

    The Coates reference includes yet another meaningless piece of gibberish with regard to this question stating that porting in to a new provider is required if:

    “the requesting wireless carrier’s “coverage area” overlaps the geographic location in which the customer’s wireline number is provisioned, provided that the porting-in carrier maintains the
    number’s original rate center designation following the port”

    The word *provisioned* isn’t defined in the reference – it might mean the original LATA or it might mean the last-but-one LATA.

    What seems clear is that any US number can be ported to any provider (worldwide) who has access to any of the provider US LNP databases. However I don’t see how the LNP databases are built, perhaps if I examined the Coates document in detail I might be able to work it out, but that document is much less concerned with how it works than how to protect the provider’s arse.

    I suspect it is entirely up to the porting-in provider to decide whether or not to accept a number on financial considerations, mainly connected with how much they have to pay to access an LNP database that contains information about the number.

    John Bowler

    1. John, each telephone number NPA-NXX (area code and first three digits of the number — actually it’s sometimes the first four digits since carriers can now own “thousands blocks” of numbers) are assigned to a particular carrier in a particular ratecenter. It’s the LATA that contains that ratecenter that determines if the number can be ported. No matter how many times the number is ported, it will still be assigned to the same ratecenter and LATA.

      Go to and input an area code and exchange prefix and you will see how this works. The LATA is shown under the Misc. column. Any given phone number will NEVER be assigned to a different ratecenter or LATA (unless the FCC changes things down the road), no matter where the actual subscriber is.

      Anyway, this is probably not the place to get the most up-to-date information. Robert and I are only trying to explain as best we can; if that explanation doesn’t satisfy you there is nothing we can do about it. I’m certainly not defending the current system; if it were up to me the entire concept of ratecenters and LATAs would be thrown out, and the United States of America would be one big ratecenter, with “local” calling, porting, etc. possible no matter where you are in the U.S.A. I’ve always thought that LATAs make no sense.

      1. Yes, that’s what I thought; why I originally wrote “So, for a landline, to port a number to a provider the moving provider (Gv0 has to have an allocation of numbers (possibly unused!) with the local exchange of the number being ported.” Ok, so to rephrase it in telco-speak:

        “GV has to have a POP in the in the geographical area of the LATA corresponding to the rate-center (first six or seven digits) of the number being ported.”

        My original hypothesis is that GV doesn’t have a POP in every LATA, so they can’t port numbers from ratecenters in that LATA, which would imply they couldn’t actually port all cell-phone numbers either. Since the LATAs are so big this seems unlikely. E.g. I know they won’t port 541-592 (Cave Junction, LATA Eugene/OR), but I suspect they will port 541-257 (Corvallis, same LATA and used by wireless providers in Cave Junction.)

        Still, MT gave another constraint:

        “Also, bear in mind there might be other reasons a port cannot take place. A company may not have an interconnection agreement with a smaller telephone company”

        However, even in that case, it is the rate center, or (for 541-257) the sub-blocks rate-centers (the thousands block is divided into three) that matter; not whomever the number has last been ported to.

        So my hypothesis still stands: some numbers *cannot* be ported into GV because GV lacks either the POP or, perhaps more likely, the agreement to handle the number once ported.

        I’d also like to offer a second hypothesis, that it isn’t the LATA that matters, but the CLLI, because the CLLI identifies the geographical area (first response by Robert Coates) and, while 541-257 and 541-292 are in the same LATA they have different CLLIs. CLLIs are also much finer grained that LATAs outside metropolitan areas and if a CLLI presence is required that would be a much more likely explanation of why GV won’t port some landline numbers but will port others.

        John Bowler

  7. NOTICE: All comments above this one were imported from the original Michigan Telephone Blog and may or may not be relevant to the edited article above.

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