As mobile phone numbers become increasingly central to our online identities and social media profiles, changing mobile numbers should be avoided wherever possible.
As well as having to notify friends and businesses about new contact details, and restarting every WhatsApp conversation, linking certain accounts to a new number is often tricky.
Being able to retain your existing number is crucially important, yet there are a couple of scenarios where it’s not so easy.
Staying with the same network
If you’re staying with the same network, it’s often possible to extract a SIM card from your old device and pop it into the replacement handset.
Staff in mobile phone stores can often help, though doing it yourself generally involves nothing more than a paperclip and a quick look at some online instructions.
Unfortunately, SIM cards come in three sizes nowadays (standard, micro and nano), so the card in your existing phone might not fit the new one’s brass SIM slot.
In this scenario, the network operator sends a text to the old handset, requesting confirmation of both old and new SIM serial numbers. The switch should take less than an hour.
This process is identical whether you’re staying on a comparable contract, or changing from pay monthly to SIM-only.
But what if you’re also looking to switch mobile networks?
From July 2019, it’ll be possible to request a number transfer via text message.
In the meantime, porting a number is slightly more convoluted – though nowhere near as intimidating as it used to be.
The process depends on a Porting Authorisation Code, better known as a PAC code.
It’s effectively an assurance that a customer’s request for a number transfer is legitimate.
As such, your existing operator won’t provide a PAC code unless you pass all their security questions, and turn down any offers or incentives to remain on that network.
The PAC code is a nine-digit string of letters and numbers, and mobile operators are legally obligated to provide it over the phone or via text message within two hours.
Each PAC code lasts for 30 days before it expires, and obtaining one doesn’t incur any fees.
Once it’s been given to the new operator, the process of switching numbers begins almost immediately.
While the networks organise the technical aspects of a transfer, the number will begin migrating between SIM cards.
For a short period, neither phone will be connected to a network. Incoming calls during this transitional period usually go to voicemail or trigger an ‘out of service’ message.
Providing it’s turned on and has sufficient battery charge, the new device will begin displaying voicemails and text messages once the transfer is complete.
Email and social media accounts should also update themselves, providing relevant apps have been installed.
The old handset ought to be reset to factory settings to remove any personally identifiable information, before it’s sold or put into storage.