PAC codes: Keep your number when changing networks

PAC codes: Keep your number when changing SIMs or networks

If you’re switching between networks, or moving to another deal with the same network, you can keep your number by getting a PAC code.

Switching between deals and networks when your contract ends is vital to getting the most value out of your mobile (and avoiding the outrageous rollover rates), but many people are put off switching networks by the thought of having to change their phone number.

Changing numbers can cause a big hassle – updating your contacts is one thing, but notifying your bank or doctor of a change in contact details can make for a tedious session of form-filling.

This can all be avoided if you keep the same number by getting a PAC code and it is easier than you think.

How to switch and keep your number

The process of switching numbers, also known as porting, is slightly different depending on if you’re changing networks or just changing SIM cards from your existing network, so follow the steps below that apply to you.

Same SIM, different network

1. Request a PAC code from your current network

A PAC is a Porting Authorisation Code, and it is used to identify and transfer phone numbers between different networks.

To get your PAC, call your current network. There is usually an automated function for requesting a PAC, but you may need to speak to an operator. You will get your code in two working days, usually by SMS text.

2. Give your PAC code to your new network

Now you have your PAC, you can start the transfer. All you have to do is give your code to your new network and they’ll take care of the rest. You can do this over the phone and some networks let you complete the process online – just type in your PAC and you’re done.

Many networks let you set up a number transfer when you’re buying your contract online, so if you have your PAC code before signing up, you can be up and running a bit faster.

3. Wait for the transfer to be completed

Once you’ve given your new network your PAC, they’ll start the process of switching numbers. This usually takes less than 24 hours, but can take longer if switching over weekends or bank holidays.

You will lose service on both your old SIM and new SIM until the transfer is finished and your network will text you once the number has been changed.

New SIM, same network

1. Find out if your number is ported automatically

Some networks will automatically port your number if you order a replacement SIM or change to a different contract.

You will often not need a new SIM when changing contracts, but it you need a different size for a new handset you’ll have to request a new SIM. If your number isn’t ported automatically, just follow the steps below to perform a SIM swap.

2. Make a note of the serial number on your new SIM

A SIM’s serial number is used by your network to identify the SIM you’re swapping to. It is a number between 12 and 20 digits long, so take care to note it down correctly.

You can find the serial number printed directly onto the SIM card itself or inside your SIMs packaging and documentation. You don’t need the serial number of your existing SIM, only the one you’re switching to. Make sure you have a blank, unused SIM as the swap cannot be performed on a card that’s been previously activated.

3. Find your network’s SIM-swapping form online

Many networks offer their SIM swap service through a simple online process. You may have to log into your customer account, but often a simple text message security check is all that’s required.

This involves filling in your phone number and then typing out the code that will be texted to you to confirm your identity. If you cannot receive texts, like if your SIM is lost or stolen, there is the option to fill out a longer form where you’ll have to provide more details. If your network doesn’t have this online feature, or if you are unable to use it, you can always call them up and complete the process over the phone.

4. Give your network the new SIM serial number

Once you have used one of the above methods to confirm your identity and number, you need to give your network the serial number of the new SIM that you noted earlier. Some forms require you to add a few digits depending on your type of SIM, but the instructions should be very easy to follow.

Again, the number can be up to 20 digits long so make sure to enter it all correctly.

5. Insert your new SIM into your phone

Once you’ve submitted the request for the SIM swap, you’ll have to insert your new SIM into your device so it can be activated on the network.

This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours and you will not have mobile service until the swap has been completed. Your network will likely notify you via text when your phone is ready for use again.

These methods to keep your number are, in most cases, completely free. What’s more, your network does most of the work for you – all you really need to do is note down either a SIM serial number or a PAC code and let them know.

Don’t be put off changing networks because you want to keep hold of your phone number – setting up a transfer could cost just five minutes of your time.

Main image via Flickr


Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.
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