Number Portability for VoIP Phone Systems

Posted on: 2016-11-01 | Categories:VoIP Services

The PSTN network ties phone numbers to a physical location. We can see this in the format itself where the first 3 digits correspond to the local area code. It is a format that hasn’t changed in years and is used worldwide.

We often find it useful to estimate who the caller might be, based on the area code which shows up when they call. Most people also use this information as a way to screen calls – getting a call from another state or unknown area code? Simply let it go to voicemail and you don’t have to interrupt your work to answer it.

How VoIP changes Things

However, the arrival of VoIP has changed more than just how much we pay for calls. This new technology frees us from many constraints that we never realized we operated under. Some of those constraints included:

  • We couldn’t take our phone with us when we moved our home or office
  • We could make or receive calls from only a single instrument for the most part
  • As individual or personal subscribers, we didn’t get many facilities available for business users such as flexible call forwarding
  • Even companies had to sign multi year contracts and pay heavily for maintenance and service

Only when VoIP became more prevalent did we realize that our communication systems should do more for us. Now we don’t have to constrain ourselves in how we use phone systems – either at home or at work. With VoIP, we can do so much more.

VoIP Numbers and Physical Location

Even though VoIP numbers are not tied to a physical location or address, they still follow the same general format. The only difference is that you can now get a phone number with any area code – not just the one where your home or office operates. So a company could be headquartered in Virginia while having local numbers in California or Arkansas.

This might appear to be a disadvantage to consumers – since you can no longer screen callers based on area code – but businesses have been quick to take advantage of it. Call centers and customer care teams can now give out local numbers in different markets, giving the impression of being local companies to clients. Businesses do not have to pay exorbitant prices for toll free numbers.

VoIP Number Portability

VoIP numbers may not be tied to a physical address but that did not mean they were free of all limitations. One thing that you still could not do was take your number with you if you changed vendors or moved to a different service. It was certainly possible to take your phone numbers with you when you moved to a new state or city, but not if you were getting service from another provider.

Over the last few years, even this limitation has gone away. You are now able to take your phone number wherever you go and even when you get a new service. This feature is called number portability and most vendors will offer it. In the US, the FCC has even put in certain regulations that govern number portability which ensure that vendors cannot hold clients hostage.

The VoIP industry has thrived in an environment of  fierce competitiveness that saw the removal of annual service contracts, early termination fees and other charges in the fine print. With number portability, the VoIP industry has removed the last remaining obstacle for companies to switch.

Rules Governing Number Portability

FCC rules state that a vendor cannot refuse to port a number out, even if there are outstanding fees and other charges on the account. Even non payment of porting fees is not a valid reason to refuse a customer’s request for number porting. Sometimes you can negotiate a waiver of porting fees but that is up to individual vendors.

However, it may not always be possible to port your VoIP numbers when changing providers. For instance, your new vendor may not be able to use your existing number in their system as they do not allocate numbers with that area code. Additionally, the FCC can exempt some companies from number portability rules i.e their customers cannot have their numbers ported out.

The FCC also mandates that ports that involve only a single line or number should not take more than 1 business day. Enterprises may have to wait longer though, since they often have more complex needs involving multiple numbers, lines and related equipment. Starting this process generally does not require more than a simple request from your current provider and your new one.

As we can see, the introduction of number portability in the VoIP industry has been a game changer for businesses and consumers alike. Now we no longer have to remain with a company if their service is not up to par or if they do not suit our requirements.