Keeping a landline number on your cell phone

AP Technology Writer

Q: I want to get rid of my landline phone service and go all wireless, but I don't want to lose my home phone number. Can I transfer it to my cell phone?

A: Probably. In a lot of cases, it's possible to transfer, or "port" in industry jargon, a landline number to a cell phone.

Tell your cell phone carrier, which needs to have coverage in the area where you have the landline. The carrier will start the administrative process. Unfortunately, that process is a lot more cumbersome than the process of moving a cell phone number from one carrier to another. It can take weeks.

Once the port completes, you lose your old cell phone number. If you want to keep both the landline and the cell phone number, things get a bit complicated.

You could get a second cell phone, and have the landline number transferred to it. You wouldn't need to actually carry both phones you could have all calls to the second phone forwarded to the first phone. Ask your carrier how to do this, which usually just involves entering some numbers on the keypad. But a second phone, with service, is costly.

Another solution, that should be cheaper, is to port the landline number to an Internet calling company, also known as a VoIP provider, for Voice over Internet Protocol. Much like cell phone carriers, they are able to accept landline ports in most areas, though the process can be slow and problematic.

Once you've transferred the number to the VoIP provider, set the service to forward all calls to your existing cell phone number.

You'll be paying the VoIP provider, but that cost can be kept low, especially if you don't get many calls. A good plan is to stop handing out the landline number and tell callers to use your cell phone number next time, so you can phase out the VoIP service.

A VoIP provider called VoiceStick can facilitate this with a plan it calls Next2Nothing, with no monthly fees. Calls forwarded to a U.S. number cost 3.2 cents per minute.

Another VoIP company, Callcentric, charges $5.95 per month for unlimited call forwarding, after $25 for porting over a number and a $5.95 setup fee.

If you're a T-Mobile USA customer, you can sign up for VoIP for $10 a month. You'll also need to buy a $50 Internet router and plug your landline phone into it.

The VoIP workaround is, incidentally, a good trick if you're moving and want to keep your landline number. If you're moving more than a short distance, you usually can't keep your landline number, even if you sign up for landline service at the new residence. But if you "park" the number with a VoIP service and forward it to your new line, you can keep receiving those calls.

A couple of caveats that apply to all the scenarios above:

Do not cancel your landline service before the transfer has completed, or you might lose your number.

Once you've transferred your number to a cell carrier or a VoIP provider, transferring it back to a landline will be difficult or impossible. In fact, people report problems getting numbers of any kind ported from VoIP providers, even though the companies are required to support this.


On the Net: - The Internet Phone for cheap local and long distance calling

Callcentric - internet phone service

T-Mobile page that allows you to check if you can port your number: Unsupported Browser

Verizon Wireless' porting page: LNP - Local Number Portability

Keeping a landline number on your cell phone - Yahoo! News

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.