It’s not something that you think about until you have to change phone numbers. How many times have you written down your phone number on a form for a business or contact information you’ve given out to various businesses or friends? How will they contact you if your phone number has changed along with your mailing address?
I’ve had a similar predicament with email years ago when I had changed internet providers. When you change internet providers your email address goes away and your contacts won’t be able to reach you unless you send out an email letting everyone know about the change. The solution to this was to have an email address that was not tied to an ISP (Internet Service Provider). An email, with Google (gmail.com), Yahoo.com, AOL.com, Hotmail.com or MSN.com or any of the other email services that exist on the Internet would do the trick. No matter what ISP I had at my house or where I was in the world, I could still login and get to my email. Best of all I would never have to tell anyone that I had a new email address if my ISP changed.
The issue that I have now is with my phone number. I ditched my home phone over 10 years ago and went to cell phone only. As long as you keep paying your bill you get to keep your phone number. The issue that I’ve had in the past several years is that I may be in an area that does not get cell phone reception or I may be outside of the United States where the carrier does not provide service. I do not want to pay $50-$100 per month to have a very slim probability of having cell phone reception and needing to make a phone call occur at the same time. I don’t want to pay for something I am not able to use but at the same time I don’t want to lose the phone number that I’ve had for 10 years either.
Previously I had a 2 year contract and I was able to suspend my service for 90 days at a time and just pay $10 a month to keep my line active. I didn’t agree with that but that’s the rules. Now I am not on a contract and still have the abiility to suspend my service and pay $10 a month for 90 days at a time to keep my line acctive. This worked out ok when we were in South America for 5 months. We called at the beginning of the trip to suspend our service for 90 days. I told the person of the issue that we may not have Internet access or phone access where we were going and that we may not be able to call in to extend our suspension and she said that she would put a note in the account to extend it for another 90 days after the initial 90 days was over. We had automatic payments set up to pay $10 per month until we returned and everything seemed to be working ok until we returned to the U.S. and turned on our phone and we had an error message about the phone being unable to connect to the network. We stopped at the first T-Mobile phone store we could find and asked them for help. They looked up our account and saw that it was terminated due to non-payment. We just had to make the last payment and we would be up and running again. But there was a problem. Our phone number had been placed back into the pool of available numbers that could be given out to new customers. Fortunately the number had not been assigned to anyone and we were able to get it back. What had happened is that the second 90 day service suspension didn’t happen and since I was only scheduled to pay $10 per month I was not making the $50 payment they required. I don’t want to go through that hassle again.
So now that we will be in Mexico for 6-7 months and T-mobile has coverage in parts of Mexico but most likely not in the mountainous area we will be staying at in southern mexico. I don’t feel like paying $50 for something that probably won’t work nor do I want to pay $10 a month just to keep my phone number.
The solution that I have now is to use Google Voice. I’ve been using Google Voice for years mainly as a phone number I could give out when selling things on Craigslist so I didn’t have to give out my real phone number. I have several gmail accounts with 3 different Google Voice numbers but I only really use the one Google Voice number. I knew from years ago that it was possible to transfer (port) my existing phone number from my cell phone over to Google Voice. The Google Voice number, that I never used, would go back into their pool of available numbers and my cell phone number would be transferred over to Google Voice. I had to pay one time fee of $20 to Google to port my cell phone number from T-Mobile to Google Voice. Just before I did this I ordered a new pre-paid SIM card from T-Mobile so that my phone would have a new phone number and cellular service. Once I had my new number from T-Mobile I started the porting procedure with Google and it was completed in a little less than 24 hours. So now my cell phone has a new phone number. The phone number can be anything and I can change it every month and it will not make a difference when using Google Voice. Now that my old phone number is with Google Voice, I can set GV (Google Voice) to forward calls made to my old cell phone number onwards to my new cell phone number,home phone or even a work phone within the U.S. People that want to contact me only need to know the one phone number to reach me. Anyone that wants to leave a message will be leaving a message on Google Voice which I can access from my phone or any computer connected to the Internet anywhere in the world. When I am outside of the United States and either my phone or computer is connected to wi-fi I can make free phone calls to anyone back in the United States and they can call me too. Texting is the same way. I now can text from my computer instead of typing on my small touch screen phone.
So now I get to keep my phone number without having to pay anything to keep it. It’s free for as long as Google does not charge for Google Voice. I can make and receive phone calls and texts from my computer in addition to my phone now and it is all coming from the same phone number no matter where in the world I am located as long as I have wi-fi. If I am outside of the U.S. I am not able to make local phone calls using Google Voice as it is a U.S. number. To make local calls I would either have to get a local SIM card or borrow someones phone which is not much of a problem.
This solution may not be for everyone but it works for us right now and I don’t have to worry about losing my long time phone number. I also know some people that have smart phones that do not have cell phone service, ever, and instead rely on using free wi-fi and services similar to Google Voice for calls and texting in the U.S. That would work at home, work and wherever there is wi-fi but it would work best in larger cities where there is a lot more free wi-fi coverage.
Please do your research before deciding if this is the right course of action for yourself and please note that porting your number outside of your cell phone carrier will terminate any contracts that you may have them and you will have to pay an early termination fee of usually between $200 and $400. Also note that it is possible to port your home phone number to a cellular provider or even google voice. The ability to port a land line to a cell phone can come in handy if you, like my uncle, have had the same home phone number for the past 53 years. Hope this is interesting and useful information.