Switching carriers: keep your number

Transferring your phone number to a new mobile network is something that millions of us do every year and thanks to ruling by Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulator it's now an easy and quick process.

After several years spent arguing their case in the courts, Ofcom won consumers the right to transfer their phone number to another mobile network within 1 working day should they decide to change provider. This simplifies a process that previously could take days.

In the UK, the customer must initiate the process by contacting the mobile phone provider and asking for a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC code), which is needed to retain a phone number when switching. They must then give this to the Recipient before things can proceed.

Arguments between Ofcom and the Mobile Phone Companies have centred around the provision of the PAC code. A PAC code must now be given to consumers immediately over the phone, or sent via text message within a maximum of 2 hours. This decree prevents providers sending out PACs in the post, a practice which forced customers to wait several days before starting a new service.

Important - PAC Code

Your PAC code will be valid for 30 calendar days from the date of request, so make sure you don't delay too long once you start the process.

How do I switch network providers and keep my number?

  1. Contact the Customer Services Department of your current provider and ask for a PAC. This must be issued immediately over the phone or within 2 hours via text. Your PAC is likely to be a 9-digit code and is valid for 30 days (after this time you must request a new PAC).
  2. Research your options and choose the best plan and provider for your needs.
  3. Give your PAC to your new provider and they will take it from here.

It should take no longer than 1 working day from the day you provide your PAC code to your new network for the transfer to complete and you to be up and running. In the interim, all calls on your phone will continue to be made via your old network.

Providers now have to pay reasonable compensation to customers if numbers are not ported within 1 working day, or if there is an abuse of the porting system.

Once you have sorted out a new phone and contract with your new provider you are ready to move your number. Your new phone should come with a temporary number so you can make/receive calls while waiting for the switch.

N.B. Your new phone or SIM needs to be in the UK on the day of transfer for the port to be successful.

Tips for a smooth transition

  • Make sure you do your homework – research which is the best plan for you and what handset, if any, you want.
  • Look at the coverage provided by your chosen company – a great plan is rendered useless if you can’t get reception when you need it.
  • Check your handset isn’t locked-in to your current provider. It is possible to get your handset unlocked before moving, but you will almost certainly be charged for the privilege.
  • Do not cancel your existing contract until your number has transferred successfully. This ensures you do not end up without a mobile service at any time. •In addition, don’t hand over your PAC code to your new provider until you have that new phone or SIM you ordered in your hand. This prevents your number being transferred before you are able to use your new phone.
  • Don't forget to back up any information you want to keep from your old network SIM, such as phone numbers, contacts, calender reminders, texts or picture messages you want to keep, as these won't be transferred and you will be unable to access them once your old SIM is switched off.
  • You cannot transfer PAYG credit to your new network, so make sure you use up any credit before you move.
  • You are liable for any remaining debt with your old provider, even when you transfer your number to a new network.
  • Do not hand over your PAC to anyone until you are certain which plan and handset you are going to go for. It is easy to fall victim to illegal practices such as ‘slamming’, where customers are signed up to new contracts without their full consent. Hanging onto your PAC code until you are ready to sign on the dotted line will help prevent any nasty surprises.

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