Can I keep my mobile number? Switching networks, PAC codes & porting

Keep mobile number

So, you’ve seen a great new mobile deal, but you want to keep your current phone number when you make the switch. The good news is that you can definitely keep it - and doing so is pretty easy and hassle free. Here are our simple steps for keeping your number when you change your mobile deal.

How to keep your number when moving networks

Step 1. Make sure you're free to switch without early termination charges.

Are you free to switch? Are you out of the minimum contract term? If you're unsure, it's worth checking your contract documents, logging in to your network's site, or checking your network's terms and conditions. You could also just give them a call and ask them. If you're free to move without cancellation charges then great! Move on to step two. If you find out that there will be cancellation charges then read our section on cancelling your mobile phone contract early before you go any further.

Step 2. Get your new mobile deal.

You can now go ahead and sign up for that shiny new mobile deal. Still not found the perfect deal? Whether you're looking for the latest iPhone, or want to compare all mobile deals, check out our range of comparison tools to make sure you're getting the best one for you. If you're happy with the phone you've already got, then you might want to consider switching to a SIM Only plan, which could save you some hard earned cash.

Step 3. Contact your supplier and ask for a PAC code.

So you're free to switch networks without incurring cancellation fees and have got yourself a new mobile deal. When you're moving networks but keeping your number, you'll need to get a PAC code (Porting Authorisation Code) from your existing network. It's probably quickest to do this over the phone, though getting a PAC code can also be done online via web chats, email, and by good old snail mail. Your network will probably encourage you to speak on the phone so they can try to keep you as customer. However, Ofcom says they must give you your PAC code, and it has to be issued to you immediately over the phone or within two hours in a text message.

What do I say to my network? Tell them you want to leave and that you need a PAC code. They'll probably tempt you to stay with them and might even offer you a good deal. Consider your options, but if you still want to leave, let them know and then grab that PAC code. It's usually three letters and six numbers long and won't cost you a thing.

Step 4. Give the PAC code to your new network.

You've got 30 days to give the PAC code to your new network from the date it was issued to you - otherwise it'll expire. Your new network will take the PAC code and sort things out with your existing network, letting them know that there's a request to port your mobile phone number. Your number could be transferred to your new network's SIM card as early as the next working day, but don't be surprised if it takes a little bit longer. It's worth checking whether you need to back-up your contacts at this stage.

Step 5. Make the switch!

Once you've given your PAC code to your new network, they'll begin porting the number from your old SIM to your new SIM. This means that your old number will move to your new SIM on your new network. Keep your old SIM in your old phone for the time being, so you can make and receive calls and texts. Once the changeover happens, put your new SIM in your phone and make a call to check that the number has ported correctly.

Getting a new phone with the same network?

Want to stay with the same network but change your deal? Easy. All you need to do is click through to the deal you like and place your order. You'll need to sign up either online or over the phone, and there's no need to worry about PAC codes as your network will do most of the work for you.

If you're upgrading to a deal on a different handset but with the same network (e.g. moving from an old Nokia phone to a new iPhone but staying with O2) then there's a fair chance that you'll be given a new SIM card, as the old one may not fit in the new handset. Switching the number over is usually a very simple process and can even be done online with some networks. Vodafone call it 'SIM Swap'. The network sends a text to your old phone and you just confirm the SIM serial numbers (SSN) of your new SIM (in your new phone) and old SIM (in your old phone). You can find the serial numbers on the SIM cards themselves or on the card that the SIM was originally attached to. The network then does the rest, and it takes about 30 minutes for the switchover to happen. Just make sure you back up your contacts before you switch.


Will I lose service?

No, you shouldn't lose service when you get a new mobile deal and take your number with you. The porting process is designed to be as smooth as possible - though we recommend keeping your old SIM in your phone until the switchover has happened. There's a chance you'll have a very short period of outage when the number ports over, but this shouldn't last longer than a few minutes.

Can I still keep my number if I'm moving to a SIM Only deal?

Yes, the same process applies. If you move from one network to another then you need to ask your old network for a PAC code, and give it to your new network within 30 days. Your new network will port your mobile number over to your new SIM. If you're keeping the same mobile phone but changing networks, remember to check if your handset is locked to your existing network.

Can I still keep my number if I've already moved to a new network and forgot to ask for the PAC beforehand?

Good question! Yes. You can sign up for a new mobile contract with a new network before cancelling your previous plan. In this case, your old number will still be with your old network until you ask them for the PAC code to port it over.

If you've already cancelled your previous contract and didn't get a PAC code, it's still worth contacting your old network to see if they'll issue you one. Depending on how long ago you cancelled the contract, you might still be able to get a PAC code to move your old number to the new network.

What if my PAC code expires before I get my new SIM?

If you cancel your contract, get the PAC code issued, but then do not manage to give your new network the code within 30 days, don't worry - you can request a new PAC code from your old network. Most of the time this shouldn't be a problem. When a contract has terminated, and the phone number hasn't been ported over, the number is quarantined for about 6 months, meaning it should be retrievable and you can use it again. Speak to your old network and see what they can do.

If, for whatever reason, the number transfer is delayed by your old network, you could be entitled to a reimbursement. Check the network's small print to see what your rights are, and then get in touch with their customer services team.

How do I backup my old contacts?

Your local takeaway would be devastated if you lost their number, so make sure you back up any contacts that are on your old SIM before you move your number to a new one. First of all, find out if your contacts are saved to the phone or to the SIM. You can do this by removing the SIM card from the phone and switching the phone back on to see if your contacts are still there. If they're still on the phone, then you should either:

  • back them up using a memory card or cloud service
  • or take no action if you're getting a new SIM only deal but keeping the same handset.

If your contacts are on the SIM card, copy them onto the handset. Look for import or copy SIM Contacts in your phone's settings or take a look at your phone's manual.

Why should I keep my current mobile phone number?

There are a lot of good reasons for keeping your existing mobile number when you move networks. First and foremost, it's the number that all your family, friends and contacts will be using to get in touch with you. Informing all your contacts that you've got a new number (and getting them to actually change your number in their contacts list) can be a right pain for both you and them - and someone is bound to get it wrong. Secondly, a lot of companies you use every day have your existing number too. You'll have to get hold of your bank, insurance, energy, TV and broadband providers and every other company that may need to get in contact with you.

Will there be charges if I cancel my mobile phone contract early?

Maybe. If you're thinking about cancelling your contract early then you should consider what charges you may incur. You could end up paying fees equal to the amount of remaining monthly payments according to your contract. For example, if you have four months left on your contract and you pay £25 a month, then your cancellation fee could be £100 (£25 x 4). To find out if you will incur cancellation charges (also called 'disconnection' or 'early termination' fees) speak to your network. You might be able to reduce the charge by reducing your monthly allowance and the monthly cost.

If you want to cancel your contact but stay with the same network on a new plan, then speak to your network, as they might be able to offer you a deal.

What is a PAC code?

A PAC, or Porting Authorisation Code, is a short code that is required if you want to move your existing mobile phone number from one network to another. You get the code from your existing network and give it to your new network.

Can I move to EE, Three, Vodafone, O2 or BT Mobile and take my number?

All networks say that you can move your existing number to them. Yipee! To keep your number, sign up to your new network, then get the PAC code from your existing network and give it to the new one. The new network then does its checks and will tell you when the number will be moved over.

To see the latest mobile phone contracts and SIM-only deals from these networks, just use our comparison tools below:

Can I leave Three, EE, Vodafone or O2 and take my number?

You can often end your contract with a network during the minimum term (usually referred to as the contract length, which tends to be 24 months these days) but you have to give notice and pay all charges and cancellation fees. If you're outside the minimum term (or don't have one) then you still need to give 30 days' notice (on average) to the network but a cancellation or termination fee will not be charged. Remember to ask for your PAC code if you want to keep your number.

We hope this advice really helps you out. Please let us know how you get on. If there's anything we can do to improve this guide then we're all ears! This is a guideline only and we really recommend you check these things for yourself too. There are tons of terms and conditions from the different networks and these can even change, so always do your homework before you take action.

Ready to get a new mobile deal? Check out what's on offer and compare the latest mobile deals using our mobile comparison service.

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