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

Keep mobile number

It’s easy to keep your existing phone number when you change network. Here we'll walk you through the number-porting process step by step. And really take the strain out of switching.

How to keep your number when moving networks

Porting your number when you switch network is simple and takes little time at all. All you need what's called a PAC Code.

Here’s how to take your number with you when you leave your existing network.

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

contract

If you’re out of contract with your network, you’re free to switch without incurring early termination fees.

If you’re not sure if you’re still under contract, you can check by logging into your account on your network’s website.

Alternatively give the network a ring and ask them. Or open up your network’s smartphone app, where you’ll typically find the information you need under ‘contract’.

In the event that you’re still under contract and decide to leave, you’ll almost certainly have to pay off your contract in full.

That could land you with a bill running into hundreds of pounds.

Need some help finding your contract end date? We’ve got details of exactly where to find it in our network-by-network guide.

Step 2 Sign up for a new SIM or phone

person using phone

Now’s the time to complete the purchase of the new phone you’ve been coveting. Or sign up for the SIM on the network you’d like to join.

You'll find deals from all the major networks on broadbandchoices, including O2, EE, Vodafone, Three, Virgin Mobile and more.

Need a bit of help choosing a new phone? Take a look at our pick of the best deals on iPhones, Samsung and Huawei handsets.

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

The next step is to get a PAC code (Porting Authorisation Code) from your network. This is a nine-digit alphanumeric number that you’ll need to transfer your number.

You can get your PAC code by telephoning your network. All you need to do is tell them you’d like to leave and ask for your PAC.

You may find that their sales team tries to persuade you to stay with a better offer. If so, consider your options. But if you’re sure you want to leave for another network, remain firm.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to speak to anyone you can also get your PAC by texting the word PAC to your network on a specially designated number.

Under Ofcom rules, your network is obliged to provide your PAC immediately if you contact them by phone. Or within two hours if you requested your PAC by text message.

Need a bit of help choosing a new network? Take a look at our network-by-network guide to coverage quality.

Step 4: Give your PAC code to your new network

Got the PAC with you now and ready to switch? Good.

Now you’ll need to contact the network you’re joining to tell them you’re transferring your number from your old network and give them your PAC.

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. If you're not sure how, head down the page and we'll talk you through it.

You've got 30 days to give the PAC code to your new network from the date it was issued to you. If you wait any longer, it’ll expire and you’ll need to request a new PAC.

Step 5: Make the switch

oneplus sim

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.

How can I keep my number if I'm getting a new phone on my existing network?

iphone camera

Want to stay with the same network but change your deal? That’s 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, but 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 different handset but staying with the same network (for example: moving from an old Samsung phone to a new iPhone but staying with O2), there's a good chance you'll be given a new SM card, as your existing SIM may not be compatible with your new phone.

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.

Frequently asked questions

Will I lose service when I port my number to a new network?

You shouldn't lose service for any significant length of time 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, you can. 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 keep my number if I've moved to a new network and forgot to ask a PAC?

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 back up my old contacts?

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?

First and foremost, it's the number that all your family, friends and contacts use to get in touch with you. Secondly, a lot of companies you use every day have your existing number too.

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 time-consuming a hassle for both you and them - and someone is bound to get it wrong.

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?

If you're thinking about cancelling your contract early then you’ll almost certainly be liable for charges.

Most probably you’ll end up paying fees equal to the amount of remaining monthly payments on 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 nine-digit code that is required if you want to move your existing mobile phone number from one network to another.

All you need to do is get the code from your existing network and give it to the network you'd like to join.

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

All networks allow you to port your existing phone number. 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 conducts some checks and will tell you when the number will be moved over.

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

All networks allow you to port your existing phone number. 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 conducts some checks and will tell you when the number will be moved over.

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


All networks are legally obliged to allow you to port your number to another network when you leave.

But you’ll need to request a PAC code from them, which you’ll be required to give your network when you make the switch.

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