Porting a landline to Google Voice

Being able to move (port) a phone number from one provider to another has been a pretty great thing since it was implemented. I haven’t ever taken advantage of the option, until now.

Google Voice doesn’t officially support porting a land-line telephone number in to the service – for now it’s limited to mobile numbers only. But that doesn’t stop people from trying! In fact, I had put in my landline number (616-554-xxxx) to see if by some quirk it would be eligible but Google Voice came back that it was not possible. After some digging around on the Google Voice forums, I came across several people who had success moving their number first to a pre-paid mobile plan, and then in to Google Voice.

I decided to give it a go myself when I realized that I was paying AT&T U-Verse $30 a month including fees/taxes (on a $25 plan, 1000 minutes, grandfathered in since the current $25 plan only offers 250 minutes), only to use it for about 45 minutes a month. That’s about 66 cents a minute! Now, just because we don’t use it often doesn’t mean we want to ditch it and lose the number. Really those minutes are used getting calls from doctor offices regarding appointments, or other official things where we’ve listed it as our home phone number (because it is), and we don’t want to have to call everybody up and give them a new number.

Now I already have a Google Voice number – in fact I’ve had it since it was called Grand Central, before it was acquired by Google. I’ve never really used it very much, other than activating it as the voicemail provider for my Verizon Wireless blackberry. But ever since Google Voice started offering porting, I’ve wished I could drop the landline account and move the number in to the cloud.

Since I already am an AT&T customer with their U-Verse products (home phone/internet), I decided to take advantage of their support for porting my U-Verse landline phone to an AT&T Pay-as-you-go GoPhone. During the ordering process, they offered the option to port an existing number, so I put in my home phone number and it came up eligible. At this point, I was sold because even if I could get it only to GoPhone and no further, it would still be cheaper than keeping the U-Verse plan. I was forced to purchase a $25 GoPhone pre-paid card so add to my account, but I chose the cheapest phone and the process ended up costing about $37 for the card, the phone (cheapest/crappiest/most-basic one, a Samsung SGH-a107 at $9.99), and shipping. If the port to Google Voice was unsuccessful, the $25 pre-paid card minutes were good for 90 days, so I would just have to buy a new card every 90 days. $25 bucks for 3 months of GoPhone versus $90 bucks for 3 months on a land-line sounded like a great deal to me.

After a day or two, the port was confirmed and my home phone was no longer registered to my U-Verse account or gateway and if called, would ring the GoPhone. The process was very quick and I had no issues. As soon as the port was complete, I initiated a port again, this time from AT&T to Google Voice. When I put in the number in Google Voice, it confirmed that it was eligible. This told me that there must be some central database of numbers eligible for porting, and my number was now in it since it was now a mobile number through AT&T GoPhone.

Google said it would take about 24 hours and I paid the $20 porting fee. And they were right, the next day I got an email saying the port was complete! EVB gave it a ring (through GMail, no less) and it rang through to my cell phone. Success!

The $25 card worth of minutes for the GoPhone was forfeited and the phone is now worthless to me. I am OK with this because for about $57, I have moved my landline to the cloud and no longer have a monthly bill to pay. After 2 more months, this will be worth it. And, icing on the cake, since my U-Verse bill was lower, I upgraded my internet from 6-meg to 12-meg service! There are alternate ways to do this and some of them may be cheaper, but I figured I may have the most success if I kept it within AT&T for the first step, and it has turned out well.

As usual, your mileage may vary and there are posts in the Google Voice forum by folks that have a GoPhone and are having trouble porting it in. I did have to call AT&T to ask for the GoPhone account number since it is never shown anywhere online, and confirmed that the 4-digit Pin used to access the account is the same Pin that is required when servicing the account (and for porting the number). I also had to enter the name “PREPAID CUSTOMER” during the porting process at Google because that’s how it showed up on my GoPhone account with AT&T and it could not be changed.

So, very cool.

I may or may not keep my original Google Voice number. I did change my Verizon blackberry voicemail to use the new/ported number in case I let the old one expire. However, it would be super if Google offered the ability to have different voicemail greetings for each line. That way I could have a generic one for callers to the original land-line who may want to remind about an appointment, and then a more specific one for callers to my cell phone. This may not be a feature in the future as Google doesn’t seem too keen on allowing users to have multiple numbers tied to their account, but we’ll see.

Either way though, I do have another Google account and recently signed it up for Google Voice too. I could easily have my cell voicemail be serviced by that Google account/Google Voice number with its own greeting, and change my main Google account/Google Voice greeting to be one that callers to the ported number would expect…

Update 8/14/2011

Turns out Google offers the ability to move a Google Voice number from one Google Account to another. I decided I wished I would have ported my home number to my other Google Account that I recently signed up for Google Voice. That way I can set an appropriate voicemail greeting there for callers to the original home phone number. Google requires the source and destination accounts, PIN numbers from both (which must be different) and then the phone number itself. It looks like more of a contact form by which someone must act manually, but I initiated the process anyway. Hopefully it leaves my original Google Voice number intact on my main account and then I’ll switch my Verizon voicemail to use that number again.

Update 10/4/2011

On Eric‘s recommendation, I purchased an OBi110 Voice Service Bridge and VoIP Telephone Adapter which can be configured as an endpoint for Google Voice to forward to when a call comes in. Basically it uses the Google Chat functionality in Gmail to accept the incoming call. These calls no longer “ring” in GMail in a browser, instead the Obi takes the call and rings the telephone device attached to it at home. It can also accept outgoing calls from the telephone device (it provides a ring tone), and displays an incoming caller’s telephone number (no caller-ID though). It is dead simple to install and configure and pretty much works right out of the box. So basically, home phone for free.

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