Google Voice: A step-by-step primer on ditching your landline while keeping your number

Summary:Google doesn't normally allow you to port a landline phone number to Google Voice. This step-by-step primer shows you how you can do it.

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Welcome to the 2014 edition of the Ultimate Google Voice How-To Guide, presented by ZDNet's DIY-IT blog.In this article, and the baker's dozen that accompany it, you'll learn just about everything you need to know to get the most out of the Google Voice service. This guide contains a complete end-to-end update of our 2011 Google Voice guide, chock full of new ideas, completely new articles, and amazing tips.

You'll learn how to port your landline to Google Voice, how to set up phone handsets, how to integrate Google Voice into your iPhone and Android experience, how to set up a multi-line office, how to get the most out of using Google Voice and SMS, and even how to use Google Voice effectively and safely in your car, and lots more.

So brew up a cup of coffee or your favorite tea, grab a few snacks, and prepare to discover how plain 'ol phone calls are about to be transformed into something virtually indistinguishable from magic.

I regularly get questions from readers about whether the techniques still work and feedback from readers about their success migrating moving to Google Voice, like reader Charles, who wrote me:

Just migrated my office landline to Google Voice via the AT&T Go Phone method you outlined. Thought you'd like to know that all phone numbers, URLs, etc. cited in your original articles are still valid as of two weeks ago. The best bet is to go to an AT&T store and get the phone, the minutes, the account number, and the porting order all at the same time. Took me all of 30 minutes. A day or so later and you're good to go. Thanks much for your original article.

I didn't write this series as an academic exercise. I wanted to use Google Voice to transform my voice communications. It's been a bit rocky and has required a number of strategy changes, but overall has been very successful. Much of what I'm discussing in this series came from the lessons I've learned.

Here's the basic story. Back in 2011, my wife and I moved from one home to another. The original home was served by landlines. Our phone numbers, both the personal one and the one for our home office, were attached to those wired phone lines.

When we moved, we wanted to "rescue" those phone numbers and have them follow us to the new digs so our friends and business associates could continue to call us at numbers they were used to dialing.

There are a number of other elements we wanted in our home/home office phone system, and and those are detailed in how we got those in the Google Voice small business section of this series.

The challenge is that Google does not allow you to "port" a landline to Google Voice. Porting is the process where you're able to move your wireless service from one cellular phone carrier to another. This service was put into place as a result of the FCC's WLNP (Wireless Local Number Portability) program, which kicked off on November 24, 2003.

Since that time, number portability has (with a few bumps in the road) been extended to landline numbers as well. That means that you can move your hardwired landline phone number from one provider to another.

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In our case, we had our POTS (plain ol' telephone system) phones through AT&T. While I'm sure you can port landlines from other phone companies, we stayed with AT&T through the entire porting process, using cheap AT&T throwaway phones to make this all happen. At the time we did this, we also also both used AT&T iPhones as our primary phones.


Let's start with an overview of the process. Since Google won't accept anything other than a cellular phone, you're going to need to first port your landline number to a cell phone, and then, port it from your cell phone to Google Voice.

All told, using the mechanism I'm going to describe on the following pages, it will cost you about $50 per phone line ported. This is not necessarily a cheap solution, but it does work.

Before we begin, I want to reiterate a warning I gave in Google Voice: Just because you can port your number, should you? In it, I said, "If you get your broadband over DSL, it may be difficult to move your number away from your landline. DSL piggybacks over the phone cabling system and many DSL carriers do not offer DSL without phone service." Read the whole article for details, but if you're reliant on DSL on your land line, it's probably good do do a little research before you pull the trigger on the port.

Next up: Steps 1 to 4...

I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at

Topics: Google, Mobility, SMBs, Telcos


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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