One of the more gratifying aspects of the Google Voice series has been the great letters I've been getting from readers, both from those who have successfully made the jump and those trying to find their way around the wacky world of phones, VoIP, and Google Voice.
This week, I got a nice letter from a reader who, as it turns out, doesn't need Google Voice at all:
My mom wants to keep her land line number but needs to cut back on expenses so she would like to have the number but not the land line. She has a cell phone only. What is the best way to do this for her to get rid of landline cost but keep the number and have it ported to her cell phone?
That's pretty easy, although there's always something of a risk (phone companies being phone companies). Basically, just go to AT&T or Verizon and find out if they can port her number to a phone. They may replace the phone number on her cell phone, or require her to get a new one (or renew her plan). I'm honestly not sure about all the ins and outs of that.
But, federal law requires land lines be portable to cellular phones. In most cases that works out well. There are a few people so rural that there aren't cell carriers that can take those land lines, but that's a very small percentage.
I'd suggest going into an AT&T or Verizon store, finding a sales rep with a clue, and asking exactly the same question you asked me. You might need to bring your mom, her phone, and her plan (bills, receipts, etc) as well, if you want to make it happen while you're there.
Then the reader asked one more question, which indicated why this stuff is often so confusing:
So then what is this Obi I hear you talk about and its equipment?
What you're talking about is a series of articles I wrote about connecting the Google Voice voice-over-IP system to home telephone handsets. You can read the entire series here.
My guess is you stumbled into one of the articles in the middle of the series and saw me talking about porting numbers to Google Voice via the AT&T GoPhone cell phone. So, here's the clarification.
I was porting my land lines to Google Voice. The steps were (1) port from land line to cell phone, and (2) port from cell phone to Google Voice. Once I had things ported to Google Voice, I was doing all sorts of slightly disrespectful things with telephony gadgets to wire my house the way I wanted it.
But if all you want to do is move your number from a land line to a cell phone, you can do just that. You don't need the extra hassle of Google Voice, or all the gadgetry -- especially if you want to save money. When I ported my phones, I did it for flexibility. It will probably take two years for the amortized cost of all the gear to pay off, so I'm saving money before porting.
But that's because I had relatively complex needs. For someone like our reader, who simply wants to save money by porting a land line to a cell phone, that's all you need to do.
Bottom line: number portability does not require Google Voice.