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

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, Telcos, AT&T, Verizon, DIY


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • I moved from one house to another

    in the same area code and Verzion just hooked up the line at the new house while keeping the old numbers (phone and fax)
    They claimed I could move it to a cell if I wanted.<br><br>I don't know why AT&T is making it so hard.
    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      @Will Pharaoh - same here only different. Every move before my last one, is as you describe. The last one 5 yrs ago, when we moved 3 miles and within the same area code Verizon assigned us a new number. Verizon stated they "couldn't" move the number. Verizon had a reason, and I believed it. At the time the phone # wasn't the be/end all way of contacting me.
    • I don't think they do ...

      @Will Pharaoh ... I think Google Voice made it hard. I dropped AT&T for Vonage and Vonage took care of the whole thing. Vonage puts my "land-line" calls through my home's wire plant using the same phone # AT&T gave me 30 years ago! Vonage will forward my calls to any number that I like (including my smartphones) and they will send me voice-mail via e-mail (both text and audio attachments). <br><br>I don't exactly know what David was trying to accomplish but as near as I can tell, he chose the most complicated possible way to do it.
      M Wagner
      • Tracfone

        If you are going to buy a throwaway pre-paid phone at Walmart or Target then get a Tracfone. It is the cheapest option and you can complete thew porting process on their website without talking to a live human. If you need a throwaway phone that does not use the AT&T network then buy a Virgin mobile phone (they use the Sprint network).

        The simple way to do this would be to port the land line number(s) to Vonage and then just bring the Vonage box to the new house.
    • AT$T

      @Will Pharaoh

      Because AT$T is the pits. They don't give a rat's butt about anybody or anything but themselves and their bottom line. You're just a revenue flow to them.
      • RE: AT$T

        @dickseng@... "You're just a revenue flow to them."

        That goes without saying with respect to <u>any</u> corporate or government entity.
        David A. Pimentel
      • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

        I recently changed from Brighthouse to ATT Uverse internet. Internet is fine, faster and costs less.
        Email is miserable. For a start, it's, and regularly won't send. Their tech support help is: use webmail. That's it folks, you're on your own, they don't support ANY email client. Fortunately, just as I was about to cancel, a sensible support tech ATT opened port 25 so I send from my webserver and use google apps on my domains to receive.
        • ATT Yahoo mail

          The only problem I have with the ATT Yahoo mail, is that I can't block senders of junkmail as I do in MS (Hotmail). I don't use it as much as I do Hotmail. My wife's only address is in ATT Yahoo. (We had to switch from ATT DSL to ATT Uverse internet services).

          As for the topic of the article, I don't wish to give up my landline (POTS), wes tarted to wehnwe switched to Uverse, and then went back to the POTS, as out rotarty dial phones would not call out on the VOIP. With no power in an emergency we would have to rely on our cell phones and car battery charger, if without for some time. With a rotary dial phone we can call out, our cordless is useless in time of no power.
      • LOL

        And you think any of these carriers care about you more than AT&T? That's funny.
        Rann Xeroxx
  • Faster, easier instructions... cheaper too.

    Good article, but here is a faster/easier set of instructions... and cheaper too:

    <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a>
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      @Force Yep, I'm using the Obi as well. I'll discuss that a few articles from now.

      You could probably save a few bucks if you use the sim card approach. I liked the individual GoPhones because I didn't have any service drop-out at all and didn't have to fiddle with tiny cards.
      David Gewirtz
  • Good Description, similar to my experience with Vonage Xfer

    Good description of the process. I just switched from Vonage Land Line to Google Voice. Went with T-Mobile prepaid plan for $30 and switched from Vonage to T-Mobile. Then ported number over from T-Mobile to Google Voice. <br><br>Waited a few extra days after number transferred to T-Mobile to ensure number was properly registered with T-Mobile. Good advice on extra PIN number needed to xfer to Google Voice from Prepaid account since account # is your phone number plus PIN.<br><br>My Google Voice system is via Obi110 call device. Still experimenting with Google Voice features. Call screening and actually blocking telemarketing calls appears to be a nice feature.
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      @amarkscpa@... As I told @Force, I'm using the Obi, too. What do you think? Do you like it? It's certainly inexpensive and easy enough.
      David Gewirtz
      • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

        @David Gewirtz
        Yes, like my Obi110, and "certainly inexpensive and easy enough" describes it perfectly. Had to google to find the Google Voice Contact fields so I could import csv of my clients and vendors. Most difficult part was creating an Excel spreadsheet with field names for importing into Contacts.
  • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

    You don't acknowledge or mention that Google Voice (or any other VoIP option, as I understand it) does NOT provide 9-1-1 connectivity. If you're not dialing 9-1-1 from a traditional land line, the routing system can't identify your location...unless the caller can tell the operator where they are, the emergency responders won't be able to find them.
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      @Rcwenaas Excellent point.
      David Gewirtz
      • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

        @David Gewirtz, there is a partial workaround for the 911 issue. As noted in other responses 911 service is available from other VOIP services. I use SIPgate which allows this to be added to your service for a small ($1.50 per month or something around there) fee. Then you add them into your Obi (yay, someone actually builds proper stuff!) as the second provider.

        SIPgate only charges for outbound calls and the monthly 911 fee so you will not be paying for unnecessary service. The only trick involved is how to actually dial "911". If the Obi is set to Google Voice for the primary line you would need to dial **2911 to access the second line. This might not be acceptable to some people to remember in an emergency. You could program that sequence as some sort of speed dial, or you can flip backwards and set Google Voice as the secondary and then simply remember to dial **2 before each call. Depending on the phones you have there may be other variants to this as well, but at least it isn't just a dead end "can't do it" as was suggested.
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      There are differences here. Google Voice is not a VoIP provider of any sort, they are just doing call management. So using GV doesn't change your 911 services at all.

      Many VoIP carriers provide regular 911 and e911 support. The only requirement is that you tell the VoIP carrier the address of the device.
  • How about a MagicJack?

    Why not just get a MagicJack? You can take it wherever you or even whichever country you are at and use your number as long as you have internet service. All you have to do is plug the thing into your laptop. I had to stay at a library one time and was still able to bring my phone number with me for employment opportunities calls.

    Best thing is, the MagicJack Plus is coming soon. What is exciting aout it is that you don't need to plug it in a laptop anymore!
    • RE: Google Voice: a step-by-step primer on ditching your land line while keeping your number

      @little_bad_boy@... I'll be talking a little about MagicTalk in a future article. But in answer to your question, I don't want a solution that has to plug into my PC, rather than into my network. I also much prefer the Google Voice set of services and, without saying anything about Magic Jack, I tend to be more comfortable long-term with Google holding my precious phone numbers.

      But Magic Jack is a cheap and easy solution.
      David Gewirtz