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.


All projects: DIY-IT Project Guide
This project: The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition)

Step 1: Check your eligibility

Although all phones are technically available for porting, you should check your eligibility for porting before you get started. Since I was going to AT&T (at least in the early stages of this process), I used this form on the AT&T site to check if there would be a problem.

Note that even if your mobile phone isn't on AT&T, it might be easier to use AT&T for this transfer process, simply because of the availability of cheap GoPhones. Of course, there are similar choices with other carriers, but this worked for me.

My land line was eligible. I'm not sure exactly what makes a phone "eligible" or what you'd do if it isn't, but if this form says you're golden, you probably are.

If you follow this step-by-step guide, you'll also be transferring your number to AT&T (again, as a short part of the process), so you should check your eligibility.

Step 2: Get an AT&T GoPhone

Both Denise and I had iPhones at the time and back then, at least, we were both kind of partial to the numbers that belonged to those phones. If we'd ported our land line numbers to our iPhones, we would have lost the numbers originally assigned to the iPhone.

As it turns out, in the intervening few years, Google Voice has worked so well for us that we've completely forgotten those original phone numbers. But back then, we wanted to save them. If you want to save your current mobile number, follow these instructions.

Your next step is to get a new cell phone. The challenge is you're not going to want to spend much, or sign up for a plan (or the associated two-year commitment).

The trick is to use an AT&T GoPhone, which is a prepaid cell phone you can buy from AT&T. We bought ours at Wal-Mart for $10 each back in 2011. Today, the cheapest GoPhone available from either AT&T or Wal-Mart is about $15.

Step 3: Get a new Google account for your GV service

I don't use Gmail as my primary mail account. Instead, I use Microsoft Outlook and Exchange on Office 365. Even so, I have a Gmail account and it contains personal information I'd prefer didn't fall into the hands of strangers.

More great project ideas

DIY-IT Project Guide

DIY-IT Project Guide

Later in this series, I'll show you how you can connect Google Voice to a very cheap, home VoIP system. Doing this requires giving your Google Voice account and password to the VoIP provider, so they can capture incoming calls and pass them along to you.

Because the provider needs your login and password (they essentially become a Google Chat client), I didn't want to give them my main Google account credentials.

Therefore, I strongly recommend you do what I did. Set up a new Google Voice account with a completely new login and password. You'll need this in a few steps.

Step 4: Buy the minimum number of minutes

We found that the AT&T porting representatives wouldn't perform a port until we had some minutes attached to our GoPhone. You can go into your GoPhone account online and purchase $15 worth of minutes.

Be aware that these minutes expire pretty quickly (like in a month). In fact, if you port your number to the GoPhone and then let the minutes expire without re-charging them, you might lose your hard-won number. So, I'd recommend that once you start this process, finish it as soon as you can.

Nex upt: Steps 5 to 10... 

By the way, 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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 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