Find out how to switch to your new provider
Getting a new phone is exciting. Having a new phone number, however, can be a bit of a chore.
For starters, you’ll probably need to text everyone in your address book to tell them you’ve got a new number. Unless you regularly cull your contacts list, this will almost certainly get you a few replies from people you hoped you’d lost touch with.
The good news is you can avoid all that hassle by transferring your existing number to your new phone. This is called porting your mobile number.
To keep your mobile number and transfer it to another network, you need to request what's called a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from your old provider and then let your new provider know the code. They will then schedule the switch.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to keeping your mobile number and how to use a PAC code.
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How do I transfer my mobile number?
1. Call your current provider to request a mobile PAC code
A PAC code should be given to you immediately over the phone or within two hours by text. This timeframe is stipulated by the telecommunications regulator. So if you don't get it, you've got cause to complain.
To prevent someone stealing your number, networks will want to verify your identity. So expect to be asked some questions and have the relevant information to-hand that’ll help you to answer quickly.
PAC codes are normally made up of nine digits and will be valid for 30 days. If time runs out before you've had a chance to use the code you were supplied with, you’ll need to request a new PAC from your existing mobile provider.
Calls to networks to get your PAC code are charged at standard rates.
2. Contact your new network and give them the PAC code
When you provide your PAC code to a new network, the cancellation process will begin automatically with your old network.
Once your new network has the code, it will get in touch with the network you're leaving to tell them about the number transfer and will schedule the switch.
This will normally be for the next working day. In the interim, keep your old SIM in your phone so you can continue to use it to make calls and send texts.
If a weekend gets in the way, the process of porting your number may take longer.
But by and large, if you supply a carrier with a PAC Code on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can expect the number transfer to be completed on the following Tuesday.
3. Check the SIM works in your phone and the new number has ported across
To do this, just place the SIM in your handset and make a call. Or ask someone to give you a ring.
Contact numbers to get your PAC code from your network
In this section, you'll find contact numbers to get your PAC code for all the major UK networks. We've included a range of contact options, depending on whether you're ringing from a landline, your mobile phone or from overseas.
Get your PAC code from EE
Get your PAC code from Three
- Call 333 from a Three phone
- Call 033 3338 1001 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from O2
- Call 202 from an O2 phone
- Call 034 4809 0222 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from Virgin Mobile
- Call 789 from a Virgin Mobile phone
- Call 034 5600 0789 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from Vodafone
- Call 191 from a Vodafone phone
- Call 033 3304 0191 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from BT Mobile
- Call 150 from a BT Mobile phone
- Call 0800 800 150 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from Plusnet Mobile
- Call 500 from a Plusnet Mobile phone
- Call 080 0013 2632 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from ID Mobile
- Call 7777 from an ID Mobile phone
- Call 033 3003 7777 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from Tesco Mobile
- Call 4455 from a Tesco Mobile phone
- Call 034 5301 4455 from any other phone (mobile or landline)
Get your PAC code from Sky Mobile
- Call 033 0041 2639 from Sky Mobiles, phones registered to other networks and landlines
Get your PAC code from giffgaff
giffgaff doesn't operate customer support helplines. However, you can get a PAC code from giffgaff by mailing them using giffgaff's contact form.
VOXI is aimed at under 30s. So it's no surprise that you can only contact the network via Twitter, web chat and Facebook Messenger. To get your PAC code, head to VOXI's contact page.
SMARTY doesn't have any customer service helplines. To get your PAC code, log into your SMARTY account.
Ring 5588 from your Lebara mobile. Rates are charged at 19p per call.
Ring 020 7031 0791 from all other networks or from your landline.
Ring 033 3800 5500 from any UK mobile or landline.
Common questions when transferring your mobile phone number
Still got some queries about keeping your phone number? We field some of the most frequently asked questions in this section.
Will I lose service?
The porting process is designed to minimise the time you'll be without a service.
After you've supplied your new network with the PAC code, your old number will remain active. That means you'll still receive calls and texts.
When the number transfer is actually being done, however, your service may go down for a very short time. It's usually a few minutes.
When that happens, it should simply be a case of turning off and restarting your handset for full service to return.
Can I transfer a disconnected number?
You cannot transfer disconnected numbers, so do not cancel your existing contract if you wish to port your mobile number.
What happens if my PAC code expires?
In the event that you don't get around to using your PAC code within the 30-day deadline for usage, there's nothing to worry about.
But you will have to contact the network you're leaving to request another PAC code, which you can then use to transfer your number.
How do I transfer my apps, music and games to my new phone?
If you've read the walkthrough above, you'll now know what you've got to do to port your existing number to the network you're joining.
But, of course, when buying a new phone you're probably going to transfer all your apps, games, movies, music and settings from your old phone too.
That'll mean making a back-up of your current phone, then setting up your new phone using the back-up.
To help you, we talk you through the process with our one-stop guides:
How do I transfer my contacts to my new phone?
Inputting hundreds of contact details into a new phone is no-one's idea of fun.
To make sure that's not a plight that affects you, it's critical that you back up your contacts that are on your old SIM before you start using your new one.
The first step is to check whether your contacts are saved on your SIM or on your phone.
The surefire way to do this is to simply take your SIM out. If you can still see your contacts, it means they're saved on your phone. Can't see them? That means they're on the SIM.
Assuming they're saved on the phone that you'll no longer be using, you'll need to back them up. We'd recommend using a cloud storage service. Or, if you've got an Android phone, you might be able to use a microSD card.
In the event that they're stored on the phone and you're keeping your old phone and just switching to a new SIM only deal on a new network, you don't need to do anything. Simply input the new SIM in your phone and your contacts will be there.
If they're stored on your SIM, you'll need to transfer them so they're stored on your phone.
This is easy enough to do. Just head to the settings section of your handset and you should find an option to 'copy contacts' or 'import contacts'.
I've heard I can request my PAC code by text message. Is that correct?
It's almost correct. From 1st July 2019, you will indeed be able to request your PAC code just by sending a text message to the network you're leaving.
However, at the time of writing this service isn't yet available. So you'll still have to ring up the network you want to leave and speak to an operative to request your PAC.
The telecoms regulator is introducing the 'PAC-by-text' system with the intention of streamlining the switching process.
One of the key advantages is that instead of making two phone calls, you'll only have to make one.
What's more, when you ring your network to leave and request a PAC to transfer your number, you'll no longer have to be negotiate with a sales rep from the network you're leaving, whose job it is to persuade you to stay.
Need some more help switching network? You'll find lots of easy-to-follow, crystal-clear advice on our guide to changing network.
Porting your mobile number when buying online
If you are buying your new mobile online, you should still be able to port your mobile number using the following simple steps:
- Request your PAC code from your existing network and make a note of it.
- Select a mobile handset and network tariff combination that suits you and order online.
- You will be sent your phone once you have passed any necessary credit checks.
- Get connected by following the instructions that come with your new mobile.
- Once connected, you will have a temporary mobile number.
- Contact your new network or service provider quoting your temporary number, the number you wish to Port and the PAC provided by your old network.
- Your existing number will then be transferred within a few working days, sometimes even the next working day.
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