Adventured in Porting

Friday, October 6th, 2006 @ 4:04 pm | Gadgets

cough… cough… sorry about that. I was trying to clean off some of the dust around here and I guess some went down the wrong pipe.

Last year or so, I saw an article in the New York Times about the growing disconnect between area codes and physical location. With the advent of cell phones and nation-wide calling plans, people have been keeping their existing phone numbers when they move to new areas.

I’ve certainly seen this at since I started business school. I can think of only one classmate who switched to a local number when he moved out here. For the most part, it’s easier to keep your existing number since so many people already have it.

I seem to have found one place where this technique falls short — porting a number once you’ve moved to a new area.

I’ve been less than thrilled with T-Mobile, both in terms of coverage and in terms of phone selection. For the past few months, I’ve considered moving to Cingular, going so far as to buy a Cingular phone a few months back, only to return it due to my dis-satisfaction with some of the phone’s features. When Cingular started carrying the Sony-Ericsson w810, though, I decided to give them another shot.

I ordered the phone through Cingular.com and indicated I wanted to port my Massachusetts number. I received an error massage saying that my number wasn’t eligible, but no explanation as to what this meant. I’d already ported my number once in the past, so I just figured this was a temporary glitch and that I’d handle the situation with customer support once I received the phone. That’s how I handled porting my number the previous time.

Of course, it’s never this easy. When I called Cingular, I was told that I couldn’t port a Massachusetts phone number to a DC-based account because it was out of area. This explained why my port attempt failed when I was using the web site and, had Cingular.com indicated as such, I could’ve avoided most of the issues that arose during this whole process. To keep my Massachusetts number, I’d need to have a Massachusetts-based account.

“OK”, I said. My folks still live in Massachusetts, I can just set up my account at their place, then move the billing address down to DC. This’ll take what, 10 minutes? Of course, it wasn’t this easy. To have a Massachusetts-based account, I need a different SIM card. That’ll take 3-5 days to arrive. Then I need to active the Massachusetts account and cancel the DC account. Then I finally get to port over my existing phone number.

Had I realized all this at the beginning (or had the error message on Cingular.com been more informative), I could’ve avoided this situation by setting up a Massachusetts account at my folks place but shipped the phone to DC.

So, while the area code may be losing some of its meaning in today’s increasing cellular-dependent world, there are still some geographic hang-ups in the system. I don’t know if all carriers work this way, but it’s something you should keep in mind if you ever find yourself wanting to port a number outside the area where you originally got the number.

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