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How to switch mobile phone providers (and keep your number)

Is your relationship with your telco not working out? Here’s how to give them the flick without losing your phone number.

Nathan Lawrence
Sep 28, 2022
Icon Time To Read5 min read

So you’ve hit a wall with your current mobile phone plan and it’s time for something cheaper or different. You’re ready to put yourself out there again. Basically, you’re on the market to see what’s on the market in the telco space. Good news! There are dozens of telco choices across a few key networks, and there are plenty of options to meet your current needs.

To help prove how easy it is to move on, here’s how to break up with your current telco.

How to break up with your telco

It doesn’t really matter why you want to go because it’s not up to you to explain to your soon-to-be-ex-telco why you’re ready to move on. They may ask and they may tempt you to stay with one form of attractive deal or another, but you don’t even have to talk to them.

In fact, the most important first step is to not cancel your existing mobile plan. Speaking from ancient experience, cancelling your existing plan definitely makes things trickier. Why? If you cancel your current mobile plan, it makes it trickier to port/transfer your existing mobile number.

Can I keep my phone number?

One of the best things about the Australian mobile market is the sheer amount of choice we have. There are currently about 30 mobile carriers to choose from, each with a slightly different take on what makes a great value phone plan.

But the one question we are asked all the time is: How can I switch mobile carriers and still use the same phone number? Don't I lose my number when I switch.

The answer is no; you never lose your phone number when you switch mobile service carriers. In fact, there are consumer protections in place to make sure you can always access your number.

Officially, the process of moving your number to a new provider is called Mobile Number Portability, or porting for short. The amount of effort you need to put into the process is next to nothing.

How to switch mobile providers

Switching mobile providers is so incredibly easy, it can be summed up in a few short steps:

Here's how it works:

  1. Compare mobile plans and pick the one your need
  2. Visit the provider's website and place an order for a new SIM card. During this order process you will be asked if you wish to port your number and you specify which number to move.
  3. Wait for the SIM to arrive in the post.
  4. Activate your SIM card either online or over the phone. This usually takes about 5 mins.
  5. Make a cuppa and wait for the number port to occur.

It usually takes up to an hour before your service switches over, although we've seen it happen in as fast as 5 minutes. What you should notice is that your signal bars on your phone display will disappear and indicate no network connection. At this point you can restart your phone to connect to your new network provider. Job done.

Don’t want to keep your old number? Then you will have to have a chat with your current provider, either via phone, online chat or visiting a store to cancel your old number. But if you’re like the average person shifting telcos, you’ll want to keep your number when switching telcos. In terms of timing, we’d advise planning your plan switch with a couple of business days of breathing space before the current recharge/month ends.

The next step is the fun part: find a new plan.

Ready, set, switch

For most people we speak with, this is the final piece of the puzzle before they are committed to finding the best phone plan. If you own a phone and are looking to save some money, you should check out our guide to the best SIM Only plans. If you'd prefer to run a search to find a plan, start by selecting what you need in the box below.

SIM options
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Replacing your SIM
Whichever new telco you shift to, you’re going to need to swap out your current SIM for a new one. If that’s a physical SIM card, note that they come in standard, micro and nano sizes, so you may need to fully snap out the new SIM card or leave some of the extra plastic attached to make it fit. Alternatively, if you’re using a newer handset and shifting to a participating telco—Telstra, Optus, Vodafone or Gomo—you may be able to use an eSIM, which means there’s no need to physically replace a SIM card.

Pick your new Prepaid plan

If you’re in the market for a replacement or new Prepaid plan, we’ve got you covered. Even if you’re currently on a SIM Only or Postpaid plan, there are plenty of reasons to consider a Prepaid plan. You may want greater control over your spending, and if you want to find serious value, consider a long-expiry Prepaid plan.

Pick your new SIM Only plan

SIM Only mobile plans are popular for a reason, likely because they have a great mix of perks and dollar-to-data value. If you already have a handset you’re happy with, there are plenty of fantastic SIM Only plans to choose from. For instance, check out the daily updating list of popular picks from our database below:
There are a range of Prepaid plans to choose from, and you can see the daily updating popular picks from our comparison engine below (covering Prepaid starter packs, recharges and subscriptions):

Pick your new Postpaid plan

Maybe it’s not enough to just break up with your current telco, and you want to make the kind of shifting-telco statement that includes a shiny new handset. Buying a Postpaid plan with 12-month, 24-month or 36-month handset repayment terms helps you dodge the potential sting of an upfront handset cost, while tapping into all of the plan inclusions of a SIM Only offering.

For inspiration, below is a daily updating list of popular handsets that you can pair with a plan from a range of providers, including Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, Southern Phone and Woolworths Mobile:

Seamless telco transition
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How to make the switch even easier
To make shifting telcos even easier, we’d highly recommend storing contacts and personal data on a cloud service or on your handset (if you’re using it with the new telco’s plan). Otherwise, if your contact information is stored on the SIM card, you’ll want to transfer that to a cloud service or your phone before popping in the new SIM so you don’t lose anything.

Activate your new mobile phone plan

Unless you’ve signed up with a new telco in-store or purchased a SIM card from a retailer, you’re going to have to wait for your new SIM Card to arrive. If you’ve got an eSIM, activation is a lot faster. Once the SIM card arrives, swap it out with the old one and follow the activation steps from your new telco.

Once you’re activated with your existing mobile number, your old service will be cancelled, so there’s no need to reach out to your ex-telco to tell them to do anything. The trend these days is for month-to-month no-contract mobile plans, but it’s worth checking to ensure you’re not on a contract so you can avoid exit fees.

For SIM Only plans, expect a final end-of-month bill. Also note that if you leave a Postpaid plan before the handset repayment period is done, you’ll have to pay the remainder of the handset cost.

Mobile number limbo
Accidentally cancelled too early? Don't worry!
If you’ve accidentally cancelled your existing mobile service before shifting plans, don’t fret! When I moved from Optus to Boost Mobile, there was a miscommunication during the transfer and my existing mobile number was cancelled. The solution was to chat with my old telco (Optus) to free my mobile number from what’s effectively number limbo. Thankfully, cancelled mobile numbers are put on ice for several months before they’re eventually returned to the telco to recycle, so there’s plenty of time to rectify.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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