TOTAL ACCESS: How we ported our phones, saved $125 a month, and are now completely reachable to loved ones in the US...
That's my dad <3 He's old school and still has a flip phone. We used to chat a lot in the states but since we've moved here he's felt pretty bummed that he can't get in touch with me. Sure there's Skype and Viber and WhatsApp, but for a guy who's never even set up his voicemail, that's a lot to ask. I miss hearing from him and it makes me sad that he feels disconnected :-(
On top of that, each month we get a $125.00 bill from our US cell carrier (who shall REMAIN ANONYMOUS). We wanted to keep our old US numbers so we signed up for their least expensive plan, but it's still $45.00 per line. We knew there had to be a better, less costly way, and were thrilled to say "sayonara!" to the phone company.
My partner found that by using Google Voice and www.localphone.com, we saved our numbers and made it so that when friends and family call our old number, it forwards to our new Indian numbers. It took two days to make the switch and cost us $40.00 (we also had to pay a $175 early termination fee to our carrier). The biggest benefit is that non-tech savvy folks like my dad can call us without having to use a product or service they don't understand. Furthermore, we cut out the $125 monthly bill, and when/if we return to the US we can reinstate our numbers if we go back to a domestic carrier.
I'm going to share how we were able to close our "back-home" communication gap, but I am NOT an expert! This is just what we did (and by we I mean my partner) and there are a bunch of other services out there that will get the job done. You can do some research to find the products that are best for you.
The general overview is this: we signed up for Google Voice in order to keep our old number. They canceled our old account and bought the number from our old carrier. Since Google Voice doesn't forward internationally, we signed up for localphone.com to bridge the gap. It takes the call from our old number, puts it through a domestic localphone.com number, and sends it to our Indian phone. So when people call our old number, our Indian cell phone rings. Confused yet? :-)
Here are the steps we took:
1. Google Voice - Before we started: we needed to have a Google account (or sign up for one), an active US domestic phone carrier account and phone number, (we needed our account number, billing address, etc. handy for signup). Google Voice will only work with a US number.
NOTE! If we didn't care about saving our old number, we could have just skipped ahead to Step 2 and bought a number to forward to our current Indian cell phone.
We signed up for a Google voice account and chose to "port a number". We input our old cell phone number, and Google Voice checked to see if we were eligible to use the service, which we were. Then it called to verify our identity. Since we are outside the US, we needed to reinstall our old SIM card in order to receive the ID verification call from Google since it was calling our old number. We took it out right afterward and put our regular Indian SIM card back in. Once verification was complete, Google Voice called our old provider to cancel our account; they charged us $20.00, and the process took 24 hours. We got an email once it was done.
We had an outstanding balance and got charged an early termination fee, so we had to contact our old carrier to settle the bill. Usually we would have just done this online, but since the account was closed, we had to call them.
2. www.localphone.com - While Google Voice was completing its process, we went to www.localphone.com and signed up for an account. Then we went to "incoming number", where we bought a phone number. This part was fun because we got to choose our own number. The activation fee was $3.00, and the monthly fee to maintain the line is $1.00, but we just loaded the account with $20.00. Should last us a long time since the number we chose will cost us $.015 per minute when we get calls. We set it up to re-load automatically. Then we selected to forward all calls to another number, and input our Indian cell number.
3. When Google Voice porting had finished verification (took us 24 hours) we got an email. The only thing left to do was connect the GoogleVoice number (our old US number) so that calls get forwarded to localphone.com. We logged into Google Voice, clicked the gear in the upper right hand corner, selected "settings", then added a forwarding number (the localphone.com number). Once that was done, Google Voice called to verify that the number was correct and we were all set.
It so awesome to see my Dad's number pop up on my caller ID last night, and I can't wait to hear from him (and my other family and friends) more often. We're plugging away at our fourth month in India and I'm starting to feel homesick, so its nice to feel connected :-)