Keeping Your Home Cell Phone Number but not Paying for it.
Going travelling for a while? Not under contract with your cellphone provider at home? Well then, cancel your service.
But what if I want to keep my number?
Your phone company may offer you an option to reduce to a minimum monthly payment, but if you just want to go ahead and cancel but keep your own number, there is a way. Well, maybe there’s a way. It’s highly dependent on what services are available in your country and what the laws are regarding number portability, and, also, whether you can find a cheap over-the-internet service that will allow you to port your number to them.
This is further complicated by the fact that some countries differentiate between mobile and land lines, and may only allow porting between one or the other.
In North America, this is possible. In Canada, you can port your existing number (land line or mobile) using Fongo. I plan on writing a review of this service, as I use it regularly, but for now I will say, it’s okay. Just okay. The reliability is not equal to alternatives like Google Hangouts or Skype, so if you do make use of it you may still want to use an alternative application for outgoing calls. That said, it does what we’re trying to do here. It allows you to port your existing number over to the service and then you can make and receive calls (and texts, although there is a small charge for this), from your existing phone number, using the Fongo application. All you need is a wi-fi or data connection, 3G or greater is recommended. This way you are free to cancel your plan and keep on making and receiving calls and texts from your home number, anywhere in the world.
In the USA, Majic Jack appears to be a viable option, as it does allow number porting, but it does appear to be geared towards replacing your land line (even though there is an associated mobile app), so keeping in contact via text messaging is not an option. There is also a minimum yearly charge with Magic Jack. A better option may be to port your phone number to Google Voice. Google Voice is a forwarding service, not a voice over internet service as such, but it will allow you to keep your local phone number without paying any monthly fees. The best option may be to just have Google Voice send your text messages and voicemails to you via email (and have all your calls sent to voicemail) and use an alternative service for outgoing calls, and messaging.
Please post in the comments if you know a service in your Country that will work as described above. Note that Skype, unfortunately, is not an option. Although Skype will let you register for a local number in many countries, it will only let you select from a predetermined pool of numbers. If all you need or want is a number local to your country, this will work, but you won’t be able to keep your existing number. This is unfortunate, as Skype has been around a long time, and love it or hate it, it’s the most reliable option we’ve found.
Also note that in Canada, Fongo does appear to be your only option. Canadian laws prohibit foreign companies from offering telecom service in Canada (protectionist asses), so although you can use Skype, and presumably Majic Jack and many others, you cannot have a Canadian phone number associated with theses services. A ‘land line type’ VOIP (voice over internet protocal) service may still be an option, if they have a mobile app available, but you will be unable to send or receive text messages from that number.
In addition to (possibly) allowing you to keep your home phone number, voice-over-internet services also can save you money on making calls and sending text messages while abroad. It is often cheaper to us a voice-over-internet service, even over a cellphone data plan, than to pay for using the cellular carriers voice or sms services. This of course, may not be the case if you are roaming in another country and paying your home carriers exorbitant per megabyte roaming rates, but that’s what this site is all about avoiding. It is almost certainly cheaper to use a VOIP service to call or text internationally, i.e. to call home. Even if you don’t end up transferring your number, Skype, Google Hangouts (iPhone only) and other apps can be used to make low cost, or even free calls to international numbers.
It’s also worth noting, that trying to using SMS, either via your actual phone or using an alternate application is probably not the most reliable way to communicate via text while travelling. Personally, I prefer not to use it at all, even when I’m home, but that’s my own tirade. There are many other over the internet messaging applications that offer greater functionality than SMS, and need not be associated with a cellphone number. Options include Google Hangouts, Whatsapp (though you will need to use a phone number to register for Whatsapp initially), and Facebook Messenger. My current favorite is Facebook messenger, privacy concerns and current anger at the iPhone app split aside, due to the fact that I’ve met very few travellers that do not have a Facebook account. Whatsapp is also very popular in some countries. And if all else fails, especially in this age of smartphones, communicating via email will work just fine too.