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How to port your landline number to Google Voice

If you want to ditch your home service but keep your number, you can park it at Google for a one-time fee.

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It costs $20 to port your landline number to Google Voice -- but you'll have to move it to a mobile carrier before you can do that.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Still hanging onto your home phone? Worse, still paying for it?

I suspect this is pretty common. It's a hassle to give up a landline, if only because that number you've had for so many years is "on file" at so many places. It's your home number -- and you need to keep that, right?

The number, yes. But the service? Well, that's another matter. By porting that number to Google Voice, you can keep your home number and actually make it a little more versatile. You can also stop paying extra for it -- probably.

How much is your landline costing you?

I know from an informal social media poll that some folks out there still have plain old telephone service (or a POTS) and are still paying anywhere from $30-$80 per month. Yikes.

Assuming you have reliable and speedy internet service, you could switch to a voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone system like Ooma. The Ooma Telo ($80 at Amazon) box plugs into your router and then delivers basic home-phone service -- with your same number -- for free. Ooma Premier adds a bunch of bells and whistles for $10 per month -- still way cheaper than most POTS options.

If your home number is bundled with your cable or internet, however, it might not be costing you that much. Or, to think about it another way, you might not save anything by unbundling it from your service plan. It's worth a phone call to find out.

Maybe you've been thinking about cutting the cord anyway? If you're ditching two out of your three bundled services, now you're probably looking at a lower monthly bill. (Not in the mood to haggle with your cable company? A service such as BillFixers, Billshark or Shrinkabill will do it for you -- for a fee, of course.)

Why Google Voice?

What's the advantage of moving your home number to Google Voice? For starters, it's free -- at least, it has been since 2009. Is there a chance Google could start charging for it? Absolutely, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.

The key advantage to Google Voice is its versatility. You can route incoming calls to one or more other numbers -- like, say, every family member's mobile phone. That means you can receive home-phone calls even when you're not home.

You can also set up voicemail so that messages are transcribed to text messages or delivered by email. There's even a call-recording option, though it only works for incoming calls. 

OK, but does all this mean you can no longer use the cordless phone system that's been a household staple for all these years? Actually, it's possible to keep that hardware in the loop -- keep reading to find out how.

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Why not Google Voice?

There's one important concern: You can't use Google Voice for 911 calls. So although you're keeping your number, giving up your landline means you'll need to use your mobile phone or some other method to dial emergency services.

Also, if you currently have a Google Voice number that you're using for other purposes, porting your landline will override that number. (If that's the case, it might be better to set up a new account with a new Google Voice number that you won't mind losing.)

Can you make the move?

There's a bit of a technical hurdle to moving your home phone number to Google Voice: The service can't port in numbers from landlines or VoIP services. (But you should still check Google's number-porting page to see if maybe your number is already eligible.)

It can port numbers from mobile carriers, though. So the trick is to first move your landline number to a mobile carrier, then move it to Google Voice.

By all accounts, the best way to do that is to buy a T-Mobile SIM card, create a new account, port the landline number to that account, then make your move to Google Voice.

Rather than walk you through each step of that process, I'm going to send you to Obihai's straightforward tutorial for porting a nonmobile number to Google Voice. And the reason I've chosen that particular tutorial is that Obihai also makes an inexpensive device you might find useful after the switch. See the next section for further details.

Once you get your landline number transferred to a mobile carrier, Google charges a one-time $20 porting-in fee. Before you perform that final step, you'll need to make sure your Google Voice number is linked to a phone number other than your landline. (You link numbers in the Google Voice settings. I recommend linking to your mobile phone, at least for now.)

OK, it's ported to Google Voice -- now what?

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This Obihai adapter makes your Google Voice number accessible via your home phone system.

Obihai

After the porting process is complete, you'll want to return to settings and forward incoming calls to one or more other numbers. (This could include an office line, for example, but most likely you'll want calls to go straight to your cell, and maybe other family members' as well.)

Another option: Let calls to your landline number ring your cordless phone system, just like they did before. You can do this by installing an Obihai adapter such as the popular Obi200 ($50 at Amazon). It plugs into your router, much like the aforementioned Ooma, then your phone system's base station plugs into the adapter. Now you can do incoming and outgoing calls pretty much the same as always -- but without monthly fees.

If you've already made the move from landline to Google Voice, hit the comments and share your experiences.

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