By Jim Kimble / Updated September 14, 2022
Editor’s note: (9/14/2022): The OBiTalk website reports that Obi200 is no longer being sold new and the “End of Engineering support and the End of Service date” will be December 18, 2023. ObiTalk says the Obi200 and similar devices “may continue to work” after the end-of-service date, but they will not be able to get added to Google Voice after December 18, 2023. I also no longer recommend using Ting as a pay-as-you-go phone carrier for transfers.
Port a Landline Phone Number to Google Voice
When it came time to roll my parents off their cable TV bundle, their biggest concern was keeping their landline phone number.
They’ve had the same number for decades. But they were paying $30 per month to their pay-TV provider for “free long distance calling.”
So I taught myself how to port a landline phone number to Google Voice. (It’s pretty simple.) And I learned a few things along the way worth sharing before I take you through this process step-by-step.
Key takeaways on porting a phone number
- You can’t port a landline phone number directly to Google Voice. Instead, you need to port your landline number to a mobile carrier. Once your landline phone number is recognized as a mobile number, then it can be ported to Google Voice. The one-time porting fee to Google Voice is $20.
- T-Mobile is currently the recommended option for porting a landline phone number per Obihai’s instructions. For months, Ting (a T-Mobile subsidiary) was a reliable cheaper option, but that may no longer be the case.
- Even if you have bundled your cable TV, phone and Internet into one service, you can begin the porting process. This might freak out your pay-TV provider. (Expect an email asking “Is everything OK with your service?”) But that’s a good thing, especially if you’re about to cut the cord. You have already signaled that you’re about to move on, and they will need to offer you something decent to keep you as a customer.
- No 911 calls. Google Voice will let you make calls nationwide for free, but there’s no way to call 911. You can use your mobile phone for that.
- The Obi200 adapter is still the best piece of hardware to use because there’s an excellent chance that the cordless phone system that you are now using around your house will work fine for outgoing and incoming calls.
- Cutting back on robocalls: Google Voice has an “announce” feature that has made a huge difference with cutting down the number of robocalls that my parents were being barraged with on a daily basis. This is a feature that’s easy to enable or disable.
Porting from Verizon Fios, Comcast or Spectrum
The instructions below will work for people looking to port their landline number from Verizon Fios, Comcast, Spectrum and other major cable companies that provide landline phone service, or “Triple Play”-style bundles.
I wrote this guide because T-Mobile no longer has the pay-as-you-go plan that Obihai recommends. If you follow the instructions on Obihai’s site, you’ll hit a dead end when you click on the link they recommend to get a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go plan.
Google has also updated the process by which you verify your ported number, which requires using a cell phone.
Checking your number with Google Voice first
Before you do anything, you should head over to the Google Voice check number page, and enter your phone number. This will help determine whether you can port your phone number to Google Voice. (Yes, even if it’s your landline.)
Some area codes — Hawaii (area code 808) and Alaska (area code 907) — are not supported by Google Voice. So you should take this step first before wasting your time or money.
The answer you get is kind of the Zoltar of your landline’s future.
If the message says, “This number appears to be from an area we don’t currently support,” then you’re out of luck. You won’t be able to port your number to Google Voice.
But if your message says, “We don’t currently support porting from your carrier” then that’s good! It means you live in a supported area that supports porting your landline to a mobile carrier, and eventually Google Voice.
What you’ll need to start
UNLOCKED CELL PHONE: You should address this first because generally speaking most people don’t have a stack of burner phones around their house. If you already have an unlocked cell phone, then great. You will want to know if it’s a GSM or CDMA phone so you can buy a compatible SIM card for porting to mobile.
AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular use CDMA. You can dive deeper into GSM vs CDMA, but you really don’t have to if you know A) your phone is unlocked, and B) whether its on a CDMA or GSM network.
If all of that sounds too techie or a headache inducer, then you can go the route of my father-in-law took months ago when he un-bundled his phone, TV and Internet package.
He bought a Tracfone for under $19, and a small enough amount of time to port the phone number over to mobile. He told me that he did have to make one call to Tracfone for assistance with the porting, but the customer service was very helpful with the transfer.
SIM CARD: If you are using an unlocked mobile phone, you should find a cheap, pay-as-you-go carrier. So you don’t have to buy a $20 or $30 plan just for transferring your line. Remember that phone carriers work on different types of networks. Verizon and Sprint operate on CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM.
PHONE ADAPTER: The Obi200 adapter is the key piece of equipment that will serve as your bridge between your WiFi router and phone lines. Instead of your landline phone plugging into that small square socket in your wall, it’s going into the Obi200 instead.
PIN NUMBER/BILLING INFO: To begin the porting process, you’ll need to have a recent bill handy. It’s also important to know your four-digit pin, which will be required to port a phone number from landline to mobile, and then mobile to GV. It may be that you never even established a PIN number with your current phone provider. That’s OK. You can create one now.
Port my phone number, please…
The mobile service you are using is going to basically do the work of porting a landline to a mobile phone number for you. Don’t cancel your landline plan. It will happen automatically when you port the number.
Be sure to hunt down and follow the instructions to the mobile carrier that you are transferring the landline number to.
Having that PIN number from the landline carrier came in handy.
My parents had a Verizon Fios bundle. Verizon was faster than I expected them to be with porting the number out to a mobile carrier — less than 48 hours. But no matter where your landline is currently parked, you should expect this entire process to take a few days.
You’ll be notified by email when the port is complete. Once your landline is ported to mobile, you should call it and confirm that it’s working.
Porting from mobile to Google Voice
Google has its own set of excellent instructions for moving a mobile number to Google Voice.
But I will quickly summarize a few points here so you don’t have to jump to another page right now.
(Note: Even if you already have a Google account for gmail, you might want to set up an independent account for Google Voice. This will prevent Google from pulling in your contacts and other information that you might want to keep separate from the landline account.)
Go to your computer, and open Google Voice.
If you don’t already have a Google Voice phone number, go through the set up process and get one. The number you pick won’t matter because the ported number will replace it.
Go to the top left, click on menu and choose Legacy Google Voice. Once in the Legacy menu, click on Settings in the upper right of the screen.
Click on the “Phones” tab and click Change/Port. The option is next to your current Google Voice phone number.
Choose “I want to use my mobile number”. Follow the rest of the instructions onscreen and pay your $20 porting fee.
Google says porting numbers can take up to 48 hours. (Mine was done in about a day.)
You can check the status of your number porting. And remember, you’ll need to set up to receive calls on your Google Voice account.
During the activation process, Google will call or text the mobile number a verification code, so be sure to have your unlocked phone loaded with the prepaid SIM card. Don’t lose your pin code!
Voicemail and Settings with Google Voice
Once your number is ported into Google Voice, a number of features are at your disposal.
The “screen calls” option and spam filter are the two best features on Google Voice for getting rid of spam calls or robocalls. The screen calls option prompts callers to announce their name before the phone rings. This alone is a spam call killer. I also recommend enabling the filter spam setting for calls, messages and voicemail.
My parents were hesitant about enabling the screen calls feature, fearing that this might confuse older family members. But once the screen calls and spam filter was turned on, the newfound peace in their house made them pretty happy. No missed calls so far.
Setting up a voicemail greeting is easy to do with the microphone built into your computer.
I also set voicemail messages so that they are transcribed and sent to the email associated with your Google Voice account. This is a good way to check voicemail while you’re away from home.
Setting up Obi200
Now that you’ve dealt with most of the back end of Google Voice, there are a few steps remaining to get your Google Voice connected to the landline phones around the house.
The Obi200 is an adapter, bridging a traditional phone line with an Ethernet cord connected to a WiFi router. You will find a port for each cord on the back of the Obi200. After plugging in the power adapter, you can move onto the next step of configuring the Obi200 with Google Voice.
Head over to obitalk.com and click on “Register” in the upper right hand corner.
Obihai makes registering the device super easy because you can use your Google account to sign in to their site in one click. Your dashboard for the Obi200 will appear on the screen.
You’ll be asked if you want to set-up a new Obi device. (Answer: yes.)
There will be instructions on connecting the Obi200 to your router and landline phones. You’ve already done that, but scroll down and make sure you click on the box asking if you want to configure Obi200 for Google Voice.
You’ll be asked to place a test call, and then you’ll be prompted to accept Google’s Terms of Service. The Device Configuration page appears and you can name your Obi200 and change the time zone if needed.
Before making a call, you’ll want to take a look at the Obi200 and make sure all three lights at the top of the box are solid green.
Once you see the green lights, place a test call and you should now be among the growing number of people enjoying free landline phone service.
My parents were paying $170 per month for a bundle of phone, Internet and TV.
They bought a Roku Ultra, and Obi200 and a refurbished Verizon Fios router. After some negotiating, I got them Internet service for $34.99 per month for 2 years. To replace their cable TV channel lineup, they subscribed to YouTube TV. So now they’re saving $85 per month and still have their phone. (YouTube TV has since raised their price by $15 per month, but they’re still saving a good deal of money. And it’s much easier for them to go elsewhere for their TV channels now that they have broken away from their pricey cable TV bundle.)
Have you used Google Voice or an Obi200? What has your experience been like? Share with others in the comments below.
Note: This article was published October 13, 2020, and has been updated.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble