I’ve been through this process twice now, so I figured I’d document it if anyone else needs it.
I’ve created several Google Voice accounts in the past 5 years, and there are never any local phone numbers available. My city is medium-sized, but I guess all the numbers GV allocated have been taken.
On my first attempt 5 years ago, the nearest number was in a town 30 miles away. Not long distance, but I really wanted an in-town number. On my most recent attempt, the only numbers available were in the megatropolis 250 miles away.
The problem can be resolved by obtaining and porting a cell phone number. This isn’t free, but it will work.
- Create a GV account. Let it assign whatever free number you can get for initial testing. If you’ve never used Google Voice, take some time to learn it. You might decide you don’t need a local number.
- I’m going to assume you have an unlocked GSM cell phone available. Using locked phones or CDMA phones adds more twists to the process and I’ve not done it that way myself.
- If you don’t have an unlocked GSM phone, you can probably find one dirt cheap on ebay or amazon. You are only going to need to use it for a day.
- Purchase a pay-as-you SIM card which will be assigned its own phone number. I went to Walmart and picked up an AT&T GO phone SIM card for $10. I strongly suggest using a big name company like AT&T or T-mobile. You may have issues with the porting process for small companies (I tried using Consumer Cellular on my latest attempt but had some problems so I had to fall back to AT&T).
- Follow the instructions to activate the SIM card.
- When you register the SIM card, put in your address. Google will want ask for this for porting and I can’t tell you not using it will work.
- I didn’t get any choice regarding the phone #, but it was tied to the zipcode entered, so it is a local number. In other words, those in my town won’t have to call long distance to reach me.
- You will need to buy some air time. I used the unlimited usage for $2 / day plan and bought the bare minimum time which was another $10.
- Make sure the phone is working and you can place/receive calls on the new SIM card.
- You are going to need your account number and possibly the pin number. With AT&T, you cannot determine the account number yourself. I had to call AT&T customer service (611) and ask for my account #. The nice Indian chap (I’m not being sarcastic), asked me why I wanted it (he knows why I want it), but I gave him a vague “I’d like to have it for my records” kind of response. He didn’t say anything, but I have to wonder if he could see my account had been activated only 10 minutes prior. Never the less, he gave it to me without any additional questioning.
- Now with the account #, pin #, and valid account info (name/addr), you have enough information to port the number.
- Return to the Google Voice website and go to Settings | Phone. You will see your original phone number and a Change/Port link next to it.
- Click on this link and enter the phone number of the cell phone which you want to port (assign) to your Google Voice Account.
- You will be asked to confirm about 10 questions acknowledging you really want to do this). Once you click on them all, you will be in the porting request screen.
- The porting request screen should properly identify your carrier and you can enter your account number and identification information. You may or may not need to enter your PIN.
- Finally, you will be required to pay a $20 porting fee. If something fails during the port, this will be refunded.
- Once you are done, the porting process starts and will take place in about 24 hours. During that time, the old numbers will continue to work right up until the port occurs.
Total cost to get a local phone number: $40. Not free, but not too much to have a number that is a local call for all my land-line friends.
Obihai users: The Google voice account I did this with had my Obihai VoIP box connected to it which had been configured and was running fine. When the new number was ported to GV, the Obihai continued to work just fine using the new number. I didn’t have to change anything in its configuration.
May 2018 Update:
I needed to setup a new Obihai and Google voice account and wanted to port a local number. I went to follow this procedure and found AT&T’s minimum charge is now $35 (plus $20 for Google’s port fee). This is getting kind of spendy.
I use Consumer Cellular for my primary phone as most of my data is via WiFi. A low volume data account on Consumer Cellular is very reasonably priced.
It cost me $10 to setup a new SIM card on consumer cellular.
When I went to port from consumer cellular to Google, there was a bit of confusion. The account # was easy enough to get from an invoice, but I needed to provide a PIN and consumer cellular doesn’t use PINs. Someone mentioned using last 4 digits of SSN, but that failed.
I called Consumer Cellular (always great customer service, BTW). They said there is no PIN but they could assign one. I had them do so.
When I retried filling out the application, I used the PIN given and NOW the form also include the last 4 of the SSN (it didn’t first time thru). Put that in as well and the application was accepted and the number ported.