In a move certain to substantially shake up the Voice over IP space, Google announced today that it will begin to allow users of its Google Voice service to port their existing mobile phone numbers in the United States to the service.
Currently, Google Voice offers completely free calls throughout the US and Canada. Also free are premium incoming call services including full voice mail, voice mail transcrioption to text, call forwarding and others.
The company announced in December that its free North America calling service will continue to be offered at least through the end of 2011.
Many potential users may have been slow to adopt Google Voice, despite its free status, not wishing to change a longheld phone number they share with family, friends and associates. Mobile number portability may eliminate this obstacle for many.
Another Google Voice adoption obstacle was lifted several days ago when Obihai Technology, a Cupertino-based start-up by several former Cisco Systems executives and engineers, released firmware for their flagship OBi110 product that allows Google Voice to be used with virtually any standard telephone. (A complete How-To Google Voice with the OBi110 can be found here).
To port an existing number to Google Voice, a user logs into his or her account, and clicks “Change/Port” on the “Settings/Voice Settings” page.
A notice on the Google Voice number porting page states that “at this time, number porting to Google Voice is not available for land line numbers or corporate mobile numbers.”
The company says it will usually take 24 hours to complete a number port.
Warning: According to this Google help page, your mobile service plan “will be terminated when you port your number to Google Voice” and you may be charged with early termination fees. Check with your mobile provider before porting your number.
Also, according to Google, you may “experience disruptions in sending and receiving text messages for up to 3 business days after the porting process is complete.”