You STILL can't get a new number and keep your old one?!

I’ve had my mobile phone number for 15 years.

My number is a nice number. It’s pleasing to say out loud. There’s a repeating pattern of digits in it that is especially pleasant. (For obvious reasons, I’m not going to put it on this blog.) My mum was particularly proud of herself when she bought it on a pay-as-you-go SIM card in the high street shop of a certain mobile phone network circa 2009. (Remember going to phone shops?)

Unfortunately, as with any phone number that remains constant for that amount of time, it’s ended up everywhere. I’ve given it out to all and sundry when entering competitions, signing up to stuff back in the days when we thought less about data privacy, and accepting deliveries from random eBay sellers. All of which have resulted in a situation where I get at least three spam texts a day from some (I’m sure perfectly reputable) online casinos.1

So, despite how excellent my phone number is, I’ve decided to get a new one to use as my main number. Fifteen years is a long old time, but I think it’s time for a change. Also unfortunately, though, we live in the future. And that excellent phone number is also the two-factor authentication method for hundreds, possibly thousands, of accounts on various websites and services and whatnot.


This realisation essentially forced me to accept the fact that, even if I did get a new phone number for my main device, I would probably need to keep the old number kicking around somewhere just in case. Which is fine — I am more than happy to buy a Nokia 105, stick a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM card in it, and send a text or make a call every few months as required to keep it active. It’s a little inconvenient, sure, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not much of a bother. I could even stick it on something like Twilio if I get bored of playing Snake.2 No problem. It’s the future, and there are so many options.

So I set about looking into how this would all work, purchasing the aforementioned Nokia phone,3 and ordering a cheap PAYG SIM card. I looked into the details of transferring my number off of my main contract I use with my significantly-more-smart-phone, and then realised my problem… transferring my number would kill my contract.


My options were thus:

  • Abandon my old number and ask my main network for a new one. (Not gonna work.)
  • Lose my contract, pay an early termination charge, lose all my shiny benefits (free worldwide roaming!!) and start essentially from scratch.

And so I write this to you whilst waiting for the results of my credit check on a brand new phone contract to come back, before I kill my first one and suck up the early termination charge. I’ve spent about £30 on this endeavour so far, which is an amount I would be willing to sacrifice on a silly project, but is starting to reach the amount at which I begin to question some of my decisions.

I can’t believe it’s the shiny bells and whistles future and we still don’t have the option to transfer a number off of a contract — or even a PAYG SIM, because I’m sure there are people out there that love theirs — without closing the account. I could have just asked for a new number and they’d have done it straight away (I was told up to an hour at absolute maximum), but for some reason, there isn’t the facility to move the old number elsewhere whilst getting a new one. It just disappears. We’re in 2023, nobody is really making phone calls or sending texts any more, and yet moving my number to my shiny new Nokia still forces my contract to end.

But hey, at least I beat my Snake high score.

  1. I must check out the bonuses they’ve apparently added to the account I didn’t know I had. 

  2. Emulators are great and all, but some games just need to be played on the original console. 

  3. You’ll be pleased to hear they’re still virtually indestructible. 

About Skylar MacDonald

Reluctant technologist. CAD & Technical Lead/nerd at London Ambulance Service. Tech stuff, NHS/999 stuff, occasional Excel witchcraft. Views, regrettably, my own.