Mobile Number Portability: All You Need To Know

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) or Network Porting is a service offered by all mobile service providers in South Africa, which allows you to swap from one network to another without having to change your number. Prior to the introduction of Icasa’s amendments in 2006, trying to switch your mobile phone contract from or to any of the local cell phone networks (Telkom, Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C) was an administrative nightmare. These days, the nitty-gritty of number portability is handled by the Number Portability Company (NPC) – yes, that is its real name. 

Phil’s back with one of his handy guides for how to handle your handy! This time we take a closer look at MNP, so you know exactly what’s potting when you decide to port your number to a different network.

The Porting Stats

Since these amendments were officially enforced in November 2006, about 12,091,930 mobile phone numbers have been successfully ported to date. That’s a rough average of about 77,019 ported numbers each month!

Aside from mobile number porting, this period also saw up to 1,658,628 geographic numbers successfully ported and an average of about 15,078 average geographic ports per month.

Fun fact: You know those three beeps you hear at the start of a phone call? Those typically indicate that the cell phone number you are calling has been ported in the past.

How Mobile Number Porting Works

The first step will always be to buy a SIM card for the network you are switching over to and request a number port from your new provider. The next step differs depending on whether you are working on a prepaid agreement or changing to another contract. If you are porting as a prepaid subscriber, you will have the easiest time of it. All you need is to have the donor network authorise your port, and this can easily be done with a simple SMS.

Contract ports are more complicated and involves a bit of paperwork. You will have to supply authentication details (specifically your ID number and existing account number). This information will be sent to your existing operator by the destination network to verify your details and the current state of your cell phone contract. Having an account with your current operator that is found to be in arrears is a sure-fire way to get your number port declined. 

Once the relevant information is approved, your port activation will be processed within a period known as Network Synchronisation Time (NST), which is governed by the NPC. The NST period falls between 19:30 and 23:30, Monday to Saturday. If a port is submitted on a Sunday or public holiday, it will only go through on the next business day. During NST, your previous network deletes your number from its database and updates its call routing to the new network.

Finally, the destination network activates your number on its billing system and updates the call routing on its end. With this, your previous SIM card becomes useless and your new SIM is officially activated.


What if my current contract isn’t up yet?
You can port your number, even if your contract isn’t complete yet. However, you may be required to pay off your existing contract, if nothing else, just to pay off the device.

Can I keep my old phone from my previous network?
Of course, you can keep your old phone. That sucker’s yours and it will work just fine on the new network you port to.

How much does it cost to port a number?
Nothing, nada, zilch. It’s a free service!

Can a port be refused?
While mobile number porting is usually a simple process, there are occasions on which a number port can be refused. Let’s say you’re with Network A and you want to port your number over to Network B, here’s why you might be rejected:
Your number is already in use or is planned to be used for information or other related services.
Your number is not a valid number on Network B.
You have a contract with Network A and your number doesn’t match your ID number.
Your number is already subject to the porting process.
Your account with Network A is suspended due to you owing on outstanding bills.
Your number was already ported in the last two months.

Final Word From Phil

Tired of your current contract and are looking to port your number with a brand new mobile phone contract deal. Thanks to this help-Phil guide and great deals with top mobile network providers, switching over to the smartphone deal of your dreams has never been easier.