Step 1. Make sure your phone is unlocked
If you want to keep your current phone, it needs to be one you can use with your new service provider.
Years ago you might have heard that it was difficult to switch providers for compatibility issues. Today, most cellphone networks use compatible technologies to deliver their services. A phone bought with one of the major networks will typically work on one of the other networks so long as it is network unlocked. (When a phone is locked to a network, it can only work with that provider's voice, text and data services.)
You have a legal right to have your phone unlocked free of charge upon request.
To make it happen, contact the provider who you bought the phone from, and they will give you a code to enter into the phone to unlock it.
Step 2. Contact your new provider to request a service transfer
Once you have decided which provider and plan you want to switch to, contact the new provider to request a service transfer. You can request the service transfer by phone, email or regular mail.
Your new phone provider will ask for some personal details to set up your account and ask you which services you want to keep, remove or change. Tell them if you want to keep your current phone number. Your new provider will take care of the service transfer for you.
If you want to keep your current phone, you may also need to provide your phone's identification number (IMEI number). This number is usually located on the back of your phone or under the battery.
Step 3. Your current provider will cancel your services
Your new service provider will notify your current provider of the transfer. Your current provider will cancel your services immediately. (Alternatively, you can ask to have the cancellation of your current services take effect at a later date.)
For cellphones, the transfer of service can take a few hours. For landline to cellphone or cellphone to landline, the transfer typically takes up to two business days.
You might experience a disruption in service while the transfer is taking place, including disruptions to 911 services.
While you don’t need to talk with your current provider, it's prudent to give them a call to finalize the transfer. This enables you to confirm any early cancellation fee or other charges. You will usually receive a bill for any outstanding debt within a month.