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Google Voice Enables Number Porting

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Seven months after opening to the general public, Google is finally offering Google Voice users the ability to use an existing mobile or home phone number with the online calling service.

Google Voice provides one phone number that will ring all of your phones, or a subset of them, at your discretion, along with a variety of additional features. But for many potential users, Google Voice provided the wrong phone number -- a new one that had to be distributed to friends and associates.

Google Voice came to Google through the acquisition of Grand Central in July, 2007. Since the service opened to beta testers in June, 2009, the ability to port an existing phone number to the service rather than establishing a new one has been high on the list of desired features.

In a blog post, Google software engineer Robert Dong acknowledges that one of the most frequent requests from Google Voice users is the ability to use the service's many features -- voicemail transcription, free text messaging, low-rate international calling, to name a few -- with an existing phone number.

"Many of us have a phone number that we've shared with family, friends and contacts over the years and are reluctant to let go," he wrote.

As of Tuesday, Google Voice users can simply go to the Settings menu and select "Change/Port" under the Phones tab to begin the phone number porting process, which costs $20 through Google Checkout and takes about 24 hours. Those just signing up for Google Voice will have to wait several weeks before number porting is enabled for them.

Anyone taking this step should read through Google's Help documentation because things can get tricky. For example, if you transfer your mobile phone number to Google Voice, your mobile phone no longer has a number. A new one must be established through your mobile carrier.

Google last summer said that Google Voice had surpassed a million users and now says the service has "millions" of users.