Porting your number between cellular networks.

How something that can take a few minutes ends up taking a week and more money than needed. If you have number porting issues then perhaps this article will help you.

So I got a new phone and it will only take nano SIM cards, while my old SIM card is still of the very old ones already cut down with a tool to fit a micro SIM slot. It will never fit a nano SIM slot without braking the chip. So I needed to get my number onto a new SIM card – about time anyway. Since I received a Vodacom SIM card with my new phone I decided to Google to see if I can get my old number onto the Vodacom SIM card.

I found these instructions on the Vodacom website:
( https://www.vodacom.co.za/vodacom/switch-to-vodacom )

1) Get a Vodacom SIM

You need a Vodacom prepaid that has been RICA-registered to start the process.

‘Great, already have one’ – I thought.

2)SMS us your new SIM number

Using your existing cell number, SMS ‘portme’ followed by your new SIM number to 082 767 8287.

3)Confirm and activate. You will receive two SMSs.

‘Easy !’ – I thought.

So I SMS’d my new Vodacom SIM phone number to the given number as per the instructions.

Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing in 24 hours. I tried more than once.

Googling this again I found out that it is not the phone number that must be SMS’d but the serial number of the card.

So I tried again – this time using the serial number. Again nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. I tried more than once.

Finally I decided to try porting to a different network if the Vodacom one has porting difficulties with me and gives no feedback or error messages.

So I went to PEPstores and bought a cellc SIM card. “Is this for a simswap ?” – The till lady asked. “Yes.” – I replied.

So I followed the cellc instructions which is pretty much the same:


1)Buy a Cell C Starter Pack

2)RICA your SIM

3)SMS your new SIM serial number to 084 767 8287

4)Two confirmation SMSs will be sent to your old SIM

5)Wait for your old SIM to lose network service and then insert your new Cell C SIM and connect

They are clear on it that it is the serial number of the card which must be SMS’d. On the starter pack it says the RICA serial number.

So I SMS’d the Rica serial number to the given number. Quickly I received an SMS saying that my cellc card is not RICA’d. So I went back to PEP stores to get it RICA’d. The lady said that if you say it is for as SIM swap then they do not RICA it. I did not know at that time that porting and SIM swaps are treated differently. Because a SIM swap is only to a different card on the same network – while porting is across networks. She also said she can not do a RICA without a purchasing process, I must buy a new one. So I bought a new one and watched the lady carefully to see if she RICA’s it. And she did.

So I got back home and SMS’d the new card serial number. Quickly I got an SMS response saying that the card is not RICA’d. I then phoned cellc and asked them to double check this. They confirmed that the card was not RICA’d.

I saw the lady at PEP RICA it. Not her fault. Some system issue between PEPStores and cellc RICA system. My options: I can go back to PEP and ask them to sort it out. Which my gut told me was going to take a lot more time than to look into an alternative. I realized that at least the Vodacom RICA system between PEP and Vodacom certainly works because of my recent purchase of a fully functional Vodacom SIM card there. The one I got with my new phone. I have also learned in the mean time that to port a number to a new card, the new card must never have been activated ( this seems to be the consensus about this ). So it must never have had a phone number associated with it ( depending on the system ). Which could explain why my original porting requests to Vodacom failed. The card I was trying to port to already had a phone number. It would have been nice if I received some kind of error message from Vodacom. And it would have been nice if Vodacom was clearer with their porting instructions.

Anyway, So I thought I am just going to buy a new RICA’d Vodacom SIM at PEP and try again. Did so and made sure the lady RICA’s it. Got home and tried the new Vodacom card. Again nothing happened. No confirmation SMS or anything – no error message. So I decided to contact Vodacom. Tried 135 from my Vodacom SIM. I was never able to get through to an operator. And after Googling about their customer service saw that prepaid users often complain about this. Even the menu is different when you phone Vodacom from a prepaid card. So I tried the live chat on the Vodacom Website. Could not get through either. So I tried the Vodacom app and finally got through to an operator through that. He then phoned me. He said that everything checks out and the porting should happen. Since I never received any feedback or confirmation SMS’s I retried it two mornings in a row after that, until I finally received confirmation SMS’s. And the next day the port was completed.

I was happy, but a little shaken by this experience. Reflecting back on this experience my gut told me that if I insert the cellc card I bought which cellc said was not RICA’d it might suddenly work. And it did. Its RICA’d and works fine. Which is great because I can use it.