What is a PAC code? (Porting Authorisation Code)

PAC is an abbreviation for "Porting Authorisation Code" and is usually referred to as a "PAC code" or "PAC number". It is a code with 3 letters followed by 6 numbers, generated by your current or previous mobile phone network to give permission for your new network provider to port your existing mobile phone number over to them.

Port Authorization Codes are valid for 30 days from the date they are issued. If you do not use your PAC code within this time it will expire and you will need to request a new one from your mobile network provider.

This is part of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) framework setup by Ofcom to allow customers to keep their mobile telephone number when switching service providers.

How to get a PAC code?

You need to contact your current mobile network provider and request your PAC code in order to keep your number and transfer it to your new mobile service provider.

As of 1st July 2019, a new 'text-to-switch' procedure allows you to text PAC to 65075 free from your current network provider to start the porting process.

You will receive a reply by SMS text with your PAC code, which will be valid for 30 days. The text will also include important information about any charges or Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) credit balance (which you will lose if you don't use up before the switch).

Then give your PAC code to your new mobile network provider, who will arrange for your phone number to be ported within one working day.

Is a PUK code the same as a PAC code?

No, a PUK code is an Pin UnblocKing code to unblock a blocked SIM card. If a SIM has a PIN to unlock it then it will get blocked if the incorrect PIN code is entered in too many times.

If a SIM card has become blocked then you will need to contact your network provider to obtain a unique PUK code for your SIM to unblock it.

Note: a PUK code is NOT used to unlock your phone to allow using SIMs from other networks. Also there is no such thing as a PUC or PAK code - these are just mix-ups of the PUK and PAC acronyms.

What happens if I don't use my PAC code before it expires?

Nothing. Your mobile service with your current network provider will continue as before.

However, if you still want to switch service providers and keep your mobile phone number, then you will need to request a new PAC code, which will again be valid for another 30 days from the date it is issued.

Can I transfer my mobile number later?

Yes you should be able to transfer your old number to your new network provider at any time even after you have received a new number. There is no set time limit to when you can do this, but you must request and use your PAC code before your old account is closed to keep your phone number, and use your PAC within the 30-day expiry period.

Can I switch and get a new mobile number?

Yes. Any time you sign up with a new mobile network provider, you get a new phone number by default, if you do not port over your existing mobile number.

As of the 1st July 2019, it is even easier to switch and get a new mobile number thanks to a STAC (Service Termination Authorisation Code).

Simply text STAC to 75075 from your current network provider to close your mobile account and terminate the service. This takes away the hassle of having to call up and speak to your current provider if you simply want to leave.

You will receive an SMS text with important information and any amount due or Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) credit balance (which you will lose if you don't use up before the account is closed).

How do I find out when my mobile contract ends?

If you are not sure whether you are still in contract with your current mobile network, simply text INFO to 85075 to receive an SMS text message reply containing information on how long you have left on your contract and whether you have to pay an early termination fee, which is an amount to pay to end your contract early if you are still within the contracted period.

Alternatively, contact the customer support of your mobile service provider who will be able to provide you with this information.

What happens when your mobile phone contract ends?

Once the minimum term of your mobile contract finishes then you switch to paying month-by-month with the option to change to a new contract or switch to another mobile network provider at any time. Remember to request your PAC code if you wish to keep your mobile phone number.

Do I have to give notice when switching mobile networks?

As of the 1st July 2019, under new Ofcom rules, mobile providers are banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date, when you give your new provider your PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) or STAC (Service Termination Authorisation Code) number.

This means you won't have to pay your old and new mobile providers at the same time, as long as you have finished your contract period with your old provider.

If however, you are still in contract then you will likely have to pay an early termination charge to switch within this period. Check your contract for more information.

Does a PAC code cancel your mobile contract?

Yes, using a PAC code to transfer your mobile number to another network will cancel your contract and close your account.

Please note that if you are still within your contract period then you will usually have to pay for early termination which is normally the total bills for the remaining months. Check your contract for the terms and conditions.

Important: Do NOT cancel your mobile contract before switching, otherwise you may lose your existing phone number and be unable to port it over. When you give your new network provider your PAC code, your old billing account will be closed automatically when your number is successfully ported over.

What happens when you port a mobile number?

When you provide your PAC code to your mobile service provider, they will give you a date when the transfer will take place.

On that day you new temporary number will stop working and your old mobile number will become active on your new SIM card.

Note: You may temporarily lose network signal for a short period of time. If this happens, turn your phone off and on again until the service is restored.

How long does it take to transfer a mobile number?

You should receive your PAC code either immediately or within two working hours. Once you have given your PAC code to your new mobile network provider, they should complete the number porting process within 2 working days or sooner.

How many times can a mobile number can be ported?

There is no limit to how many times you can port your mobile phone number. You can keep taking your mobile number with you whenever you switch network providers, and can even port it back to your original mobile network that first issued you the phone number.

Can I be refused my PAC code?

Provided that the account and number belong to you and have not been cancelled, there shouldn't be a reason why you cannot get your Porting Authorisation Code (PAC).

Under the communications regulator, Ofcom, the rules require service providers to issue you with a PAC immediately over the phone or within two working hours by text message, unless there is a valid reason for why it cannot be issued.

Your provider shouldn't refuse to issue a PAC if you have any outstanding bills or charges to pay. These charges should be included in your final bill after the number port has taken place and should be settled according to the terms of your contract.

Can I transfer my mobile number to the same network?

Not normally, since PAC codes were intended for transferring your mobile number between different networks providers. However, first ask your current service provider if they will internally transfer your number on to a new contract or PAYG (Pay-As-You-Go) account. If they won't then it is possible to temporarily port your number to a PAYG SIM card on another network using a PAC code, and then switch it back to your original mobile provider in the same way.

Can I transfer my PAYG pre-pay credit balance?

It's not possible to transfer your PAYG (Pay-As-You-Go) pre-pay credit from a SIM on one network provider to another.

Any credit that you don't use will be lost when you port your number across because the old mobile account gets closed automatically. Therefore it is advisable to use your credit or donate it to charity before porting your number.

What is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO UK meaning)?

A Mobile Virtual Network Operator or MVNO is a mobile phone service provider that does not have it's own network infrastructure but instead runs on top of one of the four major UK mobile network operators: EE, O2, Three or Vodafone.

These 4 main mobile networks in the UK operate their own infrastructure (radio masts, cell towers, etc) and through agreements, allow other MVNO UK companies to use their networks to provide their own mobile phone services to their own customers.

The advantage of UK MVNOs for consumers is more choice on which mobile network to join based on your own personal requirements for cost, customer support, and/or features provided.

UK mobile network signal coverage of MVNOs will typically be the same as the host network provider that they run on or "piggyback" off, however this may not always the case.

Depending on the arrangement between the MVNO and the host network operator, certain services may not be available (for example 5G, VoLTE, WiFi Calling, etc) or the network capacity and mobile internet speed may be limited on the MVNO to ensure customers of the host network are not negatively impacted during busy periods when the network is congested.

It is always recommended to check which mobile services are offered and what the network signal coverage is like in your area before selecting any mobile network provider, as this can affect phone call quality and mobile internet speeds.

Can I check mobile signal coverage in my area?

Yes, you can use Mobile Coverage Checker to compare the signal availability in your location for voice, 3G, 4G, and 5G services from the four main UK network operators (EE, O2, Three, Vodafone).

Since all the other mobile phone operators in the UK are provisioned over one of the above networks, you can use the information to find out coverage for any mobile service provider once you know which underlying network they use.

What is the UK 3G switch-off?

The UK government has arranged with the four major mobile networks operators (EE, O2, Three, Vodafone) to switch off their 3G networks over the next few years so that the spectrum that will be freed-up can be used to improve the 4G and 5G network coverage throughout the United Kingdom.

Each UK mobile network provider will be switching off their 3G network by 2024 in their own time. For more information, you can read the 3G switch-off news article which provides all you need to know about what is happening and when.

In addition to the 3G shutdown, 2G networks will also be phased out by 2033 across the UK. This phase is planned to take place gradually over the next decade once 3G has been turned off.

What is an eSIM card?

An eSIM (or embedded-SIM) is a digital virtual SIM card that is built-in to some newer mobile devices.

Rather than manually inserting a physical SIM card into your mobile handset, eSIMs allow you to simply download the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) information directly from your network provider in digital form to a device that contains an e-SIM built into it.

This enables you to easily change mobile network providers which support eSIM UK cards, without the need to order a physical SIM card and then wait for it to be delivered to you.

Mobile smartphones that support eSIM cards also enable the use of dual SIM so that you can use two different numbers on the same handset.

eSIM is a relatively new technology, so not all UK network providers or mobile devices feature e-SIM cards at the moment, but as eSIMs become more common, support for them will continue to grow, until they eventually replace physical SIM cards in the future.

Which mobile devices support eSIM?

The number of mobile devices that feature eSIM support is ever increasing as new smartphone models are released. Below is a list of some of the latest mobile handsets that come with a built-in eSIM card:

Apple iPhone eSIM models

Apple iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR.

Google Pixel eSIM phones

Google Pixel 7, Google Pixel 7 Pro, Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 3.

Samsung Galaxy eSIM handsets

Samsung Galaxy S23, Galaxy S22, Galaxy S21, Galaxy S20, Galaxy Z Flip, Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Note.

Android eSIM devices

Sony Xperia 10 IV, Fairphone 4, Huawei P40 Pro, Huawei Mate 40 Pro, OPPO Find X3 Pro, Motorola Razr 5G, Honor Magic 4 Pro, Xiaomi 12T Pro.

What is Ofcom?

In the United Kingdom, Ofcom (The Office of Communications) is the independent telecommunications regulator that directs fixed-line telephone providers, mobile phone providers and broadband internet service providers to offer number portability under the code of practice for Porting Authorisation Code rules and Migration Authorisation Code regulations.