Google Voice will eventually let you move your existing phone number to the service, and is starting to test so-called “porting” for a $20 fee.
This is apparently going to cause Google Voice to “take off,” says TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid.
While it’s certainly helpful to be able to port your number to Google Voice — most people don’t want to give everyone yet another phone number if they don’t have to — there are serious costs involved that would prohibit most people from doing it.
Specifically, if you are porting your mobile phone number to Google Voice, it automatically disconnects your current mobile phone service.
This means you are responsible for whatever early termination fee (“ETF”) your carrier demands, if you’re still on a contract. This could cost hundreds of dollars.
Then you need to establish a new line of service, because Google Voice doesn’t work without a phone connection.
If Google really wants Google Voice to take off, it’s going to have to figure out a way to make that ETF disappear. Maybe Eric Schmidt can call his friends at the FCC and figure something out. Because right now, that’s a huge expense for a service that most people probably aren’t even aware of, and might not even want.
But if Google can eventually let you switch your number for free, and figures out something truly disruptive, like unlimited free calling and text messaging… and then designs a better user experience and promotes it better to consumers, then it might have a chance to become mainstream. (Note: This would require screwing the phone companies, the same huge companies Google is hoping will continue to sell millions of Android phones.)
But right now, it’s still a geek tool, and number portability isn’t going to change that much.