Talk:Telephone number

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Help with new content[edit]

I am not exceptionally well versed in the histroy of the telephone system, so before I go add to this with regard to discussing how area codes, exchanges and even subscriber numbers arose out of a need for automation and from increasing propogation of the telephone system throughout the country, maybe someone else could put it better?? --DigitalSorceress

Rotary phone engineering[edit]

I heard that in the early days (before touch tone phones) of telephone exchange, each dail pulse from the telephone set actually kicked an electro-mechanically device at the exchange one step to make a different physical connection. i.e. the device turned 9 steps before it connects to the circuit for 9. For the same reason, emergency number is 999 in the UK because random glitches would be likely to keep the number 111 ringing off the hook. I bet there are still many retired telephone technicians out there to confirm or deny this information. (The '111 dialling' is not the reason for the choosing of 999 as the Emergency number in the UK although it did help to eliminate problems. The reason was that 999 had to be diallable from coinboxes/payphones without inserting money. The dials on these phones already allowed a '0' to be dialled without inserting money and it was an easy modification to allow a '9' also to be dialled without inserting money. There was only one subscribers's number that consisted solely of 9's and '0's -Standard Telephones & Cables Woolwich factory in London - WOOlwich 9000 - dialled as 900 9000 from London area, and the chances of 'free' calls to them from payphones was low, so the GPO went ahead with '999') - Ian Jolly.)

In New Zealand (surely we can't be alone in this) the numbers were reversed so that a "1" gave 9 pulses, because of this out emergency number is 111. This remains today. Dave Bremer
Hi, you heard right, but it is not so long ago. I do not know the exact date the UK switched off the last electro-mechanical exchange, certainly after 1985*. I can only speak for the UK, here the pulse dial phones still work - most phone lines are configured to accept both touch tone and pulse dialling so that old phones still work on the modern lines. I don't think it is possible to buy an new pulse dial phone anymore though. The old Strowger exchanges worked in the manner you describe. Other technologies, such as Crossbar, used a counting circuit made from relays to count the number of pulses dialled. There were also semi electronic exchanges which used an early form of computer control but still worked with pulse dialling. Examples in the UK are TXE2 and TXE4. To my knowledge, there are non of these left working. user:Perry Bebbington
UK's last public electro-mechanical exchange on the Island of Foula (Britain's most remote inhabited island to the west of the Shetland Islands) ceased in service on 13th July 1995 - now preserved by myself - Ian Jolly

This is now covered on Rotary dial. -- Beland (talk) 22:39, 22 May 2012 (UTC)


112 isn't just European. 112 is the international emergency number, which is supposed to be accepted everywhere, at least on GSM mobiles. -- SJK

Its part of the GSM standard and its a european standard but i don't think it works on landlines in the rest of the world. Plugwash 02:42, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

New Zealand opposite?[edit]

Can anybody tell me if there's any truth to the story I heard that in New Zealand rotary dial phones had the numbers arranged in the opposite order to everywhere else, i.e. starting from 9 with the shortest journey to the stop. This would account for why the emergency services number is 111, analogous to the UK's 999 which was chosen in preference to 111 because a single pulse could have been created by touching wires in the wind, so they went for generating as many pulses as possible (if you see what I mean!). Arwel 23:56, 7 Oct 2003 (UTC)

My name is no - both 0 and 5 are in the same place. The pulses sent to operated the exchange were (are) actually 999 rather than 111 when '111' is dialled (only the digits on the numberplate were in reverse order - the rest of the dial is identical to those used in the UK. The UK's 999 number was chosen not because of the above reason but because of the need to be able to dial 999 for free from public payphones. As '0' could be dialled without inserting coins, it was easy to modify the coinbox telephone dials (GPO Dial No 11) to dial a 9 as well without inserting coins. No subscribers numbers could be dialled with combinations of a 9 and 0 (except for STC's Woolwich factory on WOO 9000 in London but the GPO were prepared to live with that!) - Ian Jolly —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:09, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

This is now covered on 111 (emergency telephone number). -- Beland (talk) 23:17, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

10 digit dialing[edit]

In 1995 when the NAPA started to use other than "0" and "1" as their middle digit in the NPA (area code), They should have went to 10-digit dialing in all areas. Since Nxx's begine with 2-9, this now would be the fourth digit in a telephone number, making it possible to have 2,000,000 more phone lines in each NPA. My old area code used to be 512. Since dialing the area code to call your neighbor, the first digit I would have dialed was "5." A telephone number such as 512-000-0001 is possible. It wouldn't connect to the operator only because you dialed "5" first and not "0". I know a lot of areas in the country now has to dial 10-digit dialing to make a local call. Worse part is military or common travellers (like salesmen) would get used to dialing either a 7 digit or 10 digit number, then turn around move to the opposite, they would have the tendacy to forget and may end up getting charged for a local call. This in essecence would have saved NAPA in assigning new NPA's for quite awhile.

Question about Manx Telecom[edit]

I'm querying :

The telephone service in the United Kingdom was originally provided by local city councils, until in 1912 all except the telephone service of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, were bought out by the Post Office. Post Office Telephones also operated telephone services in the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey), and the Isle of Man, until 1969], when the Islands took over responsibility for their own postal and telephone services.

I know Jersey and Guernsey took over their Post and Telecoms in 1969 'cos that's when they started issuing stamps. However the Isle of Man didn't start issuing stamps until 1973, and I wonder if the same applies to Manx Telecom? -- Arwel 22:45, 17 Oct 2003 (UTC)

The UK's original Telephone service was provided under licence from the GPO, by various private companies starting in 1879 in London. Evenually these all amalgamated to form the National Telephone Company. THE GPO provided a limited local service in some areas (mainly NE of England and London). In 1896 the trunk (long distance) telephone network was nationalised and taken over by the GPO leaving the National Telephone Co to run local exchanges only. In 1899 a Telegraph Act allowed local authorities to run there own systems as a number were not happy with the National's service. Only 13 licences were granted and the following opened- Glasgow (1901), Tunbridge Wells (1901), Swansea (1902), Portsmouth (1902), Brighton (1903) and Hull (1904). By 1913 all had sold out to the National Telephone Co or to the GPO (The National Telephone Co was nationalised on 1st Jan 1912). Guernsey have always run their own telephone service. Jersey telephones were nationalised and taken over by the GPO in 1912 but sold back to the States of Guernsey in 1923 who subsequently ran the system. Telephones were run by the GPO in the Isle of Man and subsequently became 'Manx Telecom' part of the BT Group in the 1980's. It was part of the o2 group which was sold off by BT. Ian Jolly - 2007

Should be added to Manx Telecom. -- Beland (talk) 23:20, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Cut paste from other article lazy? An improvement?[edit]

I can't believe the laziness that led someone to chop out a whole load of stuff and dump it in Telephone numbering plan while just sticking the link randomly at the end of a paragraph. Was that supposed to be an improvement? It's sloppy. Sure it may have been a good idea to split the article, but a tiny bit of consideration for readers would not have permitted this to happen. 19:37, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Alexander Graham Bell did NOT invent telephone[edit]

I think i read some where that it is now well accepted that Bell did not invent telephone[[1]]. Even US government acknowledged that this guy was not honest sometimes a go[[2]] wkm

I read it up in my school book that Alexander Graham Bell did invent the telephone, but Thomas Edison improved the telephone.--Sean gorter 05:44, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
Please have a look at the article about Antonio Meucci. Winston.PL 20:33, 16 September 2007 (UTC)
The praise of Meucci is based more on national pride and politicians seeking votes than on sound history of technology. His claims were discredited in 19th century patent litigation. Edison (talk) 14:10, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Telephone number retirement[edit]

Hi. Is there anything we can say about retiring telephone numbers? What I mean is, if you cancel your subscription and then get a new number, what happens to the old one. Thanks a lot to everyone who has worked on this article. 00:02, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

I'd imagine the exact details vary by country but in general i think the number is kept vacant for a while (possiblly with a message about the previous owner) and then re-used. Plugwash 02:44, 11 February 2007 (UTC)
See section 5 (Interecepted number)Jim.henderson 05:32, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

Why Telephone number and not Telephone numbers?[edit]

I came to this page wondering why it is common to refer the subject of the article as a telephone number, when it is actually made up of 7 or more numbers, depending on the country. A single telephone number of 5558918 would be said as 'five million, five hundred and fifty eight thousand, nine hundred and eighteen' or similar, whereas it's generally spoken as 'five five five eight nine one eight', seven distinct numbers. Anyone able to find some further information on this oddity? 14:45, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

It is only 'five five five eight nine one eight'in some countries. In France, for example, it would read "55 58 91 8". In operation it is actually one number as you don't put in spaces when dialing. The way it is said or listed is to make remembering it easier. —Preceding unsigned comment added by IMcDonald5 (talkcontribs)
I suspect its historic, in the early days phone numbers would be only within a local area (with the area just said to the operator for long distance calls) and in this case it would be a single moderate sized number. Gradually the numbers were extended with systems first to cover areas within cities then areas (including the aforementioned cities) within a country and finally to allow direct dialing worldwide. Plugwash 16:18, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

The heading should be in the plural to be grammatical. However, a telephone number is singular as it is one number consisting of up to 15 digits. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sd324 (talkSd324 (talk) 17:02, 31 December 2007 (UTC)contribs) 16:26, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Woz's number[edit]

From reading the wired article, it seems that Woz had 888-8888, not 888-888-8888. The later of which would be hard to dial without dialing the 1 first to dial long distance. So it wasn't the children of America dialing him, it was the children in his area code. Had it been the children of America, it probably would have been thousands of calls a day. I'm going to fix the article. -- Suso 02:34, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

I'm not so sure. Bear in mind that cell phones do not require a 1 first. -- DBooth 21:16, 3 April 2007 (UTC)
Ok, but you'd have to hit 'send' to place the call. Perhaps you are right, but I guess there is no way to really know unless you ask Woz. -- Suso 12:21, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

length of phone numbers[edit]

I just read in The Tipping Point (with reference to Jonathan Cohen) that Bell wanted the telephone number to be easily memorizable and chose not to exceed seven digits. Can anyone comment on that? --Ben T/C 13:56, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Section suggestion[edit]

Please add a section or pointer to official international telephone number format! I.e., how is one supposed to write an international phone number? Perhaps this would be a starting point: -- DBooth 21:16, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Cutting "numeric trivia" nonsense[edit]

666-6666 was sold for $2.75 million? Why, to whom? And ... what area code? Naturally, this claim has no footnote.

888-8888 sale is not 100% as implausible, but still super sketchy. And the Wozniak thing doesn't justify this pointless section. I'm scrapping it. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Geremiah (talkcontribs) 18:19, 13 April 2007 (UTC).

Category:Redirects from telephone number[edit]

redirects added to by country pages: Category:Redirects from telephone number NoGringo 15:54, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Improve first line and para[edit]

I think we should strive to have the first paragraph, if possible the first sentence, introduce, define & summarize the subject in plain, ordinary English, especially when the subject is something familiar in daily life. I also think that the intro should be really introductory - it should not assume that the reader is already familiar with the subject!

"A telephone number is a sequence of decimal digits that uniquely indicates the network termination point." ??? It's true, it's correct, it's precise - but if "network termination point" doesn't immediately make sense to a reader, then this sentence fails completely, and the reader stumbles forward into the article in a state of confusion. 'Decimal' is also redundant for anybody but digital geeks...

How about something more like this:

"A telephone number is a sequence of numbers or letters used to call from one telephone to another in a telephone network. When telephone numbers were invented, they were short - as few as three digits - and were used by people to call their neighbors. As phone systems have grown and interconnected to encompass the world, telephone numbers have grown longer and more complex, and in addition to telephones now connect many other devices, such as computers and fax machines."

What else is most important, or of greatest interest to somebody who has never really thought about telephone numbers before? It seems to me we need to say something about the fact that telephone numbers aren't absolute or unique - what you dial depends on where you are and where you are calling. But I haven't figured out how to explain it! You can either see every phone on the planet as having a unique number, with abbreviations for local calls - or you see each phone as having a unique local number, with prefixes required to go between local systems.

I'd also be tempted to point out that it's still normal, at least for my generation, to talk about 'dialing' a phone number, even though most calls are now placed using numeric keypads. Spike0xFF 20:15, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Minor point, new sections belong at the bottom, not the top, so I moved your section. As for the substance, I have to admit you're very much on the right track. I'm comfortable with the current wording, but as an insider I'm comfortable with a lot of things that outsiders will find abstruse and the article shouldn't be written for us insiders. This weekend I'll have time to study your proposal and if nobody else pops in with advice we should go ahead, insert approximately what you propose, and maybe work at the other problems you discuss. Jim.henderson 19:11, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposal for a new paragraph[edit]

Please find below a proposal for a new paragraph – In case of emergency. The same paragraph is about to be added to the article on E.123 (drafted to the article's discussion segment). Any ideas on edit and/or where to put the paragraph in this article? ITU-T 12:12, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

In case of emergency[edit]

A standardized language-independent way to identify a next-of-kin (or other emergency contact) in a mobile handset’s directory, in case of an emergency, has in May 2008 been adopted as a new clause in ITU-T's Recommendation E.123.

It proposes to store emergency contact numbers in the form “0nx”, where “n” is a digit from 1 through 9 and “x” is any meaningful descriptive character string in any language or script (e.g. “Anna” or “Spouse”).

In the handset's directory this would be displayed as "01Anna" or "01Spouse" enabling easy identification by the emergency services. The handset’s directory entry (in the “contact number” field) would contain the actual number of the person to call in case of emergency.[1]

This scheme is a language-independent version of the ICE scheme that became popular in certain parts of the world from 2005 onwards.[2]


Proposed Link[edit]

Has anyone seen ?

This works only for US numbers. (talk) 19:39, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

It's cute but only gives reverse directory information for a fee, so it lacks relevance to this article. Jim.henderson (talk) 02:13, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

"Phone number" is unneeded in the start of the introduction.[edit]

I just looked at this article not long ago. The start of the article said "A telephone number or phone number is a ...". I fixed this error, as the word "phone" is a slang-like colloquialism for "telephone". Only 47 minutes later some guy who appears to be an admin reverted my edits because it's best to use the "common term" for something on Wikipedia. True, in some cases. But this is just plain insanity! "Phone" is not a "common term" for "telephone", like "Big Ben" is for the clock tower. "Phone" is just a colloquial shortened version of "telephone". While many people use the term "phone number", it is just a faster way of saying "telephone number". This is just plain insanity! [|Retro00064 | (talk/contribs) |] 05:58, 22 October 2008 (UTC)

Google news search for the past month show 11785 instances in the news media of "phone number"[3] and only 4765 for "telephone number" [4]. The introduction of an article is a good place to include other common terms for the same thing. This helps Google searches find the desired article and it assists those for whom English is not their native language, and who might not know it is commonly called a "phone" but not a "tele". I do not see how a simple editing disagreement constitutes "insanity." I do not see this issue addressed in the Wikipedia:Manual of Style. Is there a policy that we must always say "petroleum" instead of "petrol," or "automobile" instead of "auto?" This edit [5] in Movember 2007 added "phone number" and I see no reason to remove it. At the same time, I see no reason to add the disambiguation to every article related to telephones such as Telephone and History of the telephone. It's just that "phone number" is a more common usage than "telephone number." Edison (talk) 13:35, 22 October 2008 (UTC)
Well then if the article includes "phone number" in the start of the intoduction for the purposes of helping Google searches find the article and for assisting non-native English speakers then I can understand why the article would include the term in the introduction. [|Retro00064 | (talk/contribs) |] 05:31, 23 October 2008 (UTC)


Anyone seen ? (talk) 05:53, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Alpha numbers[edit]

I removed several companies which had radio/tv ads with alpha prefixes, since neither the companies nor their ads seemed very notable, getting only a couple of hundred Google hits. This should not be a dumping ground fro every phone number which someone remembers from a =n ad they heard in their youth. "Pennsylvania 6-5000" in contrast gets 108,000 Google hits and 719 Google news archive hits. When phone numbers had alpha prefixes, it was the norm to include it in radio or TV ads. Edison (talk) 20:09, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Edited alphanumeric numbers in popular culture[edit]

I added a couple of references to the article, although it probably needs quite a bit more. The PEnnsylvania 6-5000 number is also mentioned on the Hotel Pennsylvania's website (added). There was also a snafu with not using a 555- phone number in Bruce Almighty (added). Wxkat (talk) 08:22, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

How to write a telephone number[edit]

In the alphanumeric section, it says that a phone number is NOW written as +1-212-736-5000. Shouldn't that be +1 (212) 736-5000? Wakablogger2 (talk) 07:21, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

That depends on where you're from. I've seen it both ways even in New England. --King Öomie 08:51, 19 October 2009 (UTC)
Is there a standard way to write phone numbers? I've SEEN phone numbers written many different ways, but I consider only the one I gave above to be standard. Wakablogger2 (talk) 07:57, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
I would say MOST people use (123) 456-7890. As for a FORMAL standard, no, I don't think there is. At least, not in the US. Various countries use completely different formats. --King Öomie 14:26, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

According to the wiki the E.123 standard dictates how International phone numbers should be written. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:36, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

claims about PE6-5000[edit]

The article currently contains a paragraph reading "The number in the Glenn Miller Orchestra's hit song "Pennsylvania 6-5000" is the number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, and was issued in 1919.[citation needed] The number is now written as (212) 736-5000. According to the hotel's website, Pennsylvania 6-5000 is New York's oldest continually assigned telephone number, and possibly the oldest continuously-assigned number in the world.[3]"

Cite [3] does not substantiate this statement. The hotel does not make this claim, and in fact it is false (there are older continually assigned numbers in New York). A newspaper article a few years ago once offhandedly made such a statement, so this section could possibly be weakened enough to be substantiable, but I think it's best to just remove the second sentence or better yet the entire paragraph, as it distracts from the narrative of transition between fictional exchanges such as BEnsonhurt and reserved numbers such as 555-XXXX or NNX-0079. Someone who cared about the deleted material could still find it in PEnnsylvania_6-5000 or Category:Telephone_numbers_in_the_United_States. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Palmwiz (talkcontribs) 19:33, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

United Kingdom - Dials & letters[edit]

I've amended the section about the allocation of letters on U.K. dials, since as it stood it rather implied that both O and Q were put on the zero position from the outset. In fact only the letter O appeared in this position originally, the Q being a much later addition for direct dialed calls to Paris, which started in 1963. The revised text now makes this clear. (talk) 14:20, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

555 numbers[edit]

"To test the basic functioning of all of the switches in a chain, a special 'test' number was reserved that consisted of all 5s (555-5555) — half-way up and in on each bank."

I have removed the above text entirely, as it is completely inaccurate. (talk) 22:50, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

Need for more information as to who exactly is entitled to assign telephone numbers[edit]

I'm disappointed that there is no explanation as to who or what has the legal power to assign telephone numbers. What brings this to mind is the readiness with which companies like Google can now simply hand out telephone numbers that are not usually attached to a particular telephone. Google Voice is the most obvious example but there are multiple Android apps whereby you are assigned a telephone number as a matter of course. Who gives them the authority? By this I don't mean to challenge distribution of numbers but rather want to know factually how numbers are distributed by whom and under what authority. QuintBy (talk) 21:34, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

NPA - NXX[edit]

Why is there no discussion of NPA and NXX? Not even historic

NPA is the Area Code and NXX is the Prefix. --- Ok, I finally found the link, but the info for finding NPA/NXX should have been mentioned on this page as they are such a integral part of the Telephone number.

Patrick (talk) 00:42, 16 December 2015 (UTC)

"*" and "#" in telephone numbers[edit]

I'm disappointed that this Wikipedia doesn`t mention the use of "*" and "#" in telephone number, because the relevant editor could not feel that because there is no such telephone number containing "*" or "#", we cannot state the usage of "*" and "#". The feeling is in violation of Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not censored. UU (talk) 10:05, 16 February 2017 (UTC)

I have removed your edit as it does not answer this question. it merely adds a link to a provider of telephone services. IdreamofJeanie (talk) 10:13, 16 February 2017 (UTC) | 3香港 also contain similar information, but I didn`t include in the article.UU (talk) 10:14, 16 February 2017 (UTC)

csl All-In-One Rechargeable SIM Card but without those links, User:Kbrose may remove the usage of "*" and "#", and the content removal is surely in violation of Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not censored. UU (talk) 10:19, 16 February 2017 (UTC)

No. Removing unsourced assertions has nothing to do with censorship, it is in line with the basic Wikipedia policy of verifiability. --bonadea contributions talk 10:41, 16 February 2017 (UTC)
Neither of these references appears to support your assertion that asterisks and hash symbols are sometimes used in short codes, they're just a couple of commercial phone company websites. Your original blog source is inappropriate per WP:BLOGS. --McGeddon (talk) 11:14, 16 February 2017 (UTC)

* and # are never part of a telephone number, at least not in the traditional definition of a telephone number as a destination routing address in the public switched telephone network. They are call control codes, such as in vertical service codes, or for special use in dialing procedures, e.g. terminating a digit sequence. PS: I added a new section and lede summary to mention the use of such codes. Kbrose (talk) 14:01, 16 February 2017 (UTC)