Origin of country telephone codes

The up-to-date telephone network has a huge, literally unimaginable scale. The growing demand for international calls required cooperation, as well as joint efforts of various governments and special telecommunications companies around the world. The result is good — today anyone can call anywhere in the world through the oceans and continents.

The first transatlantic telephone cable was commissioned in 1956. It could handle only 36 calls at the same time, and the first 3 minutes of calls in the US cost $ 12 (by today’s standards, comparable to $ 100). Since the 1960s, calls have switched to «digital form," and the use of fiber-optic cable has allowed thousands of calls to pass through one line simultaneously. However, this did not change the basic nature — the need for routing international calls.

The phone number of each subscriber became an encoded card for routing the call. This «card» includes the way to enter the international line («+" when using a mobile device), the country code, the operator’s prefix (in calls to a mobile phone) or the area code (in calls to a landline phone), as well as the unique number of a specific person. The ITU-T organization has established that the maximum length of a number in an international format can include 15 characters.

Today, technical capabilities allow making international calls without any technical problems. It is enough only to know the country code, and the correct dialing algorithm. The main «deterrent», which protects us from endless phone calls of international level, is the cost of conversations. Yes, it’s not $ 100 for 3 minutes, but you can still afford.

Of course, the dialing rules for calls to foreign countries have long been brought to unified standards, for which the standardization sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) is responsible. Telephone codes play a leading role in the call, so they received separate recommendations (E.123 and E.164) from ITU-T.

The country code is a unique digital identifier that is required when making a call from one country to another. The issue of creating such identifiers was first raised in 1960 by one of the UN agencies involved in coordinating global telecommunications. Later this agency was transformed into the International Telecommunication Union.

The ITU-T standardization sector works with 191 member countries that participate in the development and implementation of global communication technologies. Its main office is in Geneva (Switzerland). The specific responsibility of this organization can be called research and recommendations of standards and protocols related to voice and data transmission through fixed and mobile networks. This includes everything: streaming video, VoIP, international calls, SMS and more.

It should be noted that ITU-T recommendations are not laws — their main task is to improve telecommunication technologies around the world. However, key recommendations de facto become rules for a particular sphere, and certain differences can be laid in the official legislation of different countries.

These recommendations are developed by 13 training groups, each of which includes managers and speakers from the public and private sectors. For example, a typical research team may include a technical director from Israel, a researcher from Germany and an American representative of the Federal Communications Commission. Usually, the group takes two to four years to solve a certain problem.

The first list of telephone codes was standardized in 1960 — it included about 50 codes for European countries. Year after year this list was replenished, improved and (in rare cases) modified. For example, in 1972, Costa Rica received its prefix (before that it was similar to the USA), and in 1996 Turkmenistan moved from «+7» to «+993».

As for the origin of telephone codes, there are different myths. The Russian code «7» was inherited from the USSR, and some people find this an occasion for pride, considering that the prefix consisting of one symbol is a sign of a «great power». There is also a theory about the dependence on the first letter in the name of the country. For example, the code «44» is close to «46», like the letter U (United Kingdom — United Kingdom) is close to S (Sweden — Sweden).

However, in reality, the country telephone codes depend on the geographic zones. There are 9 such zones in total:

  • 1 — North and Central America;
  • 2 — Africa;
  • 3, 4 — Europe;
  • 5 — South America;
  • 6 — Australia, Oceania and some island countries;
  • 7 — Russia (as a legacy from the USSR);
  • 8 — East Asia;
  • 9 — South-West Asia, Middle East.

There is also an additional, so-called «Zone 0», which was assigned to space objects (the base on Mars, the cottage on the Moon), but at the moment it is not used.

The basis of the structuring of telephone numbers in an international format is the recommendation E.164 from ITU-T. It identifies all the required information, thanks to which you can successfully route any international call. In particular, it says the following:

  • A phone number can have a maximum of 15 digits;
  • The first part of the telephone number must be a state or territory code (1–4 digits);
  • The second part of the phone number is the destination (national operator or city prefix);
  • The last part is always the subscriber number.

As for the rule for dialing a phone number, it all depends on which phone you are calling from. If it’s mobile, then it’s enough to put «+" before the country code. And if the call comes from a landline phone, you first need to go to the international call line (in the US, for example, 011), and then dial the number of the subscriber, again starting with the country code.

Our «VOIPSCAN.EU» service does not require complicated searches of information on the Internet for cheap calls. It is enough to enter the subscriber’s number in your personal account, and the service will automatically display the number you need to call.