What Is In A Phone Number?
Phone numbers are used to place a call to a telephone. So, there
are actually two important aspects to this: 1) the phone that is being
called and 2) the way in which the call is placed.
You can think of a telephone number as an instruction. How that
instruction will be interpreted depends on the type of conventions that
are being used between the entity sending the instructions (your phone) and
the entity receiving those instructions (your telephone company). It
actually is more complicated than that: some of those instructions may
be forwarded to other entities (other telephone networks).
Consider the following example:
If you are an employee working in Canada or in the US, you might call this
number from your office cubicle in spring to get some clarity around an
income tax question. The toll free number belongs to the US Internal Revenue
At this point you are talking to your company switchboard. You are
telling the switchboard that you would like to make an outside call.
Some switchboards will wait for you to enter the entire number before
allowing you to proceed (or not!) while others will connect you to an
available line right after you press the 9. For this example we will
assume that the switchboard just gives you an outside line right away.
This single digit instructs the telephone company that you want to call
a telephone in another area code and that the next thing to follow will
be a three digit area code. Note that this is a "local" convention in the
sense that this may look different in other parts of the world.
This is a toll free area code. The caller will not be billed long
distance toll charges. The phone company now knows that the next seven
digits will identify the "800" number being called. Actually, there now
are several toll free area codes: 800, 866, 877, and 888. Telephone
companies have ways by which their computers can find out which company
actually handles a specific toll free number, but first they will need to
know what 800 number you are actually calling.
This is the "800" number being called. Toll free numbers are especially
magical in that calls may be sent to different destinations depending on
the time of day or the physical location of the caller. It all depends on
the company that provides that toll free service (there are many).
In this example, the phone call might automatically be sent to the IRS
office responsible for the part of the US from where the call originates.
In case you are not familiar
with american tax regulations, the "1040" happens to be the number of federal
income tax declaration every individual US tax payer has to submit.
This is no coincidence - the last four
digits of this free number will be easy to remember for the tax payers
working on filling out their 1040s.
As you can see, what is in a phone number depends on how you are connected
to the phone network. The numbers you dial first will change how remaining
numbers are being interpreted.
Learn More About Phone Numbers
You can learn many more interesting facts about telephone numbers on our