What’s In A Number?

phone_questionWhen you use a telephone, you identify yourself to someone (usually). You send a CLID (Call Line Identification) aka Caller ID to the corresponding party (provided you don’t spoof it or block it and mark your call as “private”). Growing up as a child, I remember using only 7 digits to call friends and family (provided they lived in the same town).

As I moved off go to college (Go Boilermakers!), the seven digit number would turn in to a ten digit number as I would have to dial the area code of my parents (or standard trunk dialer code as it’s referred to in the UK). That area code denoted a lot back in the day. 219 (when I was growing up) notated that I lived in Northern Indiana and the seven digit number showed which area of the 219 area code my parents lived in. Further to that, when we first got our mobile/cell phones, we also had a 219 area code and the prefixes were limited to two or three different blocks – one for each carrier in the area (219-320 being the most prominent).

As the numbering system progressed, the significance of the numbers began to diminish and also IP telephony began to proliferate the telephony market and soon the 219 didn’t mean anything more than a number. For example, I now live in Seattle and have a Seattle area code for my mobile phone (425) however, if I move to Indiana or move anywhere else, I can keep the 425 area code with my mobile phone. Further to that, my home phone, which is connected to a Voice over IP (VoIP) network, has a 475 (not 425) area code. 475 for those wondering is actually in Connecticut. Why do I have a 475 area code to a “home phone” in Seattle you ask? It’s because of vanity and what is often referred to as NGN or Non-Geographical Numbers. With the 475 number, I can route it wherever I go. Same thing with any other area code. I also have a 708 number so I can look as if I’m dialing from Chicago, albeit I still live in Seattle.

What’s even more interesting with NGN and number portability and “flexibility” is the true value of VoIP and the Internet. I can have my 708 “home” telephone number travel with me via SIP and have it ring at my house one day in Seattle, while the next day, while I’m visiting my parents in Northern Indiana, I can have the same “house” phone (708 area code) ring at their house. Then, pack up, visit Joe in Chicago and the 708 rings there.

Long and short, what used to be a tell tale sign of where someone lived or where they were calling from is now once a distant memory and has little to no significance in today’s Internet era of home VoIP telephony and also number portability in the mobile sector.

Happy Holidays All!