A telephone numbering plan is a type of numbering scheme used in telecommunication to assign telephone numbers to subscriber telephones or other telephony endpoints. Telephone numbers are the addresses of participants in a telephone network, reachable by a system of destination code routing. Telephone numbering plans are defined in each of administrative regions of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and they are also present in private telephone networks. For public number systems, geographic location plays a role in the sequence of numbers assigned to each telephone subscriber.
Numbering plans may follow a variety of design strategies which have often arisen from the historical evolution of individual telephone networks and local requirements. A broad division is commonly recognized, distinguishing open numbering plans and closed numbering plans.[discuss] Many numbering plans subdivide their territory of service into geographic regions designated by a prefix, often called an area code or city code, which is a set of digits forming the most-significant part of the dialing sequence to reach a telephone subscriber.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has established a comprehensive numbering plan, designated E.164, for uniform interoperability of the networks of its member state or regional administrations. It is an open numbering plan, however, imposing a maximum length of 15 digits to telephone numbers. The standard defines a country calling code (country code) for each state or region which is prefixed to each national numbering plan telephone number for international destination routing.
Private numbering plans exist in telephone networks that are privately operated in an enterprise or organizational campus. Such systems may be supported by a private branch exchange (PBX), which provides a central access point to the PSTN and also controls internal calls between telephone extensions.
In contrast to numbering plans, which determine telephone numbers assigned to subscriber stations, dialing plans establish the customer dialing procedures, i.e. the sequence of digits required to reach a destination. Even in closed numbering plans, it is not always necessary to dial all digits of a number. For example, an area code may often be omitted when the destination is in the same area as the calling station.
Within the national numbering plan, a complete destination telephone number is composed of an area code and a subscriber telephone number. The subscriber number is the number assigned to a line connected to customer equipment. The first few digits of the subscriber number may indicate smaller geographical areas or individual telephone exchanges. In mobile networks they may indicate the network provider. Callers in a given area or country sometimes do not need to include the particular area prefixes when dialing within the same area. Devices that dial telephone numbers automatically may include the full number with area and access codes.