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North American Numbering Plan (NANP)

The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) is the telephone numbering scheme for the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) for World Zone. It is one of nine international calling codes regions defined by the International Telecommunication Union. World Zone 1 includes twenty countries, mainly North America and the Caribbean. However, the NANP does not include all North American territories and countries. For example, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and others are not included in the NANP. Instead, they are placed under World Zone 5, mainly consisting of countries outside the Americas.

Phone numbers are finite resources. North American Numbering Plan manages the neutral administration for numbering resources in the region’s countries and territories. My Country Mobile is a nationwide carrier and works closely with NANPA, the state Public Utilities Commissions (PUCs), to enable customers to quickly acquire new phone numbers through our portal or APIs to meet their needs. We also require our customers to adhere to strict acceptable use policies to ensure our customers follow the FCC’s numbering guidelines and rules.

The NANP’s history

The United States telephone numbering system consisted of a patchwork of different phone numbering plans. Each plan was primarily designed to meet local needs and not national. It existed between 1876-1899. It wasn’t easy to coordinate local exchanges to establish a national long-distance calling system. This resulted in a parochial focus and associated disorganization. This ungainly system was further complicated by the need for an army of switchboard operators who could place calls. Long-distance calling became cumbersome.

The hydra-headed operator of this vast network, Bell System, decided that the best solution was to create a national numbering plan from scratch in the 1940s. The long-cherished dream of a long-distance calling system that does not require switchboard operators would also be possible with a new telephone numbering scheme.

The Bell System created the national numbering system in 1947 with the help of independent telephone operators. The plan divided large parts of North America into 86 service areas known as NPAs or numbering plan areas. The project assigned a unique prefix of three digits to each NPA. Long-distance operators initially used these codes to route calls between toll offices. However, customers were eventually able to make long-distance phone calls directly in 1951. The service’s popularity increased, and so did the number of assigned area codes. By 1967, there were 129.

North American Numbering Plan (NANP) - My Country Mobile Administration of North American Numbering Plan

The Central Services Division at AT&T was responsible for the administration of the NANP since its inception. After the 1984 court-ordered dissolution of the Bell System, the responsibility for the numbering plan was transferred by AT&T to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC decided to outsource the North American Numbering Planning Administrator (NANPA) rather than manage the project. However, it retained the ultimate oversight authority. This approach is still used by the agency today.

The FCC awarded the contract to administer North American Numbering Plan in 1984 to Bell Communications Research or Bellcore. It was the turn of IMS Corporation, a Lockheed Martin division, in 1998. The FCC awarded the contract to Neustar in 1999. 

Anatomy of a Telephone Number from the North American Numbering Plan

Each North American Numbering Plan member country has its regulatory authority that controls local numbering resources. As we have seen, the NANP divides member countries’ territories into NPAs and assigns an area code to each. The North American Numbering Plan gives every telephone line within an NPA a unique seven-digit telephone number. The North American Numbering Plan uses the ITU-assigned number +1 for international call routing.

The N-XY-Y formats use in early telephone codes. N was a number between two and nine, and X was either zero or one. If X were zero, Y would be between one to nine. If X were 1, Y would be between two and nine. These restrictions made it possible to number certain codes for specific purposes. For example, 911 is for emergency services and 011 for international calls.

However, these restrictions created a significant bottleneck as the phone service added more subscribers. As a result, the NANPA removed a few rules to make new codes easier to generate. For example, X can now be any number between 2 and 8. In addition, the North American Numbering Plan issued new regulations; Washington received 360 and Alabama 334.

North American Numbering Plan (NANP)Area Code Relief

The North American Numbering Plan assigns 792 CO codes or usable prefixes to each area code. Each prefix also has 10,000 numbers, which means that every legend has 7.92 million phone numbers. Telephone numbers are finite resources and will eventually run out. This is why an area code relief program is necessary.

NANPA holds meetings with stakeholders from the industry to determine the best form and amount of relief. Then, the stakeholders petition the FCC. Finally, they have educational sessions, evidentiary hearings, and other meetings to determine which type of relief is best.

This numbering plan gave lower numbers to areas with high populations and higher numbers to regions with lower people. For example, new York received 212, Chicago 312, Detroit 313, and Detroit 312. In contrast, North Carolina received 704, South Carolina 803, South Dakota 605, and North Carolina 704. The advantage of lower numbers was that they were easier to dial on rotary phones, which were popular.

North American Numbering Plan and STIR/SHAKEN

FCC demands that service providers implement STIR/SHAKEN in the IP portions of their networks by June 30, 2021.

The STIR/SHAKEN Governance Authority is the industry body that oversees the digital certificate management process. Initially, the STI GA Service Provider token Access Policy required that originating service providers obtain Numbering Authority from the FCC to get the digital certificates necessary to sign calls within STIR/SHAKEN.

Due to industry confusion, a rapid increase in Numbering Authority applications at FCC, and concerns about number exhaustion, STI GA announced a new policy for 2020. North American Numbering Plan will remove the Direct Access Numbering Authority requirement. Instead, according to the new policy, service providers must either certify that they have implemented STIR/SHAKEN OR a program for robocall mitigation. This new policy will be effective in March 2021. It will also include the FCC’s online portal for certification of robocall mitigation plans.

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