2600 Magazine cover

Setting Up Your Mobile Phone
for International Dialing
Published in 2600 Magazine, 2008 Autumn, Volume 25:3

by Richard Cheshire

When setting up overseas telephone numbers in the Contact List or Address Book of your mobile phone (or numbers in the US you plan to call from overseas), please put the Plus sign "+" in front of the Country Code, rather than the US Exit code of "011".

The "+" sign means "Use the Exit Code of the country I'm in". While in the USA, this will be "011", but in Europe and other parts of the world, this will be "00". The phone will check the current network, and insert the appropriate Exit Code. If an exit code is not required because you're in that country, the call will go through as well.

When a friend of mine rented a phone on a recent trip to China, I sent him a text message. His reply came from "011 86" plus the local number. My message to him came from "00 1 NPA NXX XXXX" (N=2-9, X=0-9). In other words, each netork showed the user the Exit Code required to reach the other party from the network they were in. The "+" sign does the same job, and doesn't need to be changed when you cross borders.

The "+" Plus sign thing started back in the 1970's when international businessmen went to print their phone number on their business cards. The International Telecommunications Union (a specialized agency of the United Nations) weighed in on the matter back then so as to standardize how phone numbers were represented. They realized that the PTT's (Post, Telephone and Telegraph) agencies of member states (where governments ran the telecom agencies), and the RPOA's (Recoggnized Private Operating Agencies where private companies ran the works) all had different requirements for how someone accessed International Direct Dialing. What was dialed was left to each national agency, but how to represent it was decided upon by the ITU.

This works pretty well, until you find that in Britain, they dial "0" for a long distance call, and "00" for an international call. The problem was representing both schemes. So the zero in parenthesis was established. A London number would be represented as +44 (0) 845 555 2368, where the (0) would only be used within Great Britan, and dropped if dialed from outside the country.

This is similar to the American method of placing the NPA (Numbering Plan Area, known as an Area Code) in parenthesis, which doesn't get dialed if you are within that NPA's georaphical area. The problem that came about, of course, was Overlaying two or more NPA's on a single geographical area, requiring the use of 10 digit dialing, so that instead of using a parenthesis, the 10 digit number just has dashes between the aea code and the number. The good thing is, people got used to dialing "1" to access the long distance network, so seeing Country Code 1 (for North America) in front of a phone number doesn't seem out of place.

So our British friend should be programmed in your phone as: +44 845 555 2368, and our American friends should be programmed as +1 311 555 2368

You can put your phone numbers into your mobile phone with or without the "dash" chracters - some phones put them in for you, but the ITU standard is to use spaces.

Webmasters: Take note! There's a new Hyper Tag in town.

If you use "tel:" in front of a telephone number (the way you use "mailto:" in front of an e-mail address), you can make the phone number linkable. Most people using a Mobile Phone Web Browser can click or tap on the number, and the phone will offer to dial the number. Some will offer to Text Message it as well. Here's an example:

<a href="tel:+1 321 543 8633">321-Liftoff</a>

If you need help in designing a web page for mobile phone
browsers, please give me a call:

Be sure to check out how the menu is done at: http://M.CheshireCatalyst.Com and see how Cheshire puts up a Mobile Menu for mobile phone web browsers. (Don't forget to "View => Source")

The Cheshire Catalyst (Richard Cheshire) is the former publisher of the notorious TAP Newsletter of the radical 1970's and 80's. He has also attended (and volunteered at) every HOPE Conference we've ever held.

Shoutout - The mAltman.