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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.
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. A closed numbering plan imposes a fixed number of digits to every telephone number, while an open numbering plan allows variance in the numbers of digits. Many numbering plans subdivide their territory of service into geographic regions designated by an area code, which is a fixed-length or variable-length set of digits forming the most-significant part of the dialing sequence to reach a telephone subscriber.
The North American Numbering Plan is a closed numbering plan which prescribes ten digits for each complete destination routing code that is divided into three parts. The most significant part is a three-digit Numbering Plan Area (NPA) code (area code). Within each plan area central offices are numbered with a three-digit central office (CO) code, the second part. The remaining four digits number the specific line assigned to each telephone. Other countries with open numbering plans may use variable-length numbers; in some, such as Finland, subscriber numbers may vary in length even within a local exchange.
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.
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