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The international public telecommunication numbering plan
Status Published to public
Latest version (11/16)
November 2016
Organization ITU-T
Related standards E.123, E.163
Domain telephony
Website https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-E.164/en

E.164 is an ITU-T recommendation, titled The international public telecommunication numbering plan, that defines a numbering plan for the worldwide public switched telephone network (PSTN) and some other data networks.

E.164 defines a general format for international telephone numbers. Plan-conforming numbers are limited to a maximum of 15 digits, excluding the international call prefix.[1] The presentation of a number at the B-party device is usually prefixed with the plus sign (+), indicating that the number includes the country calling code. This is done by the B-party subscribers network by usually looking at the NOA (Nature Of Address) field of the signaling messages. When dialing, the number must typically be prefixed with the appropriate international call prefix (in place of the plus sign), which is a trunk code to reach an international circuit from within the country of call origination.

As described in by the ITU, the E.164 general format must contain only digits split as follows :

  • Country code (max 3 digits)
  • Subscriber number (max 12 digits)

Alternative formats (with area codes and country specific numbers) are available.

The title of the original version and first revision of the E.164 standard was Numbering Plan for the ISDN Era.

Numbering formats

The E.164 recommendation provides the telephone number structure and functionality for three categories of telephone numbers used in international public telecommunication:

For each of the categories, it details the components of the numbering structure and the digit analysis required for successful routing of calls. Annex A provides additional information on the structure and function of E.164 numbers. Annex B provides information on network identification, service parameters, calling/connected line identity, dialing procedures, and addressing for Geographic-based ISDN calls. Specific E.164-based applications which differ in usage are defined in separate recommendations.

The number categories are all based on a fifteen-digit numbering space. Before 1997, only twelve digits were allowed. The definition does not include any international call prefixes, necessary for a call to reach international circuits from inside the country of call origination.

Geographic areas

Country Code National Destination Code (optional) Subscriber Number
National (significant)
cc = 1 to 3 digits maximum = 15 − cc = 12 to 14 digits
International public telecommunication number for geographic areas (maximum 15 digits)

Global services

Country Code Global Subscriber Number
cc = 3 digits maximum 12 digits
International public telecommunication number for global services (maximum 15 digits)

[2] Figure 2


Country Code Identification Code Subscriber Number
cc = 1 to 3 digits x = 1 to 4 digits maximum = 15 − (cc + x) = 8 to 13 digits
International public telecommunication number for networks (maximum 15 digits)

Groups of countries

Country Code Group Identification Code Subscriber Number
cc = 1 to 3 digits gic = 1 digit maximum = 15 − (cc + gic) = 11 digits
International public telecommunication number for groups of countries (maximum 15 digits)



E.163 was the former ITU-T recommendation for describing telephone numbers for the public switched telephone network (PSTN). In the United States, this was formerly referred to as a directory number. E.163 was withdrawn, and some recommendations were incorporated into revision 1 of E.164 in 1997.


This recommendation describes the procedures and criteria for the reservation, assignment, and reclamation of E.164 country codes and associated identification code (IC) assignments. The criteria and procedures are provided as a basis for the effective and efficient utilization of the available E.164 numbering resources.


This recommendation contains the criteria and procedures for an applicant to be temporarily assigned a three-digit identification code within the shared E.164 country code +991 for the purpose of conducting an international non-commercial trial.


This recommendation describes the principles, criteria, and procedures for the assignment and reclamation of resources within a shared E.164 country code for groups of countries. These shared country codes will coexist with all other E.164-based country codes assigned by the ITU. The resource of the shared country code consists of a country code and a group identification code (CC + GIC) and provides the capability for a group of countries to provide telecommunication services within the group. The TSB[further explanation needed] is responsible for the assignment of the CC + GIC.

DNS mapping of E.164 numbers

Some national telephone administrations and telephone companies have implemented an Internet-based database for their numbering spaces. E.164 numbers may be used in the Domain Name System (DNS) of the Internet in which the second-level domain e164.arpa has been reserved for telephone number mapping (ENUM). In the system, any phone number may be mapped into a domain name using a reverse sequence of subdomains for each digit. For example, the telephone number +19995550123 translates to the domain name[3]

When a number is mapped, a DNS query may be used to locate the service facilities on the Internet that accept and process telephone calls to the owner of record of the number, using, for example, the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a call-signaling VoIP protocol whose SIP addresses are similar in format ([email protected]) to e-mail addresses.

This allows a direct, end-to-end Internet connection without passing to the public switched telephone network (and back) and without incurring PSTN tolls.

As this is effectively a free call, there is little incentive for carriers to promote e164 DNS service. The e164.arpa domain is in production status as of 2013 only in a few European nations (Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, United Kingdom).[4] Australia conducted a trial in 2007, but then abandoned further support of .1.6.e164.arpa.[5] Many nations have no .e164.arpa implementation active.[6]

See also


  1. ^ ITU; ITU-T. "The International Public Telecommunication Numbering Plan". ITU. p. 11. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  2. ^ https://www.itu.int/rec/dologin_pub.asp?lang=e&id=T-REC-E.164-201011-I!!PDF-E&type=items
  3. ^ Geoff Huston. "ENUM Mapping the E.164 Number Space into the DNS". The Internet Protocol Journal. Cisco Systems. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  4. ^ "RIPE ENUM Working Group: Progress Matrix". Enumdata.org. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  5. ^ "ENUM trial". enum.com.au. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  6. ^ Russell Bryant; Leif Madsen; Jim Van Meggelen (2013-05-10). Asterisk: The Definitive Guide. ISBN 9781449332464. Retrieved 26 October 2013.

External links

  • Text of the recommendation and supplements (E.164)
    • List of ITU-T Recommendation E.164 assigned country codes as of 1 November 2011
    • List of ITU-T Recommendation E.164 Dialling Procedures as of 15 December 2011
  • Numbering plan for the international telephone service (E.163)
  • World Telephone Numbering Guide
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