Who Is My Phone Carrier?

By Keith Evans

After phone number portability regulations took effect in the late 1990s, some phone customers who ported their numbers have experienced some difficulty in determining who their current phone carrier actually is. With some basic identification, however, and use of advanced online resources, users can quickly and conveniently identify who their current carrier may be.

Dial 6-1-1

For many users, identifying their current phone carrier may be as simple as dialing 6-1-1. The "N11" number sequence is set aside by the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) for special uses, such as 911 for emergencies and 511 for traffic information. When a phone customer dials 611 from most cell phones, voice-over Internet protocol (VOIP) phones and land line service areas, the call is automatically routed to the current carrier's customer service center. In most cases, the caller will be greeted by an interactive voice response (IVR) unit that announces the company's name, though some users may be connected directly to a live operator (if a live operator answers, users can simply ask who the current carrier is). Some land line phone users may also be able to receive the same service by simply picking up the phone and dialing "0," though live operators have largely been replaced by automated response systems.

Look Up the Number

Phone customers with readily available Internet access can also take advantage of advanced ID services publicly available from a number of websites. Of the websites available, the one commonly used by phone company employees is Fone Finder, an automatic number lookup service operated by the telecommunications specialty operation known as Primeris. When a user accesses this site, she simply plugs in the area code and prefix of his (or any other) phone number to quickly identify the carrier assigned to that number. Because some areas use a special type of number assignment known as "thousands-block pooling," users can also enter the first digit of the line number for more accurate identification. Some users may be initially confused by the options on the Fone Finder website, as it is intended for use by experienced telecommunications professionals. Users unfamiliar with phone lingo should keep in mind that the technical terms for "area code" and "prefix" are, respectively, "NPA" and "NXX."

Identify a Long Distance Carrier

Some phone customers may be already familiar with their local phone company, but may not be certain who their long distance carrier is. In order to eliminate confusion regarding long distance carriers, telecom regulations allow customers to dial a toll-free number that is routed to a recording announcing the name of the assigned long distance carrier. To hear this recording, phone subscribers simply dial 1-700-555-4141. This service reliably identifies the long distance carrier for land line and cell phone users but, due to the unique nature of their service, Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) customers may not have access to this feature.

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