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Understanding E.164 Phones Format

Actually, the new standard came into our world together with “first practical telephone” invented by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell’s telephone helped people to get connect with each other: starting with paired phones to today’s the worldwide subscribers network. Though, there are quite many regional and local phone standards, on a global scale each of subscribers has unique identification in this network. Most of us do not pay attention to it, as we assume that our local numbers are good enough to connect with colleagues, friends, our families and local businesses. And it’s working, till you not get abroad…
Let me remind you on how the ideal phone number should look like:

+ [Country Code] [Area Code] [Subscriber Number] ext. [Extension Number]

This is E.164 formatting plan. E.164 is an internationally-recognized standard phone number format is designed to include all of the necessary information to successfully route a call or SMS message to individual subscriber on a nation's public phone network. Here's how E.164 numbering plan works:

  • A phone number always starts with + (PLUS)
  • The phone number can have a maximum of 15 digits
  • The first part of the phone number is the country code (1 to 3 digits)
  • The second part is the area or national destination code
  • The third part is the subscriber number
  • And the last one - extension, it's optional

But in our world, people are mixing different formats: country code is optional for majority of us, we are cutting numbers to subscriber number only, adding extension number or even give you two phones in one field. Just take a look at a few examples from our experience (I did some anonymization of phone numbers with using random digits):

examples of phone formats

This information is still valuable, but it’s not working in many systems if you expect automation. For instance, computer telephony integration won’t work unless you have E.164 formatted phones. From the efficiency stand point, if you need to reach customers on a global scale, you need to put something in place to transform phone numbers to unified form - E.164 format.

Country codes

The most important part to remember is to make sure there is an international country code. It’s important b/c some of the local numbers may look like international ones, but belong to a different country. Such numbers won’t work for your purposes. If the phone numbers of your leads are in local format, you’ll need to add in the country codes (or at least specify country) to convert them to international format. This piece is easy to solve as you may most likely capturing lead country as separate field (let’s say you are resolving GEO-IP into country name).

Dealing with E.164 format

ScoringBar strongly encourages E.164 phone number formatting for any phone numbers you store in your platform. And here are a few easy steps to do it in your environment (you will need Excel to accomplish this exercise):

  • First of all - get a list of country codes
  • For each of your numbers, remove parentheses and leading zero, for instance (020) should give you 20
  • Now strip any spaces and/or non-numeric characters
  • Strip out any leading zeros
  • For each number, take the country of the prospect and look up on the table of country codes we grabbed in #1
  • Tip: if you don’t know the prospect’s country you could use default country
  • Check if the phone number now starts with the appropriate dialing code and if it does - you’re done
  • If not then review it manually and fix it and you’re good to go!

Note: some organizations use custom country names (for instance, Vietnam and Viet Nam) due to the different reasons, this may significantly slow down your formatting initiative. But we have this helpful repo to get ISO 3166 from most common country names, feel free to use and add new ones, so your contribution will get into our service.

If you need additional help with getting E.164 formatting for your phone numbers, we are offering FREE ONLINE TOOL.
No registration is required! This simple tool will help validate any phone number and then format to E.164 to ensure your success in placing a call.

We hope this helps but if you have any questions - let's get in touch
And thanks for your time and reading till the very end!