How Do Country Codes Function and What Are They?

No one alive today can recall a time before phones, but if you have an older relative who has recently turned 100, someone in your family lived before it was feasible to make international calls.

Of course, they probably don’t recall it. A little more than a century ago, in April 1921, Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba placed the first international call. Since then, new technologies like emails, cell phones, video chatting, and more have emerged. There are many of methods for us to get in touch.

Knowing how to make an international call may seem more like an ancient art than a requirement in the age of the internet and the spread of apps like WhatsApp and Zoom. However, we still believe that knowing how to do it is useful.

The fundamentals of country codes will be covered in this article, including what they are, how they operate, how to use them to make calls, and how to seek up a specific country code in order to get ready for your upcoming call.

How do country codes work?

A phone number can be thought of as a set of instructions that tells the phone company how to route your call from point A to point B, or as a kind of map. The length of the directions will increase with the distance to the destination.

Consider how closely area codes and country codes function. It’s not required to dial the area code when calling someone who shares our area code. When we call someone in the United States using a 7-digit number, the phone provider can tell that we are calling someone in our neighbourhood because there is no area code present.

You might probably guess that when we add an area code, the phone company is instructed to zoom out on a fictitious map to find the right area before zooming back in to find the exact person we are attempting to reach.

In the same way, country codes exist. You must dial a set of digits known as a country code to choose the nation to which you want your call to be forwarded. Because we typically phone someone with the same country code as us, we don’t frequently add them.

When we add a country code, we are telling the phone company to zoom out on their map and find the right country first. The area code is also included in the numbers we dial after the country code.

Many nations have different country codes. Most nations will have calling codes with two or more digits. For instance, the standard dialling codes for international calls are: 52 for Mexico, 91 for India, 86 for China, and 33 for France.

For some nations, such as Canada, the United States, and its territories, there are exceptions with a country code of 1. A three-digit code is used for smaller nations with fewer inhabitants. As an illustration, consider the Republic of Ireland, whose country code is 353.

How Do You Make International Calls?

Prior to making an international call, you must dial a prefix in addition to the country code. This prefix is sometimes known as a “exit code,” a dial-out code, or an international calling code. The nation from which you are phoning is determined by an international calling code. The main use of it is to indicate that you are placing an international call.

The two standard codes most nations use are 00 and 001. Code 00 is frequently used by Mexico, the UK, France, Malaysia, and India. Several nations, including Canada, Jamaica, Australia, the United States, and overseas territories, utilise the second international calling code, 011. There are other more codes as well, such 009 for Nigeria, 010 for Japan, and 119 for Cuba.

You do not dial the international calling code for the nation you are phoning when making an international call. To alert the phone company that you are about to make an international call, you dial the country’s dialling code. It serves more as a warning than a detailed set of instructions.

However, thanks to technical improvements, the majority of cell phones may now simply display the “+” sign to indicate that an international call is being placed. Therefore, it is no longer essential to dial an international calling code before a country code. It will be fine to use the plus symbol.

Take into account two families with the same area code and place of residence. They only need a 7-digit number to dial each other when they wish to talk. Include the area code when one family member moves away but continues to reside in the same nation. When that same relative goes abroad, you must now call their old number first, then a “+” symbol (which stands in for your nation’s exit code), followed by their country code.

If this relative is now residing in the UK, you would call their number as follows:

The international dialling code is replaced with +.

Britain’s country code is 44.

the area code 1296

Mobile number 999999

Consequently, their full international phone number will be displayed as +44 1296 999999.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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