What you need to know about country codes allocations

Country codes, also known as international dialing codes or country calling codes, are a vital component of the global telecommunications network. These codes enable callers to place calls to different countries, and they are essential for international business and personal communication. The system of country codes has evolved over time, and it has been shaped by technological advancements, geopolitical changes, and global cooperation.

The first international telephone network was established in 1877, linking New York and London with a cable. At that time, there was no need for country codes because the network was limited to a few cities. However, as the telephone network expanded, it became necessary to develop a system to identify different countries and regions.

The first international system of codes was introduced in 1927 by the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee (CCITT), a predecessor of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This system consisted of two-letter codes, with each code representing a country or geographical area. For example, the United States was assigned the code “US,” and the United Kingdom was assigned the code “UK.”

Over time, the number of countries and territories increased, and the two-letter codes became insufficient. In 1963, the ITU introduced a new system of codes, consisting of three digits. These codes, known as International Direct Dialing (IDD) codes, were designed to be more precise and comprehensive than the two-letter codes.

The allocation of IDD codes was based on several factors, including population size, geographic location, and economic importance. The codes were assigned in a hierarchical manner, with the first digit indicating the region of the world, and the subsequent digits indicating the country or territory. For example, the IDD code for the United States is +1, with the first digit indicating North America and the subsequent digits indicating the country.

The allocation of IDD codes was not always straightforward, and there were several disputes over the years. For example, in 1997, the Palestinian Authority requested its own country code, which was initially rejected by the ITU. However, after several years of lobbying, the ITU eventually allocated the code +970 to Palestine in 1999.

Another example of a disputed country code is +882, which was originally assigned to the former Yugoslavia. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, several new countries emerged, and there was a debate over which country should inherit the code. Eventually, the ITU decided to allocate the code to the International Networks Service (INS), a non-geographic entity that provides telecommunications services to ships and aircraft.

In recent years, the growth of the internet and mobile telephony has led to the introduction of new country codes. In 2006, the ITU introduced the code +881, which is used for satellite phone services. In 2010, the ITU allocated the code +979 to the International Premium Rate Service (IPRS), which is used for premium rate services such as adult chat lines and psychic hotlines.

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