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Area Code Basics

In the US and Canada, a phone number consists of three parts: a three-digit area code, a three-digit exchange number and a four-digit station number. Each US area code may contain up to 7,919,000 phone numbers, and formats are always NPA-NXX-XXXX.

  • NPA = Area code assigned to the Numbering Plan Area
  • NXX = Prefix or "exchange" assigned to a central office
  • XXXX = Local number or "subscriber number"

Before mobile phones, the area code told you the broader location of the caller, the three-digit exchange number honed in on a more precise location, and the four-digit station number was an unique identifier within the given area and exchange. If you wanted to dial someone local, you could just dial the seven-digit number without entering the area code.

Then came the age of mobile phones, Skype and VoIP technologies. Suddenly phone numbers were no longer tied to location and the amount of phone numbers increased as mobile phones came to be associated with a single individual rather than a household. The heightened demand for mobile phones necessitated the creation of new area codes. That rocked the boat a bit because some people associated their identity with having a particular area code. But nowadays a ten-digit number is a necessity because people tend to stick with the same mobile number, even if they move. That means we can no longer accurately infer location from their area code.

Today, the most accurate way to find out where the owner of a phone number lives is to perform a Reverse Phone Number Search. Whitepages provides the most comprehensive search statistics and results for telephone numbers in North America.

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