How do I work out what carrier a mobile number is with?
August 22, 2005 3:12 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed that all websites which allow you to send SMS' to phones in America ask you to supply the name of the mobile network that the recipient is on. If this was asked in the UK, no-one would have a clue (thankfully they don't need to know too). However, is there any way that you can work out/intelligently guess the carrier when you have only the American mobile phone number?
posted by ralawrence to Technology (14 answers total)
I guess the reason you need to know is because the way they do it is to send mail to a special email address? like mine is, send email to that address and it comes to my phone. I don't know if that's the only way or not but it's what I usually use.

I think it would be hard to find out. Cell phone companies are leery of giving out client info. There are only a half dozen major carriers though, you could try them all?
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:44 AM on August 22, 2005

Even if there had been a system once upon a time that would have let you deduce a carrier from the number alone, that wouldn't be possible anymore -- you are now allowed to take your mobile phone number with you between carriers. The only reason I know what network some of my friends are on is because everyone bitches about the service.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:57 AM on August 22, 2005
posted by @homer at 5:00 AM on August 22, 2005

Google offers the following providers: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Nextel, AT&T, Cingular, Virgin, CellularOne and Qwest.

Assuming I wanted to cover the majority of people in the USA (90%+) what would be the minimum number of providers I'd need to support?
posted by ralawrence at 5:45 AM on August 22, 2005

I believe that something like this has been asked before. If I remember correctly, there is a problem with the databases. Because of deregulation (or something like that) the numbers don't necessarily belong to that provider every time. They can change around quite freely now.

Regardless, just use Yahoo! Mobile SMS. It takes care of everything for you.
posted by redteam at 7:35 AM on August 22, 2005

I asked a similar question last year:
How do I send a text message to someone if I don't know their carrier?

(The answer was "use your phone", which worked in my situation but doesn't work if you're trying to do it via email.)
posted by smackfu at 7:46 AM on August 22, 2005

Wow... that telco data site allows for queries and whatnot against their db. That's really going to come in handy...
posted by ph00dz at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2005

You can find out which company owns a prefix within an area code via Nanpa (North American Numbering Plan Administration) there is also a link to download the whole thing as a csv there somewhere too (for free unlike the telco place)
posted by zeoslap at 8:27 AM on August 22, 2005

You can send an email to (yourcellphonenumber)
posted by Boobus Tuber at 11:08 AM on August 22, 2005

Prefixes won't work, because you can carry your number with you when you switch carriers.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:19 AM on August 22, 2005

You can also put the number in I've often found that if it doesn't give out the details on the phone's address (it never had the details for mobiles) it'll spit out the carrier instead. And it's ALMOST ALWAYS right.
posted by shepd at 2:22 PM on August 22, 2005

I tried the reverse lookup and I got:

The phone number "(xxx) xxx-xxxx" is a XXXXX, MA based phone number and the registered carrier is Sprint Spectrum L.p. However, due to number portability, some numbers have been transferred to a new service provider other than the registered carrier.

Which is true (I switched it to T-Mobile), but not ultimately helpful in this case.
posted by nev at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2005

Even better, zeoslap... Any idea how often this type of data is updated? If it's not too frequent, I can turn it into a webservice...
posted by ph00dz at 8:03 PM on August 22, 2005

You can use

Due to Line Number Portability you can transfer your number to any carrier so it may not be 100% accurate but it will tell you the carrier that owns the number.
posted by SupaDave at 10:46 AM on August 24, 2005

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