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A telephone numbering plan is a type of numbering scheme used in telecommunication to assign telephone numbers to subscriber telephones or other telephony endpoints. Telephone numbers are the addresses of participants in a telephone network, reachable by a system of destination code routing. Telephone numbering plans are defined in each of the administrative regions of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and in private telephone networks.
For public numbering systems, geographic location typically plays a role in the sequence of numbers assigned to each telephone subscriber. Many numbering plan administrators subdivide their territory of service into geographic regions designated by a prefix, often called an area code or city code, which is a set of digits forming the most-significant part of the dialing sequence to reach a telephone subscriber.
Numbering plans may follow a variety of design strategies which have often arisen from the historical evolution of individual telephone networks and local requirements. A broad division is commonly recognized between closed and open numbering plans. A closed numbering plan, as found in North America, features fixed-length area codes and local numbers, while an open numbering plan has a variance in the length of the area code, local number, or both of a telephone number assigned to a subscriber line. The latter type developed predominantly in Europe.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has established a comprehensive numbering plan, designated E.164, for uniform interoperability of the networks of its member state or regional administrations. It is an open numbering plan, however, imposing a maximum length of 15 digits to telephone numbers. The standard defines a country code for each member region which is prefixed to each national telephone number for international destination routing.
Private numbering plans exist in telephone networks that are privately operated in an enterprise or organizational campus. Such systems may be supported by a private branch exchange (PBX), which provides a central access point to the PSTN and also controls internal calls between telephone extensions.
In contrast to numbering plans, which determine telephone numbers assigned to subscriber stations, dialing plans establish the customer dialing procedures, i.e., the sequence of digits or symbols to be dialed to reach a destination. It is the manner in which the numbering plan is used. Even in closed numbering plans, it is not always necessary to dial all digits of a number. For example, an area code may often be omitted when the destination is in the same area as the calling station.