If there is one thing that all of us have these days, it’s a smartphone.
From marking all emails in your inbox as “Read”, to calling in to book a hotel for that long weekend you can’t wait for, our phones have become an integral part of our lives.
However, in the age of smart technology, it turns out we still use our mobile devices plenty for what they were first designed for: Phone calls!
While we seemingly can do almost anything with our phones themselves, the key component they run on is their connectivity to a network via a SIM card.
And that SIM card is also what holds your phone number!
Think of it like an identifier- which it essentially is- of who someone is.
If we want to call a person, we simply look for the name in our contact lists and dial the number.
Each of us has a unique number that connects us to the network of a provider. Therefore, when one wants to communicate with another, they only need to dial each other’s specific numbers.
But what happens if a number is not allocated to someone?
What is an unallocated phone number, exactly?
To understand this, we need to take a bit of a dive into the realm of telecommunications.
In this world of international communication over multitudes of channels, a phone number being “allocated” means that it is assigned to a network provider/carrier.
A number that is “unallocated” could hence mean one of two things:
- The number is part of a block of numbers that has not been allocated to a provider by the number administrator, Or
- The number has been allocated to a provider, but the provider has not assigned it to a user.
Every country has its own administrator that issues numbers to its providers. The providers then in turn assign them to their customers.
What this means in simple terms, is that the number is not active!
It is also important to note that within the telecommunications industry, “unallocated” and “unassigned” mean two completely different things, even though they are interchangeable in day-to-day life.
“Allocated” means the number has been issued to a provider such as AT&T, while “assigned” means the provider has assigned it to a user like you and me, or a company.
So, what happens if you run into one?
We have all had the experience of picking up our phone to see a missed call from a number we do not recognize whatsoever.
And, after a decent amount of time trying to figure out who it could potentially be, you decide to ring back, thinking, “What if it’s important?”.
That’s when the ever-so-polite robotic voice says, “The number you have called is not currently active or allocated”.
So, you then begin to wonder how on earth you have a missed call from a number which is now apparently not in service!
It is common for our brains to instantly associate this kind of thing with potential fraud or scams (like when you get verification codes you didn’t request).
However, there may be very good reasons as to why you have heard the message saying the number isn’t active, after just missing a call from it:
The most common cause is a disruption in the phone provider’s network and or coverage.
This can sometimes happen even if you are calling back someone with whom you were on the phone just a few minutes ago!
Damage to phone lines and telecommunications infrastructure due to harsh weather, scheduled maintenance shutdowns etc. can delay or disrupt the relay of communication between the two devices and satellite connections.
Usually, if you ring again in a moment’s time, you will no longer hear the message.
On the other hand, there could be a more sinister reason as to why the number you are trying to ring back is apparently not in service: It is what’s known as a “spoofed” number.
This is a number which is generated by third party software, and it enables spammers, scammers, telemarketers and the likes of that ilk the ability to display a number when they call you- without revealing their actual phone number.
These are essentially callers who want your attention but do not want any accountability for the outcome that may arise as a result.
Therefore, when you try to call the number back, it may say that it is not allocated or active!
Lastly, you may be getting that message due to a billing issue with your own phone plan.
It is not unheard of for providers to cancel the phone plan and decommission your number if you have not paid your bill.
In this instance however, there is a way of confirming if the unpaid phone bill is the issue.
If you hear the message every time you try to dial out, regardless of what number you are calling, it indicates that your provider has likely deactivated your number.
However, if calls go through fine sometimes but not others, the problem isn’t that you did not pay your bill.
It could also mean that the person you are trying to call has lost their number due to the same reason- so this is a two-way street.
So, what do you do if you hear the “unallocated number” message?
The simplest answer to that may be to just give it a minute and try again in a while, allowing the network to reset itself.
This is especially true if you know you have paid your phone bill, and have reason to believe the person you are trying to call has done the same!
In the event you have tried multiple times and have been unsuccessful in getting rid of the message; and you know your bills are paid, the next step is to contact your network provider.
Who knows? Maybe they’re currently experiencing some glitches in their systems or one of their coverage antennas may have been blown off range by heavy winds.
It may not actually be as sinister as you may think (but always do be careful)!