Finding out someone’s carrier.

July 18, 2006 by Dylan Tweney

A reader asks: Is there any way to determine a person’s carrier given only their cell phone number? This would be useful if you wanted to send an email to your friend’s phone but only knew their phone number.

Answer: Thanks to number portability, this isn’t easy. In the old days, phone numbers were assigned in “blocks” to different carriers, so all you needed to know was an area code and the 3-digit exchange (the first 3 digits after the area code) to figure out which carrier the number belonged to. But number portability means that anyone can ditch their carrier and take their phone number to a new carrier, so the old “blocks” of phone numbers apportioned to each carrier are gradually being broken up.

However, there are a few sites that claim they can give you this information (for free) and a some other sources that will tell you for a fee.

Because of number portability, these sites are not necessarily going to be accurate.

Free lookups (one at a time, for individuals): Telco Data, Fone Finder, Wireless Flatrate

For fee lookups (for businesses): MX Telecom Carrier Lookup

If you want to find all of the wireless carriers serving your ZIP code, try Wireless Advisor.

(page updated 3/9/2010)

12 Responses to “Finding out someone’s carrier.”

  1. Jorge says:

    TelcoData and FoneFinder do not provide the current carrier. They only provide the original owner of the block of numbers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The free services listed above don’t appear to be reliable (at least not anymore). They don’t seem to take number portability into account and instead only show the original provider for a phone number.

  3. Barry says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a full list of sms gateways for carriers world wide? thank you

  4. Marc says:

    My company, Vocalogic, offers a service which will look-up the carrier for wireless phone numbers (domestic US only). It will also return the proper email addresses to send SMS and MMS messages to the phone. It does take into account number portability, so if somebody changes carriers, my service will detect the change within hours. The service costs half-a-cent per lookup. The link is:

  5. WeirDave says:

    I have found this website when trying to research this topic in the USA. You don not have to sign up for the alerts to find the carrier. Just input the number and hit submit on the next page it will display the carrier even if it’s ported.

    • Lulu says:

      Of all listed on this thread, the site is the ONLY one to report the correct and current carrier accurately.
      Thanks WeirDave!

  6. Data24-7 says: can look-up the carriers for USA and most international phone numbers (over 200 countries). Our service is number portability aware.

  7. Chelle says:

    Thank you WeirDave! Worked like a charm!

  8. Denzel says:

    Could not work best with US numbers, but quite reliable with others afaik:

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This site is published by Dylan Tweney, a professional writer and editor, publisher of haiku and SMS information, and a senior editor at Wired.

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