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In Brazil, the telephone numbering plan uses eight-digit local phone numbers (nine digits for mobile lines in the São Paulo area), plus a two-digit area code. Public utility services use three-digit phone numbers, always starting with 1.
As established by ANATEL, the Brazilian federal telecommunications regulatory agency, the format for a local phone number is nnnn-nnnn, where the first digit identifies the service associated with the phone number:
Until 2008, the initial digit 6 was used for landlines in some parts of São Paulo and neighbouring cities in area code 11, but Anatel demanded that 6 was to be released for mobile use. Fixed-line numbers starting with 6 in that area were gradually changed during 2008 to new prefixes starting with 2. In other areas of Brazil, the initial digit 6 was not in use at that time, so no change was necessary.
Until 2005, some localities still used a seven-digit local number (nnn-nnnn). Until the 1990s, there were also certain regions with three-digit area codes and five- (n-nnnn) or six-digit (nn-nnnn) phone numbers. Even shorter numbers used to exist in previous decades, especially in small towns and before direct distance dialing became universal.
Numbers starting with 400n are reserved for a special case of non-geographic numbers (see below).
Numbers starting with 1700 are used within the service area of the Oi Fixo landline operator for some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide dial-up Internet access to certain Oi customers. Such customers have special pricing agreements with Oi and are charged less than the price of regular local calls when calling such dial-up access numbers.
Local directory assistance can be obtained by dialing 102, but the service is charged as a regular local call in most instances except from payphones. However, all local landline telephone companies offer on-line directory inquiries on their Web sites. Mobile lines are not available for inquiry, for privacy and security reasons.
Mobile phone numbers in Brazil are assigned the same geographic area codes as fixed lines, according to the subscriber's place or residence or most frequent use. Mobile phone numbers start with the digits 6, 7, 8 or 9. These initial digits are known to the public, so one always knows beforehand if one is calling a fixed or a mobile line.
First digit 7 was reserved at first exclusively for radiophone use (iDEN technology), but soaring demand for new mobile numbers eventually forced unused number ranges starting with 7 to be released for general mobile use.
Historically, the higher ranges of the 9 initial digit (96-99) were originally assigned to the old state monopolies before the privatization of Brazil's telephony system, and later to their privatized direct successors. In order to create a competitive market, later the Brazilian government auctioned further mobile service licenses, filling the available number ranges backwards - first with the lower ranges of 9 (91-95), then 8, and so on.
As a consequence, in the beginning 9 was more commonly assigned to mobile operators that used older technologies such as AMPS (analog), TDMA and CDMA, while for some time 8 was specifically reserved for all new GSM licenses. Now GSM is almost universally adopted by Brazilian mobile operators and this distinction is no longer meaningful.
Mobile phone numbers always have eight or nine digits now, but seven digits were usual in the first years. The last area code to convert fully to eight digits was 61 (comprising the national capital, Brasília, and neighbouring areas), in 2005.
On December 10, 2010, ANATEL announced the inclusion of a ninth digit in mobile phone numbers used in the São Paulo metropolitan region (area code 11). This change was meant to increase the numbering capacity in metropolitan São Paulo to 370 million, thereby eliminating the perennial shortage of available numbers in that area. Telecom providers would have 24 months to implement the ability to dial a new digit to the left of all cell phone numbers of area code 11, but the measure ended up being implemented a few months ahead of that initial schedule, on July 29, 2012. On that date, the digit 9 was added to the left of all existing mobile numbers in the 11 area code, regardless of their former initial digits.
Landline numbers were not changed and remained with eight digits. In all Brazilian area codes other than 11, including all other area codes in the state of São Paulo, mobile numbers were not changed either, but Telebrasil, a corporate association of Brazilian telecom providers, said that by 2016, mobile numbers in Brazilian area codes other than 11 will also get a ninth digit. However, this has had no official confirmation from ANATEL.
The format for public utility service phone numbers is 1nn. It includes all emergency (as well as some non emergency) services, such as:
Most citizens only know the 190 (military police) number for emergencies, but 192 (ambulance), 193 (firefighters) and 199 (civil defense) are also commonly known. Usually a call to 190 (military police) describing an emergency with a non-criminal nature will be redirected to the proper number or provide assistance if they are qualified to (as in cases of choking children).
Some states and municipalities may have additional short 1nn public utility numbers for other services. For example, in many cities, such as São Paulo, one can get information, make requests and complaints about most services and issues with the municipal administration by dialing 156. Regional utilities for services such as electricity and water supply may also have short access numbers starting with 1. In contrast to emergency numbers, which are always toll-free, calls to such services may or may not be charged.
Landline telephone companies' customer service numbers have been normatized as 103, followed by a two-digit code. For example, Embratel customers contact the company's customer service dialing 103-21. For most mobile carriers, the number is 105, followed by a one-digit code (e.g., 105-2 for Claro). For cable and satellite television operators, the number is 106, followed by a two-digit code (e.g., 106-21 for Net and 106-11 for SKY Brasil).
The Brazilian system for long-distance dialing is relatively unusual and somewhat confusing, insofar as the choice of long-distance carrier determines the actual digit sequence to be dialed.
The standard format for writing down — but not for calling — a long-distance phone number in Brazil is (aa) nnnn-nnnn, where aa is the area code and nnnn-nnnn is the local phone number. Due to persistence of old habits from the time when carrier codes were not used (see below), the format (0aa) nnnn-nnnn is still commonly seen, but this usage is discouraged, since it may confuse customers when actually calling. Area codes are distributed geographically. See the list of Brazilian area codes for a full list.
To dial a long-distance number within Brazil, one needs to use a carrier selection code, in order to choose which long-distance carrier will be used. The carrier selection code is specified before the area code; so, to actually place a call, one should dial 0-xx-aa-nnnn-nnnn, where xx is the two-digit carrier selection code. Because of that, sometimes long-distance phone numbers are written down as (0xxaa) nnnn-nnnn, with two actual letters x as placeholders, which the caller will replace by a carrier code.
For example, to call the number 2222-2222 in Fortaleza (area code 85) using the long-distance carrier Oi (selection code 31), one would dial 0 31 85 2222 2222.
The use of carrier selection codes can be very confusing, because of the obvious added complexity, the different rates charged by different carriers, and even which long-distance carriers can be used to place the call, since not all of them service the entire Brazilian territory, and some are only available from mobile or from VoIP lines. For example, Embratel (selection code 21) is available from any telephone line in all of Brazil, but Sercomtel (code 43) only in the cities of Londrina and Tamarana (and some neighbouring cities).
Some examples of carrier selection codes are:
Area codes in Brazil are popularly known as "DDD codes" (códigos DDD) or simply "DDD", from the initials of "direct distance dialing" (discagem direta à distância in Portuguese). This was how the service was first advertised when it appeared in the late 1960s, and the name stuck.
As of January 2009, Embratel is the only carrier offering operator-assisted long-distance calls, by dialing 0800-703-2110. Long-distance directory inquiries can be made dialing 0800-703-2100. However, subscriber numbers can also be obtained by a search at the destination telephone company's Web site. See the "External links" section below for a useful site with links to Brazilian directory assistance pages.
In Brazil, collect calls are automated. The phone number to be called is prefixed with a special code. Then, as the person being called answers the telephone, he/she listens to a short standard recording informing him/her that it is a collect call. Next, the call is established and the caller is supposed to say his/her name and location within the next six seconds. If the person being called hangs up within those six initial seconds, nothing is charged. Otherwise, the remaining time of the call is charged to the recipient's phone line.
This used to cause problems with answering machines and faxes, but the switch to digital voice mailboxes operated by the telephone companies largely eliminated that problem. Also, the widespread use of caller ID combined with the easily recognizable electronic tune played before the collect-call warning makes many people hang up immediately if they hear the tune and the number has not been recognized.
Local collect calls are dialed with the 9090 prefix; so, to call nnnn-nnnn collect, one would dial 9090-nnnn-nnnn.
For long-distance collect calls, 90 is used instead of 0 as the trunk code, and a carrier selection code must still be used. So, to call (aa) nnnn-nnnn collect, one would dial 90-xx-aa-nnnn-nnnn, where xx is to be replaced by the selected long-distance carrier's code.
International collect calls, for countries for which it is available, are not automated and must be placed through Embratel's international operator, dialing 0800-703-2111. You can also call an English AT&T operator directly using 0 800 890 0288
Non-geographic numbers have a three-digit prefix and a seven-digit number. They are usually represented as if the leading 0 prefix were part of the three-digit prefix (like with long-distance numbers), resulting in the format 0ppp-nnn-nnnn. Some 0800 numbers are 6-digit only, For example CELESC (Centrais Elétricas de Santa Catarina) has 0800-480-196
The currently allocated prefixes are:
A special case of non-geographic numbers are eight-digit numbers in the form 3/400n-nnnn. They are dialed as local numbers, without any trunk, carrier or area codes, and calls to them are always charged as local, regardless of where the answering call center physically is.
Such numbers differ from 0300 numbers in that the latter in the past were not charged as local calls and had their own rates (not always really flat and sometimes more like premium-rate numbers), which by law must be informed when advertising the number. 0300 numbers are often used, for example, by low-cost airlines' reservation systems, whereas 400n-nnnn numbers are used by large but cost-conscious companies that do not wish to bear the full cost of a nationwide toll-free system, yet still do not want their customers to be put away by having to pay long-distance rates. 3/400n-nnnn numbers are also often used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for standard dial-up access.
As of January 2009, 3/400n-nnnn numbers are not yet available for access from all area codes or localities, but they are available in all state capitals and major cities. The company (especially in the case of ISPs) may also specify localities where the service will or will not be available, providing an alternative long-distance or toll-free number for such cases.
Outbound international calls use a 00 trunk prefix, followed by the carrier selection code (same as in domestic long-distance calls) and the international telephone number. So, to call the international telephone number +cc-aa-nnnn-nnnn (where cc is the country code and aa the area code), one would dial 00-xx-cc-aa-nnnn-nnnn, where xx is the carrier selection code. Since international telephone numbers can have up to 15 digits, the maximum number of digits to be dialed is 19.
Again, selecting a carrier can be tricky, since they charge different rates, not all of them operate in all of Brazil, not all forward international calls, and some do not put calls through to some remote or rarely called countries. ANATEL's Web site has a useful on-line system (in Portuguese) where the standard rates of all available carriers can be compared for the particular international call one wants to place.
As of January 2009, Embratel is the only carrier offering operator-assisted international calls, by dialing 0800-703-2111. International telephone number inquiries can be made dialing 0800-703-2100 (same number as for domestic directory inquiries). Embratel also offers radio calls to sea vessels in Brazilian waters by dialing 4004-2103, in addition to INMARSAT service, which works like any regular international call and can be placed through any major long-distance carrier.
Inbound international calls use +55-aa-nnnn-nnnn as the international telephone number, where aa is the two-digit Brazilian area code and nnnn-nnnn is the 8-digit local number (9 digits for mobile numbers in the 11 area code). This must be preceded by an international call prefix specific to the country where the call is being placed from (e.g., 011 from the U.S. and Canada, 00 from most other countries, or the actual "+" sign from many mobile networks).
For example, to call the number 5555-5555 in Rio de Janeiro (area code 21) from the United States, one would dial 011 55 21 5555 5555.
Beginning September 2008, ANATEL has started the use of number portability in Brazilian territory, but the current rules of the numbering plan have been kept. Fixed-line customers can keep their numbers when moving their address and/or when switching telephone companies, provided they stay within the same local area (i.e., the portion of the area code where calls are charged as local).