Automatic number identification

Automatic number identification

Automatic Number Identification (ANI) is a feature of telephony intelligent network services that permits subscribers to display or capture the telephone numbers of calling parties. In the United States it is part of Inward Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS). The ANI service was created by AT&T for internal long distance billing purposes, and is not related to newer caller ID services. Inward WATS is purchased by customers so that other telephone users (for example, prospective customers) can call the number toll free. The customer is issued a distinctive toll-free telephone number beginning with a special area code such as 800, or more recently, 888, 877, or 866. Subscribers to these numbers are typically called Inward WATS subscribers.

A related piece of information conveyed to the Inward WATS subscriber is the Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS), the number that the caller dialed when accessing the service. With the information, the service provider can have several toll-free numbers directed to the same call center and provide unique service based on the number dialed. DNIS can also be used to identify other call routing information. For example, the WATS service can be configured to send a specific DNIS number that is assigned to callers from geographic regions based on city, area code, state, or country.

ANI has two components, information digits, which identify the class of service, and the calling party telephone number.

ANI is also used to describe the functions of two-way radio selective calling that identify the transmitting user.


Because ANI is unrelated to caller ID, the caller's telephone number and line type are captured by ANI equipment even if caller ID blocking is activated. The destination telephone company switching office can relay the originating telephone number to ANI delivery services subscribers. Toll-free Inward WATS number subscribers and large companies normally have access to ANI information, either instantly via installed equipment, or from a monthly billing statement. Residential subscribers can obtain access to ANI information through third party companies that charge for the service.

Automatic number announcement

Early in its history, ANI was used to provide automatic number announcement, an internal test service for telephone maintenance workers. The service was generally unknown to the public but could be accessed by dialing special numbers reserved for testing purposes.

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