Calling Someone and It Says They Are Unavailable: Meaning?

Here’s what it means when you call someone and it says they are unavailable:

This message indicates that you dialed an in-service number that the carrier cannot currently connect to. It can be because the phone is out of service, off, or blocking your calls. 

The total number of possibilities is large, but ultimately this means the number is completely unreachable, so texts will likely also fail.

So if you want to know all about what it means when you call someone, and it says they are unavailable, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Calling Someone and It Says They Are Unavailable: Meaning?

What Does It Mean When Your Call Someone and It Says They Are Unavailable?

Attractive afro woman using mobile phone at the coffee shop looking glum

This is a unique message that indicates the dialed number is active on the carrier network, but it currently cannot be connected. The why’s are vast and variable, and we’ll go over the most common in a bit.

Before that, let’s distinguish that this message is different from a few other indicators you might hear. This is not an alternative to a busy signal. The line is not busy when you get this message. It can’t connect.

This is also not a deactivated phone number. You will hear a different message when that is the case.

All of this tells you a few things. You dialed a number that is in service, so it’s less likely that you dialed the wrong number (although that is still possible). 

Also, the phone cannot be reached, and you were not diverted to voicemail or any other alternative communication. You can glean a few things from that, and it makes more sense when you go through the common reasons for this message.

Why Do You Get the Message That They Are Unavailable?

Office work table with smartphone.

So, why can’t a phone number be reached? Cell phone coverage is pretty good across a lot of countries. 

What makes a number truly unavailable?

The Phone is Out of the Network

Mobile phone with no service screen in the forest.

One of the most common reasons to get this message is that the phone you are calling is out of the carrier network. This can happen in a few ways. It’s possible that they’re just in a dead zone that is otherwise in the normal network range. Valleys and mountainous regions are notorious for this.

Another possibility is that the person you are calling is out of the country and doesn’t have international calling or roaming service.

In either case, the carrier will recognize the phone number, but they can’t find the phone to connect to it.

The Phone Is Off

Female hand about to swipe phone screen to turn it off.

This is a similar case. When a phone is off, it isn’t communicating with the carrier, so the network can’t reach the phone. The same happens when a phone is in airplane mode or, otherwise, has cellular communications disabled.

The vast majority of times, when this happens, the call will go straight to voicemail, and you won’t get a message about the number being unavailable. But, if voicemail is not available, you will get that message.

Voicemail can be unavailable because it hasn’t been set up (which often nets a different message), or there is no voicemail service for the account. There are a couple of other instances where voicemail might not be available, but it makes more sense to cover them in the sections where they arise.

Your Number Is Blocked

Blacklist sign icon, glowing graphic design on a brick wall.

If someone blocks your phone number, the carrier will not connect you to their phone (at least not directly). In this case, you will dial, and the carrier will deny your request.

The thing about this is that carriers don’t usually say that your number has been blocked. For whatever reason, they have decided that’s not the best approach. 

So instead, you get a message saying the caller can’t be reached. It’s more ambiguous, and it’s actually very difficult to tell, from the caller’s end, if this message is because you are blocked or for another reason.

There’s another thing with call blocking. Depending on the settings and the account, you may or may not be directed to voicemail. Some call blocking allows for voicemail messages; other services do not.

It’s an Answering Service

Hand takes out paper from envelope with text Whitelist written on it.

It’s entirely possible that you can hear this message, and it didn’t come from the carrier. In that case, you’re dealing with an answering service. These days, the services are typically automated, and this message could mean a few things.

It could be that the person simply doesn’t want to receive phone calls for the time being. It’s also possible that they have blocked your number through this calling service. 

In a more extreme case, they might only let white-listed numbers through. That means the service is blocking all calls unless you’re on a pre-approved list. The answering service is basically functioning like a bouncer at a club.

The Phone number Is Unassigned

Female hand holding sim card on blue background

This is one of the more common reasons you will get this message in the modern era. Phone numbers get recycled by phone carriers on a regular basis. 

If you switch carriers, they might not let you keep your old number. In that case, you end up with a new number. Eventually, your old carrier will give your old number to a new person, but that doesn’t always happen immediately.

So, when you call someone and hear this message, it’s possible that they have a new number. As for the message, you’re getting it because there is no phone or voicemail account that the carrier can connect you to.

There Is an Error

Red warning sign symbol

This is the generic catch-all for why you might get this message. There are a lot of issues that can happen with a carrier or account that makes it impossible for lines to connect. 

In fact, this message is often an indicator of a problem. If people are telling you that they get this message when they call you, some troubleshooting is needed.

Probably the most common error is a failed or failing SIM card. The SIM card carries a digital signature that allows the carrier to recognize your phone and match it to your account. If the SIM card fails, then the carrier can’t find your phone on the network, and they can’t connect calls.

Woman with a serious face holding a credit card in one hand and mobile phone in the other.

Account problems are also frequent. This can be something as simple as a suspended account for missed payments. It can be much more complicated and require extensive troubleshooting with the carrier.

Here’s the bottom line for errors. If you get a message that someone is unavailable and you’re confident that it’s a mistake, contact the carrier and have them help you do some troubleshooting. Conversely, you can try to contact the other person through another means and let them know.

It’s a Landline With No Phone

Retro style blue telephone handset in yellow background.

This was the primary reason to hear this message before the vast majority of phone calls migrated to cellular networks. Every landline in the phone system stays perpetually connected to the greater phone network (unless an error occurs). 

Phone numbers are assigned to account holders, but since landlines don’t move, phone numbers tend to stay in a set location for a long time.

It’s entirely possible to call a landline number that is active when no phone is plugged in at the other house. That would net this message.

You would also hear this message if the plugged-in phone was having a malfunction. Many landline services don’t and never did offer voicemail accounts. 

So, if the phone company cannot connect you directly, there is no alternative. You get the unavailable message.