Number is Unavailable When Calling Someone: Meaning?

Here’s what it means when you call someone and it says the number is unavailable or the person you are trying to reach is unavailable:

When you get this message it indicates that you dialed a number that’s in-service but the carrier cannot currently connect to it.

Likely this is because the phone has no signal, is turned off, or is blocking your calls. 

There are other possibilities, but ultimately this means the number is completely unreachable, so texts will likely also fail.

So if you want to figure out what’s going on when you call someone and it says they are unavailable, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

What Does It Mean When Your Call and It Says Number is Unavailable?

Attractive woman using mobile phone when calling someone and it says number is unavailable.

This “number is unavailable” message is unique and indicates that 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). 

• The person you are trying to reach is unavailable or the phone cannot be reached currently, and you were not diverted to voicemail or any other alternative communication.

All this makes more sense when you go through the common reasons for this message, we’ll dive into that next…

Why Do You Get the Message That Number is Unavailable? (7 Possibilities)

Frustrated businesswoman using cellphone because the number is unavailable or the person she's trying to reach is unavailable.

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?

#1 The Phone Is Outside of the Network

Woman using cellphone in the mountains has weak signal and when calling the number is unavailable.

One of the most common reasons for getting this message is that the phone you are calling is out of the carrier’s network.

This can happen in a few ways.

It’s possible that the number is unavailable simply because the person is 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 an 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.

#2 The Phone Is Off

Young woman turning off mobile phone hoping her number is unavailable to those who keep calling.

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 and will tell you the number is unavailable.

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, and we’ll cover those in later sections.

#3 Your Number Is Blocked

Distressed young woman looking at cellphone when the number she calls in unavailable.

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 call and get a message saying the person you are trying to reach is unavailable.

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 when you may instead be told the number is unavailable.

#4 It’s an Answering Service

Call center workers.

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 and have asked the service to give you an automated sounding message stating the number you’re trying to reach is unavailable. 

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.

#5 The Number is Unavailable Because it’s Unassigned

unhappy young woman talking on mobile phone at home

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. In the meantime anyone trying to reach that number will get an unavailable message.

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.

#6 The Number is Unavailable Due to an Error

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

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.

Account problems are also frequent.

The number can be unavailable for 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. You can also try these 7 methods to determine if the SIM card isn’t working.

Conversely, you can try to contact the other person through another means and let them know.

#7 It’s a Landline With No Phone

Beautiful happy woman talking on landline telephone in the room

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 result in a message about how the number is unavailable.

You would also hear this message if the plugged-in phone was malfunctioning.

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.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

    View all posts