ESN Electronic Serial Number

Electronic Serial Numbers (ESNs) are used to identify mobile devices, such as a cell phone. For example, this number is used by the cellular provider to assure them that the cell phone connecting is a legitimate connection. This classification system was created by the FCC sometime in the early 1980’s. ESN numbers are used by systems such as AMPS and TDMA.

ESNs are 32 bits in length. They can be broken up into three main divisions: the 8 bit manufacturing code, the 18 bit serial number, and the 6 extra bits were reserved for future use, but since have been combined to serve as extra space for the serial number, making serial numbers 24 bits long. Using this standard, there could only be up to 256 separate manufacturers, which obviously would not be enough. Because of this, they have created a code that utilized more space for the manufacturer, which takes up 14 bits for the manufacturer code and leaves 18 bits for the serial number. This is the format that all codes recently created use as a standard.

These electronic serial numbers are represented using an 11 digit decimal number. The first three digits are for the first 8 bits, and the following 8 digits are used to represent the last 24 bits of data.

Because the amount of bits that may be allocated is not exactly astronomically high, the numbers are starting to run out. This problem has already been solved however, as the new serial number format known as MEID has been created. MEID stands for Mobile Equipment ID, and supports up to 56 bits of data for serial number allocation. This is the same length as the popular IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), and MEID was actually made to be compatible with IMEI. IMEI is used by the GSM phones, which are used by areas outside of the US. The only real difference between IMEI and MEID is that MEID allows for hexadecimal digits, whereas IMEI uses decimal digits only.

The last of the ESN codes is expected to used up by sometime this year. The codes are all assigned in accordance to industry guidelines. The unused ESN codes was expected to be used up completely by 2008, and the reused codes where the ones that were expected to be completely depleted by sometime this year. Becuase of the use of MEID, these codes are slowly dimishining in use and eventually all phones will be set up to use MEID.

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