What Does “Your Call Cannot Be Completed” Mean?

We’ve all been there, trying to get a hold of someone for hours or several minutes and all you’re greeted with is the automated message “Your Call Cannot Be Completed”.

The recorded message, “Your call cannot be completed,” is an intercept message informing you that your call cannot be connected for one of the following reasons: Canceled or unlisted service, poor signal, network congestion, recipient’s phone may be off or on Airplane mode. Other reasons include incorrect country code, or you may be blocked by the number you’re trying to reach.

The message, which usually begins with a distinctive sound tone, can refer to several reasons for the call’s failure.  Essentially, the message means that your call can’t be forwarded to the recipient’s phone.  Some of the typical reasons for incomplete calls follow.

Canceled or Unlisted Service

If a number is no longer in service or was recently changed to unlisted status, the caller will hear a sharp tone followed by the message, “The number you have reached, 555-5555, is no longer in service.”  The message may say that no further information is available or may state that calls are being taken by another number which is then provided.  If the number is still in use but changed to an unlisted number, the message will state that 555-5555 has been changed to unlisted status.  Most systems will repeat either message once or twice, followed by a fast busy signal.  The solution is, if possible, to obtain the new number and call again.

Poor Signal

Sometimes your call cannot be completed because you are physically in a location where your provider’s coverage is not good.  The reverse may also be true.  If your signal is poor or the recipient’s signal is weak, the call will not complete, and you will receive an intercept message.  Frequently, you will have sufficient coverage on both phones for a text message to be sent successfully, and you may want to try doing that.  

You Are Blocked

Many phones, especially mobile phones, will forward a blocked call directly to voice mail.  Other systems, particularly landline phones, will respond with a “your call cannot be completed” intercept message.  

Network Congestion

Sometimes the call fails because of a problem with the phone network.  The problem can be in your network or the recipient’s network.  Often, the problem is an overload somewhere in the system. The intercept will likely be, “We’re sorry; your call cannot be completed at this time,” and may include a fast busy signal. The solution is to wait and try the call again in a few minutes.  


When trying to return a recently received call, you may receive the “call cannot be completed” message.  If a robocaller, telemarketer, or someone is attempting fraud, you will not be able to return the call.  

Phone Off or in Airplane Mode

Some phones will forward your call directly to voice mail when the recipient’s phone is off or in airplane mode.  Other systems will provide a “your call cannot be completed at this time” intercept message.  

ISD Code Inclusion

ISD codes are the “country” codes you must dial to call a number outside the United States.  If you save numbers with international calling codes included or simply return a recent international call, your call may not go through when you use that number without removing the code.  

As Dialed

If you have omitted a country code or area code in dialing your number, you will receive a “your call cannot be completed as dialed” message.  This message will also suggest that you hang up and redial the call.  

Possible Workarounds

There are various ways you can try to get around the incomplete call.  If, for example, you also have the person’s email address, try sending an email.  Some of the workarounds use the original phone number.

Send a Text

Many of the issues that interfere with connecting to a phone call don’t impact text messages.  Consider sending a text informing the person you’re calling that you can’t get through and giving them whatever message you need to deliver.  

WhatsApp and Alternatives

You may be able to reach your party through WhatsApp or one of the similar alternatives. WhatsApp only requires an internet connection, so you may be able to get through on it when cellphone lines are not working, or your signal is weak.  While WhatsApp is perhaps the best known of such services, dozens of alternatives are now available.  Snapchat and Skype are probably the most widely known and used alternatives to WhatsApp.  

Delete the Contact

If you have tried a number you know should work and received an intercept several times, consider deleting the number from your contacts and re-entering it.  This problem is especially prevalent when you have the same number in your contacts more than once.  

Use the Keypad

Instead of clicking on your contact to make the phone call, use the keypad and manually place the call by punching in the number.  

Phone Settings

Often, when you have trouble completing a call, the cause can be as simple as having your phone in airplane mode.  

Phone in Need of Reset

Sometimes you get this message for no apparent reason at all.  In this situation, the best technique is to reset your phone. 

General Steps to Take for Repeated Failures to Connect

Verify that you’re in-network. While rare, dead spots still exist, especially in less populated areas. You might also encounter this when underground (in a basement or on mass transit). Reception issues can also happen if you’re near another country’s border and your phone reads it as roaming.

Check that mobile data is enabled. When your phone connects to a network, you should see your carrier’s name. If not, a message of “not connected” or “roaming” might be displayed.

Check for malware. Sometimes malware hits cell phones. You can take a few steps to remove malicious apps from your device. Rebooting your phone in safe mode is an excellent way to identify malware issues.

Restart your phone. If none of the above is the problem, this action can fix many issues.

If all else fails, contact your carrier. Have you paid your bill? Even if you have auto-pay set up, that can fail due to problems with your bank or a technical glitch. Your carrier should alert you to this, but it may be via snail mail. If there isn’t a payment issue, technical support can help you check for other problems and alert you to area outages.

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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