No area code crisis looms, expert says

A U.S. House subcommittee intends to look at the issue of "area code exhaustion" at a hearing next month. While telephone numbers longer than 10 digits will be eventually be needed once the three-digit area code combinations are exhausted, it isn't likely to happen for many years, said one official.

There are now 306 area codes in use out of a possible 800 combinations. The numbers one and zero aren't used to start an area code.

Under current projections, the remaining supply of unused area codes is a large enough to satisfy demand until after 2039, according to Ron Conners, director of the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA). Washington-based communications service provider NeuStar Inc. acts as the third-party administrator for NANPA under a Federal Communications Commission agreement.

There was some fear that the number of area codes could run out in a decade because of the increasing demand for additional numbers to serve wireless, home and business use. That prompted a series of conservation measures to slow the release of new telephone numbers. The area codes "could have [been] exhausted within 10 years if we had done nothing," said Conners.

"I don't think we need to panic. I think we need to implement these kinds of conservation techniques, and if we do that, I think we're going to be safe for quite some time," said Conners, who will be testifying before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet at its Sept. 7 hearing.

In 1947, there were only 86 area codes, and 61 were added during the next 50 years. But the rate increased dramatically in recent years. In 1997 alone, 32 new area codes were created. That increasing rate of area code usage, as well as the cost that would be imposed if the three-digit area codes were exhausted, worried the FCC, which has taken steps "to ensure that the limited numbering resources are used efficiently," it said in a report released in June.

Conservation measures include more efficient distribution of unused numbers to carriers.

The specter of 11- or 12-digit dialing may be in the future, but area code changes are still an issue. But the problem has become easier to address for enterprises, which have typically adapted their systems to handle frequent area code updates, said Mark Winther, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I don't believe, from a typical enterprise perspective, that is a big issue anymore," he said.

But it can be an expensive problem for some businesses that don't have automated processes for changing area codes. That and other expenses, such as reprinting costs for corporate stationery, can add up. "Keypunch operators go bleary eyed when they've got large databases that have to be changed by hand," said Harry Henderson, an analyst at Information Technology Group in Chicago, a company that develops area code software.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?