Local Calls Will Require Area Code Starting August 18

Jun 13, 2018



The days of making a phone call using only seven digits are numbered.

Starting on Aug. 18, those with a 609 area code will have to dial an area code before a seven-digit phone number to complete a call, even if it is to a local number.

The 609 numbering plan area (NPA), which stretches from Cape May to north of Trenton, is running out of available numbers, even though each area code’s geographic area can have up to 7,919,900 unique phone numbers. So a new “overlay” area code – 640 – is being added to the 609 NPA to ensure a continuing supply of phone numbers.

The problem is that when seven-digit numbers are assigned to the new 640 area code they may duplicate numbers already assigned in the 609 area code, thus the need to dial 10 numbers instead of seven to reach the right person or business. New 640 customers will also be required to make 10-number phone calls even if the call is local.

A pain in the butt, for sure, but better than the alternative of an area code split. If the 609 NPA were split into two geographic regions, some customers would keep 609 but others would be automatically switched to 640, meaning relatives, friends or customers trying to reach those switched to 640 using 609 would be shut out. Those switched to 640 would have to run through their contacts, explaining the switch to them.

The employment of overlay area codes, however, doesn’t mean people don’t have to prepare for the big day on Aug. 18. They’ll have to update any pre-programmed seven-digit phone numbers in their mobile device to include the area code, as well as any text or email alert services and any call-forwarding programs.

All services that are currently programmed to use a seven-digit phone number will have to be reprogrammed to include the three-digit area code, things such as life safety systems and medical monitoring devices, fire or burglar alarm and security systems, security gates, speed dialers, call-forwarding settings, PBXs and FAX machines, internet dial-up numbers and voicemail services, websites, personal and business stationary, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, and personal or pet ID tags. Imagine, for example, if a monitoring service weren’t aware of a fire alarm because the automatic connection wouldn’t go through.

Some things, however, won’t change once the overlay zone is implemented. Phone numbers, including current area code, will remain the same. There will be no changes in the price of a call, coverage area or other rates and services. Calls that are considered local will remain local regardless of the number of digits entered. 911 calls won’t be affected. If 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 are currently available, people will still be able to call them by entering just three digits.

It seems amazing that there will soon be more than 7,919,900 individual seven-digit phone numbers in the 609 NPA when the population of the entire state of New Jersey in 2018 is estimated to be 9.03 million. But times have changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Most households no long have a single phone for the entire family but have numerous cell phones. Businesses require more phone lines and FAX machines. And some things never associated with a phone number such as pay-at-the-pump gas tanks and ATMs require phone numbers as well.

Plus, many people who have moved out of the area continue to have phone numbers with a 609 area code because they didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing their cell phone numbers or they like having a 609 area code, an indication of their origin.

For those who are young, here’s an additional warning: We may run out of area codes in the fairly near future.

The North America Numbering Plan Administration, which oversees the allocation of phone numbers in the U.S. projects that the exhaustion of available area codes may occur as early as 2045. Who knows how many numbers will have to be dialed then? Of course with the advance of technology dialing a phone number may be obsolete far before 2045.

— Rick Mellerup



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