'251' Required on Calls to Southwest Alabama Starting Jan. 7

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama's new 251 area code becomes official Jan. 7.
On that date, callers must dial 251 to reach phone numbers in the southwestern corner of the state. The 334 area code will no longer serve that area of Alabama.

The 251 code, the fourth area code in the state, is carved out of the existing 334 area in south Alabama. The communities it will serve include Bayou La Batre, Mobile, Jackson, Evergreen and Monroeville. (See related map online at www.nanpa.com)

Communities remaining in the 334 area code include Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan, Andalusia, Phenix City and Selma.

Many customers have been using the 251 area code since June 18. During the transition to the new area code, calls could also be completed using the 334 area code. However, beginning Jan. 7, callers who dial the 334 area code for numbers in the 251 area will hear a recording advising them to dial the new code.

The new code has no effect on rates or on local calling areas. The places that can be dialed locally now can be dialed locally using the 251 area code.

A dwindling supply of telephone numbers in the 334 area code prompted the change. There are 756 useable exchange codes (first three digits of a phone number) in an area code. A single exchange contains as many as 10,000 telephone numbers.

The demand for phone numbers is sparked in large measure by the growing number of telecommunications companies competing for local phone service. These companies require a large supply of numbers to serve their customers. In addition, thousands of customers are now linked to the outside world through fax machines, pagers, cellular phones, modems and other communications devices that need phone numbers.

Area codes have traditionally had either a "0" or a "1" as a second digit. However, all of those possible area codes are now used. Some businesses and other institutions may have to make modifications to their in-house switchboards to dial area codes that have another number as a second digit. Businesses that have a PBX (private branch exchange) built prior to 1992 should call their supplier to see if an upgrade is necessary.

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