Bell Atlantic Favors Better Solution for Area Codes

Bell Atlantic Favors Better Solution for Area Codes

Demand by Other Carriers Could Prompt Need

for Even More Area Codes in Massachusetts

March 9, 1998

Media contacts:

Jack Hoey


BOSTON -- Even before two new area codes are fully activated May 1, unprecedented demand by telecommunications carriers for telephone numbers may require rationing of telephone exchanges and planning for the possibility of still more area codes in eastern Massachusetts.

Bell Atlantic, with concurrence from the North American Numbering Administrator, Lockheed Martin Corp., has notified other telecommunications carriers that the new 617 and 508 area codes could run out of available exchange codes in three years or less.

"There has been a gold rush for new exchange codes in Massachusetts," said Thomas DeSisto, executive director-regulatory for Bell Atlantic - Massachusetts. "The code administrator has informed Bell Atlantic and all Massachusetts carriers that based on the volume of recent requests, immediate conservation of telephone exchange codes is needed."

Exchange codes, assigned by request to carriers, are the second three-digits of one's 10-digit phone number.

Bell Atlantic-Massachusetts has requested only about 10 percent of the exchange codes assigned to all carriers in the new 617 and 508 area codes.

Telecommunications carriers will meet April 3 to discuss proposed conservation methods. This will be followed by additional meetings to attempt to reach a consensus on a method of adding new area codes in the future. The industry's plan will then be presented to the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy for approval.

Bell Atlantic favors a more efficient method for assigning phone numbers to carriers and a more consumer-friendly way to introduce new area codes.

"We look forward to working with the other carriers and the department on consumer-friendly solutions," DeSisto said. "In the short run, conservation can help. Over the long run, a new technology on the horizon, called number pooling, will allow the industry to more efficiently allocate phone numbers to carriers."

Since early 1997, Bell Atlantic has been helping to lead an industry panel that is developing the technology and standards for "number pooling." This new capability will allow carriers in the United States to obtain phone numbers in blocks of 1,000 instead of 10,000. However, industry experts do not believe pooling will be available before the first half of 1999.

"When number pooling becomes available, it will help stretch out the supply of phone numbers," said DeSisto. "However, a vibrant Massachusetts economy, fueled by a growing telecommunications industry, means we can expect continued growth in the demand for telecommunications services and in the number of new carriers providing those services.

"Even with better industry methods, the Commonwealth can't gamble that we won't need new area codes in the future. Bell Atlantic absolutely does not want to introduce any new area codes unless and until they are needed. However, for when they are needed, the question remains which method of creating new area codes is the most customer friendly -- the traditional split of an existing area code or an overlay of a new code in the same geographic area as the old code? Bell Atlantic continues to believe that overlays make the introduction of new area codes easier by allowing customers to keep their existing numbers ."

"This situation illustrates why overlays are clearly the better way to add area codes, " Desisto added. "Demand is impossible to predict in a competitive environment. Area code overlays provide the best means to add telephone exchanges where and when needed."

Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With 40.5 million telephone access lines and six million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.