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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 12, 1996
SOUTH JERSEY TO GET NEW AREA CODE
Bell Atlantic Proposes "Overlay" Plan for 609
Newark, N.J. -- Ever wonder how many grains of sand
repose on the
seashore? Or how many stars twinkle in the sky? Or how many
telephone numbers fill the White Pages?
Unlike the infinite stars and grains of sand, the number of telephone
numbers is fixed, and eventually the supply will run out. That's
about to happen in New Jersey's 609 area code.
The unprecedented popularity of cellular telephones, business lines,
multiple residential lines, pagers, FAX machines and dedicated
computer lines is about to exhaust South Jersey's supply of telephone
So Bell Atlantic is preparing to create a new area code, and we're
about to ask the Board of Public Utilities how we should do that.
One method for creating new area codes would split the 609 area in
half, divide communities and force millions of customers in suburban
Philadelphia to change their telephone numbers.
The alternative, known in telecommunications parlance as an
doesn't cut towns in half and doesn't force customers to change their
telephone numbers. Bell Atlantic favors this plan.
Here's how an overlay would work in 609: before telephone numbers are
exhausted, a new area code would be created within the same geographic
boundaries as 609. When all 609 phone numbers have been taken, new
numbers would be issued with a new area code.
As simple as the overlay sounds, it does come with one minor
inconvenience. Once an overlay has been introduced, South Jersey
callers will need to dial 10 digits (area code + seven-digit number)
to make some local calls.
Next-door neighbors, for example, could have different codes.
But thousands of New Jerseyans already dial 10 digits to make local
calls. A call between Princeton and Monmouth Junction is a local
call. But because Princeton is in 609 and Monmouth Junction is in
908, a caller from Princeton must dial 10 digits to reach Monmouth
Moreover, statewide 10-digit dialing is inevitable even with
geographic split because the demand for numbers will
after new area codes are added. The 908 area code was split from 201
in 1991 -- just five years ago. If geographic splits are used to
create new area codes every three-to-five years, New Jersey will be
dotted with town-sized area-code zones.
So after a series of splits, customers will be dialing 10 digits to
call from town to town, anyway. The only difference is, that
time another split is announced, thousands of businesses will have to
spend millions of dollars changing telephone numbers on stationery,
trucks, billboards, print ads, television ads, business cards,
automatic dialers and fax machines.
With an overlay, all of that inconvenience and unnecessary cost can be
Questions commonly asked about the overlay:
If I have one area code and I make a local call to another
will that call cost me more than it did before the addition of the new
Absolutely not. New area codes do not mean higher telephone rates.
Regardless of how many digits a customer dials, a local call
the addition of new area codes will remain a local call
Bell Atlantic computes its rates by measuring the distance between the
origin of the call and the place of completion. The number of area
codes a call passes through does not by itself determine the price of
What part of the current 609 area would change its numbers if
The western portion of South Jersey -- the area that corresponds
roughly to the suburbs of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. -- would
receive a new area code under a split.
In other words, with a split one million customers in
Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties would
need to change
their area codes.
How many towns would be broken by a geographic
A geographic split would cut through eight towns: Dennis, Maurice
River, Buena Vista, Monroe, Winslow, Waterford, Medford and
How many towns would be broken by an overlay?
Not one -- now or in the foreseeable future.
How many South Jersey customers would need to change their
area codes with an overlay?
Not one. An overlay allows customers to keep their current area codes
Will either method of area-code relief affect plans for local
Not at all. Customers who take their business to a local-service
provider other than Bell Atlantic will not have their telephone
numbers changed. This feature of local competition, known as number
portability, is mandated by the Federal Telecommunications Act of
Why can't New Jersey do a geographic split without dividing
Because telephone circuits frequently cross municipal lines and cannot
be reconstructed at anything approaching a reasonable cost. The
circuits are situated that way for two reasons:
The first is that New Jersey's telephone system evolved with
population, not town boundaries in mind. That is, circuits were
constructed near population centers, and those centers did not
necessarily correspond to town boundaries.
The second is that many circuits, while now constructed of modern
equipment, originally were laid down before some New Jersey towns were
How many telephone numbers are there in New Jersey?
Theoretically, each area code generates 8 million numbers. But
because some number combinations can't be used -- numbers that begin
with 1 or 0, for example -- each area code actually has about 7.7
million useable numbers. So New Jersey's three area codes have a
total of 23.1 million numbers.
When did New Jersey get its first area code?
The 201 area code was created in 1951. It was followed in 1963 by
609, and in 1991 by 908. When 908 was carved out of 201, the new
telephone numbers created in both area codes were projected to last
until 2005. Currently, 201 is expected to run out in June 1997 and
908 will run out in October 1997. Numbers in the 609 area
expected to exhaust in the second quarter of 1998.
Have other states approved an overlay like the one Bell
proposing for New Jersey?
State regulators in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York have approved
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE: BEL) is at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local
telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the
largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication
marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in
Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing
high-growth national and international business opportunities in all
phases of the industry.
- Tim Ireland (201-649-2279)