Southern Nevadans prepare for 10-digit local calls

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press
July 29, 2013

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Southern Nevadans will be digging for owner manuals to reprogram speed-dialing, fax machines, voicemail settings — anything that uses a telephone number — to get ready for 10-digit local dialing.

Beginning in May 2014, all local calls within the 702 area code that encompasses Las Vegas and all of Clark County will need to be made dialing the area code. That's to accommodate a new 725 area code that will co-exist as an "overlay" throughout the region beginning next June.

People will not have to dial a "1'' before the 10-digit number, unless the call is otherwise long distance.

Companies will have to update communication systems. Hotels will need to replace room instructions for guests on how to make a local call.

The Nevada Public Service Commission approved the new area code last fall. To get used to the new dialing protocol, a nine-month transition period begins Aug. 3, when people will be urged to begin dialing those three extra digits to make a local call.

While local calls made without the area code will still go through during that time, that won't be the case nine months from now, when callers who dial only seven digits will receive a recorded message telling them their call cannot be completed as dialed and to include the area code.

"It's something that everyone needs to know about," said Joe Cocke with the North American Numbering Plan Administration, the gatekeeper of area code volume, demand and management.

"It's a big deal."

There are only so many numbers to go around. The high-tech boom and explosion of mobile devices means more demand for numbers.

As of Jan. 1, there were 364 area codes nationwide, with dozens more awaiting implementation. Roughly 7.9 million numbers are supported by one area code.

Each area code is then broken into geographic areas called rate centers. The 702 area code has 16 rate centers. Rate centers support 792 prefixes — the three digits after an area code — and each prefix has 10,000 numbers.

Cocke said 88 percent of the 702 area code is assigned, with only about 75 available prefixes left. His agency has forecast capacity would run out by around this time next year without a new area code.

Until recently the practice was to split area code regions, making a new one within a distinct boundary.

But people like their phone numbers and businesses balk at the expense of redoing advertising, business cards and letterhead. Hence, the overlay. Existing customer get to keep their techno, numerical identities. Newcomers get a new area code.

Overlays are becoming more common nationwide. While they are found more frequently in congested urban areas like Los Angeles, Dallas, New York and Miami, they are also being used in rural regions.

"The public is so in tune to using their numbers, they don't want to change," Cocke said.

Nevada had just one area code until 1998, when Clark County, the state's population hub, was split from the rest of the state and the remaining 16 counties were given 775.

Beginning in June 2014, Nevada will have three.