No Need for 11 or 12 Digit Dialing

by Colin Berkshire

For 30 years there has been a constant worry about running out of telephone numbers in North America. And, there have been more than a few suggestions on how to migrate to 11 or 12 digit dialing. I have previously posted about this.

But it turns out there is no need for us to ever change from XXX-XXX-XXXX dialing, ever. We won’t run out of numbers and require a structural change to the NANP/DDD dialing plan established in 1955.

Telephone prefixes (digits 4~6 in a phone number) cannot begin with 1 or 0. There were historical reasons for this. But those reasons have quietly disappeared. Those included older electromechanical switching systems and the desire to maintain 7-digit dialing in certain areas.

So by using a 0 or 1 as the first digit in a phone number, such as 212-015-7876 we get a 20% increase in available phone numbers. It’s a simple change that can be handled by all phone systems made in the past 20 years.

Next we should allow 0 and 1 to be used as the leading digit in an area code. We can fix a serious problem in the North American dialing plan at the same time. Right now, Caribbean countries don’t get country codes and you call them just like a domestic number. The rates per minute can be very expensive! You can’t tell the number you are calling is international. There are. Few telephone scams based upon this.

We should change the area codes for all Caribbean countries to be 0xx area codes. And, we should change Canadian area codes to start with 1, so Area Code 604 would migrate to 164.

This would make North America better fit into the international dialing plan. With this change you can examine the first digit of the phone number and know the country you are calling (or first three digits if the first digit starts with 0.) No more calling the Bahamas by surprise.

The next change is one of the simplest and most transparent ones…

IPads and internet devices are [stupidly] assigned phone numbers. Your iPad with a SIM is given a phone number, as is your MiFi device and your OnStar car and your CPAP machine and your neighborhood Coca-Cola vending machine. These devices Gobble up a lot of phone numbers.

Why not assign uncallable devices a phone number with a prefix starting with 0? Really, a lot of phone numbers are uselessly tied up by non-phones. It’s tens of millions of numbers we could instantly reclaim.

The last change is also simple: the first three digits of a phone number, now called the Area Code, should no longer be geographically based. Believe it or not, there are a lot of phone numbers unused in the boonies. So many people have taken their cell phones with them as they move that area codes really don’t define the area of the phone any more. And, the need to identify where a phone number is based has gone away with the elimination of distance based long distance charging.

If we started freely assigning any phone number from any area code we will have an endless number of phone numbers. Well, about 8-billion numbers in the United States alone.

There is no need for us to ever leave 10-digit calling in North America.