Tidewater Virginia is running low on phone numbers, which means a new area code is likely coming.
The plan is for a new “overlay” code, which means nobody’s current number will change. But everyone will have to dial 10 digits instead of seven to connect to other phones in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, according to the telecommunications group that parcels out area codes.
But the North American Numbering Plan Administrator is not saying what the new three-digit area code will be.
In a filing with the State Corporation Commission, the NANPA said it expects Tidewater to run out of “CO” or “NXX” codes — that is, the three digits that come between an area code and the last four digits of a phone number — during the fourth quarter of 2021.
That’s actually far later than anyone expected after the NANPA carved off the 757 area from the 804 code in 1996.
A NANPA filing in 2000 projected the region would run out of numbers by 2003. But a new way of allocating numbers eased the pressure.
Now, however, there are only 49 “NXX” codes still available, and the pace of assigning them has accelerated in recent years, rising from 11 codes taken in 2014 to 24 last year.
The NANPA decided on an overlay, which means new phones would be assigned the new area code, rather than splitting the 757 region, which could have meant one code for Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, and another for the rest of the area.
While the overlay will require everyone to dial 10 digits, a split would have meant more inconvenience and costs, ranging from reconfiguring E-911 and alarm system databases to difficulties sending text messages during the transition.
The new code should be sufficient for the next four decades, according to minutes from the NANPA meeting that decided on the overlay plan
The SCC will review the proposal, especially the NANPA’s proposed timeline for introducing the new code, to check for any potential glitches and to hear from customers and telecom companies about any concerns. No hearing dates are set yet.