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Local phone calls will require 10-digit dialing

Beginning Monday, anyone in the current 601 area code will haveto dial 10 digits – not the current seven – to place localtelephone calls.

The change is being implemented to integrate the new 769 areacode in central and parts of south Mississippi.

“This is an industrywide change,” Mike Walker, director ofexternal affairs for BellSouth, said of the change in dialingpatterns.

The 769 area code is being implemented to accommodate the growthof telecommunications services. Customers are now using more phonelines, fax machines, pagers, cellular services and modems forpersonal computers, and each requires a telephone number.

The addition of 769 is being done as an overlay, meaningcustomers in the same geographic region will have different areacodes. New area codes in Mississippi were implemented previously bysplitting an existing area in two and assigning the new area codeto one portion of the split area.

“It was an industry issue,” said Walker. “Doing the overlay willallow customers to keep their original business stationery – samebusiness cards, letterhead and billboards.”

Customers will continue to dial the same seven digits but mustadd the area code – either 601 or 769 – before the number, Walkersaid.

“It may take some time for customers to adjust,” Walker said,although transitioning began in July.

Walker said inserts have been added to BellSouth telephone billsto alert customers to the addition of the new area code and10-digit dialing requirements.

“Every opportunity we’ve had to talk about it, we have,” Walkersaid.

If a consumer dials only seven digits after Monday, he or shewill get a recording directing them to dial 10 digits, Walkersaid.

Scott Watson, Cellular South market manager, echoed Walker’sstatements.

“There won’t be any negative effects to our customers, butbeginning on the 14th, our customers will also have to dial thearea code plus their number,” he said.

Watson said wireless communication is one of the reasons for the769 overlay. More than 170 million people have wireless phones, hesaid.

“We’re running out of numbers,” he said of the wireless industrygrowth.

Although Mississippi has been approved to begin using the 769area code, Walker said don’t expect to see it right away.

“The numbers will exhaust sometimes this year – in 2005,” hesaid. “We won’t see 769 until all of the 601 numbers are gone.”

The North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA)oversees the assignment of area codes, Walker said. NANPArecommended the Mississippi Public Service Commission assign a newoverlay area code for central Mississippi.

Overlay is new to Mississippi, Walker said, but it has beensuccessfully used in other states.