Manitobans could soon have a third series of three digits to remember for phone numbers.
The Canadian Numbering Administrator (CNA), which provides and administers telephone numbers across the country, is currently forecasting the exhaust date for Manitoba’s current area codes, 204 and 431, three years from now.
“Currently, the projected exhaust date is June 2024 for the Manitoba area,” said Kelly Walsh, program manager with the CNA.
Manitoba’s second area code, 431, was officially implemented in 2012.
Exhaust dates, Walsh said, are calculated based on annual reports from telephone service providers in Canada. Companies operating in a province submit their forecasts for the next six years to come up with a projected date where there are no possible phone numbers available for an area code.
He said competition from new carriers in an area is one reason why area codes become exhausted, and added the number of devices and services that require a telephone number of a SIM card also speeds up the situation.
“There is obviously faxes, cell phones, home phones, tablets that have LTE Internet capability,” Walsh said. “There is voiceover IP applications that you can download on your phone and get a new phone number for it."
Walsh added other items, like emergency buttons in vehicles, traffic lights, vending machines, parking meters and home alarms might also require a telephone number, which speeds up exhaustion.
Area code 584 is currently the proposed new area code for Manitoba, which Walsh said was first suggested in 2017.
Walsh said they advise the industry and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) when there is a chance of area codes being exhausted and create a relief planning committee. The committee in Manitoba was authorized in January, but has not met yet.
“Once we create our latest round of forecasts—because they happen annually and we complete them at the beginning of the year—we’ll likely have a meeting after that, so we’ll have a newer projected exhaust date,” he said. “With that projected exhaust date, we pretty much work backwards, so the committee will get together, and they will put a plan together, and they will put a schedule together, and there are templates for that in the guidelines already.”
The goal is to have a new area code in service before the projected exhaust date. If a projected exhaust date is sooner than what was initially forecast, Walsh said the CNA moves into a “jeopardy condition,” where the process is advanced, including restrictions on the phone numbers telephone providers can have.
Walsh added the CRTC will make the final decision on approving a new area code.