Telcordia Preps Software to Stretch Area Codes

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (06/30/2000) - Telcordia Communications Inc. has announced it will sell software designed to conserve phone numbers.

Called Telcordia Number Pooling, the software lets service providers issue phone numbers in blocks of 1,000 rather than issuing them 10,000 at a time, as has been the practice.

The software is scheduled to be ready for number-pooling tests that are set to begin at the end of July in the seven Bell Atlantic states - the New England states plus New York - that used to be the Nynex coverage area.

With the proliferation of service providers seeking numbers in groups of 10,000, area codes have been filling up at an increasing rate. Once assigned, numbers belong to the carriers to which they were issued and cannot be transferred.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission as well as state regulators in California, Illinois, New Hampshire and Maine have already mandated number pooling, which is scheduled to start rolling out nationwide later this year under an FCC order.

"Anything that will speed along 1,000-block pooling will help," says Susan Baldwin, an analyst with Economics and Technology, a Boston consultancy. She notes that the Chicago-area 847 area code was declared in jeopardy two years ago but still has not filled up due to a number-pooling trial there.

An area code is considered in jeopardy if it is filling up faster than projected and if less than three months remain before it runs out of capacity.

When that happens, emergency number conservation efforts are then made.

Currently, 56 area codes are in jeopardy.

Keeping phone switches and various databases informed about which phone numbers are owned by which carriers is complex, according to Telcordia. A major software upgrade is required to enable assigning phone numbers in 1,000-number blocks, says Elie Rosenfeld, product manager for Telcordia's advanced services management systems division.

Current systems allow for assigning numbers in blocks of 10,000 or individually, with nothing in between.

Telcordia says it is announcing its software now so carriers will have the chance to buy it before the trials start in July. Bell Atlantic and GTE are among local carriers that have signed on to test it.

The test schedule has been set up by the North American Numbering Council, an industry group charged with handling area code issues.

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