ALBANY — The state Public Service Commission announced on Tuesday, Sept. 20 that a new area code number has been assigned for eastern upstate New York. The new area code—838—will provide additional much-needed phone numbers for residents and businesses in the existing 518 area code region and will be activated by fall of next year, when the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) has predicted the exhaustion of available 518 numbers.
An analysis conducted by NANPA in April originally predicted that 518 numbers would run out in early 2019, but that forecast was amended to reflect an “unprecedented” increase in demand for numbers in the region, causing NYSPSC to shorten the implementation timeline for the new area code.
“We needed to create a new area code because of strong and robust demand for telecommunication services,” said Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman. “With the creation of the new 838 area code, eastern New York is well-positioned to accommodate future growth in this important sector of the economy, and it will ensure that local telephone service remains efficient.”
To provide area code relief as required by federal law, NYSPSC examined “overlay” and “geographic split” options for 518, the only remaining original New York area code to remain unaltered, and determined that an overlay code is the best option. An overlay code is easier to implement, less expensive, and easier for customers to adapt to, said NYSPSC, as well fairer to all customers, a “solid majority” of whom favored an overlay during the public comments period of the deliberation. There will now be 19 area codes in New York State; NANPA estimates that the new code will not be exhausted until 2065.
According to NYSPSC, the 838 implementation will consist of a network preparation period—a permissive dialing period that allows both 7-digit and 10-digit (area code plus 7-digit number) dialing to work—and then a mandatory dialing period when 10-digit dialing will be required. (Regions served by multiple areas codes must employ 10-digit dialing as required by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate. All existing telephone users in the region will retain their current phone numbers.) Implementation dates will be determined by NYSPSC staff working with incumbent local wireline carriers, competitive local exchange carriers, cellular carriers, and broadband carriers within the next 45 days.
Once the new code is activated, new telephone numbers could be assigned to either the 518 or the new 838 area code, depending on when the 518 numbers run out in each of the 140 geographic areas that determine the boundaries for local calling, billing and assigning phone numbers, in the 518 area code region. Less populous areas could find 518 numbers lasting longer than in larger, more populated areas.
Throughout the implementation, NYSPSC will be conducting outreach to the public to ensure that customers are aware of the area code change and its implementation milestones. The geographic area associated with the new 838 area code is located in all or part of 17 central and upstate counties: Albany; Clinton; Columbia; Dutchess; Essex; Franklin; Fulton; Greene; Hamilton; Montgomery; Rensselaer; Saint Lawrence; Saratoga; Schenectady; Schoharie; Warren; and Washington.