ARCHIVED - Order CRTC 2000-786

This page has been archived on the Web

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. Archived Decisions, Notices and Orders (DNOs) remain in effect except to the extent they are amended or reversed by the Commission, a court, or the government. The text of archived information has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Changes to DNOs are published as “dashes” to the original DNO number. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.

Order CRTC 2000-786

Ottawa, 16 August 2000

New area code overlay to be introduced in 604 region

Reference: 8698-C12-06/00
The Commission approves the introduction of a new area code in the region currently served by area code 604. The new area code will be implemented in a "concentrated overlay" over the exchanges in and around the Greater Vancouver Regional District as well as the Abbotsford and Mission exchanges. All existing customers in the 604 area code will retain their current telephone number. Once implemented on 3 November 2001, new numbers can be assigned from the new area code. At that time, unassigned central office codes in the 604 area code will be dedicated exclusively to locations outside of the new area code.

Demand is depleting telephone numbers faster than expected

The demand for telephone numbers has increased faster than was previously predicted. Many residential and business customers are ordering extra phone lines for Internet access, facsimile machines, wireless phones and pagers. All local exchange carriers (LECs) are currently assigned a block of 10 000 numbers just to offer service to a single customer in an exchange. The need for additional access to new technology and increased local competition are quickly depleting the pool of telephone numbers in Canada and around the world.
When area codes exhaust, new area codes must be added to make more numbers available. When area codes need to be added, there is significant disruption and cost to both the public and the telecommunications industry. In these instances, there is generally a good deal of debate over which solution should be used to make more numbers available. In most instances, it appears the extent of the inconvenience to the end-user will be roughly proportionate to the longevity of the remedy. Although area code relief provides a temporary solution, it does not address the long-range issues such as the ongoing need for telephone numbers and the finite ability of a single area code to meet the need.

Each area code has a finite supply of telephone numbers

Each geographic area code contains 792 useable central office (CO) codes, also known as NXXs. CO codes are comprised of the three numbers that follow the area code, or the first three digits of a seven-digit telephone number. Each CO code has 10,000 individual telephone numbers, for a total capacity of about 7.9 million telephone numbers in each area code. Certain CO codes can't be used because they would cause dialing conflicts or customer confusion, such as the same digits as the area code, toll-free area codes and 9-1-1, which reduces the quantity of telephone numbers available to end-users.

Explosion of numbers assigned in southern B.C. puts area code 604 in an exhaust situation

Area code 604 serves the southern portion of British Columbia including the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland extending east to the Hope, Yale and Boston Bar areas, and north to the Whistler area. There are 43 exchanges in which telecommunications carriers provide service within the Number Plan Area (NPA) 604 area code. Each LEC must obtain at least one CO code for each exchange where it intends to provide service. Other types of carriers, including wireless, must also obtain CO codes to provide service.
In August 1999, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) -- in its role as the independent Canadian Numbering Administrator (CNA) - announced that area code 604 is projected to run out of available CO codes by the first quarter of 2004. In seeking a solution for this number exhaust, the CNA prepared and distributed an Initial Planning Document identifying the alternatives available for introducing a new area code.
A Special Central Office Code Utilization Survey (COCUS) was conducted to collect exchange-by-exchange data from carriers providing service or intending to provide service in what is currently the 604 area code. This survey concluded that all available CO codes are likely to be assigned to carriers by the second quarter of 2003, and, as a result, the CNA moved the exhaust date ahead by a year to reflect this new information. Therefore, the relief planning committee agreed that a new area code should be introduced in the second quarter of 2002 to relieve the 604 area code. The introduction of the new area code 12 months before 604 exhausts will protect against a sudden increase in demand or any unanticipated difficulties related to implementation.

CISC ad hoc committee considered four relief options

In December 1999, the Commission released Telecom Public Notice CRTC 99-24, announcing the establishment of the NPA 604 Relief Planning Committee as an ad hoc committee of the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee (CISC).
Members of the public and interested parties were encouraged to participate in open meetings as part of the NPA relief planning process. Participants included several wire-line and wireless service providers as well as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (9-1-1) and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
The committee considered four area code relief options as outlined in Public Notice (PN) CRTC 2000-36, Comments solicited for solution to telephone number exhaust in southern British Columbia, dated 10 March 2000:
  • Municipality split
  • Vancouver exchange split
  • Split/boundary realignment
  • Distributed overlay
The consensus of the ad hoc committee was to recommend that relief be provided using the distributed overlay method. This consensus position was supported by the CISC at its 21 January 2000 meeting, and forwarded to the Commission for its consideration. The other three options appear in the Appendix in this order.

No consensus between public and industry

Consistent with its normal practice, the Commission issued PN 2000-36 seeking public input to identify solutions to CO code exhaust in NPA 604. The record closed on 9 May 2000.
Various parties submitted comments during this proceeding, including individual consumers. A clear majority of parties objected to the proposed overlay solution and/or 10-digit dialing. Subscribers were generally most concerned about the possibility of having to change their telephone number, telephone company profits, retaining area codes that reflect geographic areas and disruption or confusion to customers that may be a result of any form of relief.
Consumers also proposed the following two relief options that had not been considered by the CISC ad hoc committee:

a) A two-way split which would divide Vancouver, West Vancouver and North Vancouver from the rest of NPA 604 and assign a new area code to these regions. NPA 604 would be assigned to the remaining regions not served by the new area code.

b) Two separate two-way splits which would assign NPA 604 to Vancouver, transfer the remainder of the existing coverage area to the new NPA and split Vancouver Island from NPA 250. A second new NPA would be assigned exclusively to Vancouver Island.

The industry participants that submitted comments reaffirmed their support for the recommendation submitted by the CISC ad hoc committee. The Commission wishes to thank all parties for their comments and participation in this proceeding.

The Commission's analysis of relief options

The Commission does not consider the "Municipality split" and the "Vancouver exchange split", to be appropriate, because among other things,

a) a very significant proportion of subscribers would be required to change their telephone numbers;

b) the municipal boundaries do not align with the area being split; and

c) there would be no well-defined geographic landmark, road or municipal boundary which would serve as an easily identifiable demarcation point between area codes.

The Commission notes that the "Split/boundary realignment" option considered by the CISC ad hoc committee and the "Two separate two-way splits" option would also require that a large proportion of subscribers change their telephone numbers. These options would also place an undue burden on consumers located on Vancouver Island who underwent an area code change in 1995.
The Commission considers that the "Two-way split" offers a number of advantages. However, a significant concern with this option, is the lack of a well-defined demarcation point between the proposed NPA boundaries. In addition, the municipal boundaries do not align with the exchange boundaries. This may present technical problems for carriers providing service in these exchanges. Since data is only available by exchange, rather than by municipal boundary, it is not possible to establish exactly how many consumers in the effected exchanges would be impacted by this proposal.
The "Distributed overlay" option is the clear preference of industry participants as well as the option recommended by the CISC ad hoc. Comments received from consumers, however, indicate a preference for a variety of "Split" options. The Commission also notes that an overlay, once implemented, limits all further area code relief solutions to additional overlays.
Data provided via the COCUS and Special COCUS surveys in NPA 604 indicate that a significant proportion of the demand for new CO codes comes from exchanges within the well-defined Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
Based on the record of this proceeding, the Commission considers that the public interest would best be served by a relief solution which combined the advantages of the "Municipality split" and "Distributed overlay" options. This relief solution would consist of a concentrated overlay of a new area code within the Vancouver Extended Area of Service (EAS), which includes the GVRD, as well as other locations that have local calling to Vancouver. Specifically, the Commission considers that this solution offers the following advantages:
  • All existing subscribers would retain their telephone number;
  • Numbers assigned under a new NPA would be geographically identifiable as part of the GVRD;
  • By dedicating the remaining 604 CO codes to areas outside of the GVRD, the impact of the demand in Vancouver EAS on the consumers that live and work outside of this high demand area would be reduced;
  • Although this new concentrated area code would face exhaust again in the next decade, the outlining area would see future relief delayed by many years;
  • It protects the established regional boundaries within the current NPA 604; and
  • It strikes an appropriate balance between consumer preferences and the concerns of service providers with respect to technical and financial impact. In this respect, CISC participants recommended approval of the distributed overlay option were given an opportunity to identify and address technical problems including timing, if any, with this proposal. No significant technical problems were identified.

The Commission's concludes concentrated overlay is the best solution

Based on the record of this proceeding, the Commission determines that the Vancouver EAS concentrated overlay option, which includes the Abbotsford and Mission exchanges, is the most appropriate solution and should be implemented.
Although several consumers expressed concerns about 10-digit local dialing, the Commission notes that a migration toward a uniform 10-digit dial plan has begun and is expected to be required in all areas within the North American Numbering Plan in the not too distant future. Under these circumstances, the Commission considers that it would be appropriate to introduce 10-digit local dialing consistently throughout the existing 604 area code, coincident with the introduction of the new area code.
Based on the latest COCUS data available, the Commission finds that the official exhaust date for the purposes of relief planning is January 2003. The CNA is directed to immediately notify the Commission if it determines that this exhaust date will advance. In order to minimize the possibility of an accelerated exhaust date, all potential CLECs that intend to provide service in exchanges within what is currently NPA 604, that have not yet submitted a Jeopardy-COCUS (J-COCUS) to the CNA for NPA 604, are directed to do so by 26 August 2000. The J-COCUS must identify a monthly forecast, by exchange in which they intend to offer service, between the period August 2000 and December 2001. Should a service provider choose not to submit a forecast, it will be unable to obtain CO code assignments in NPA 604 until a J-COCUS has been submitted to the CNA.
In order to:
  • ensure relief is provided no less than 12 months prior to exhaust;
  • avoid a significant dial plan change coincident with the Christmas heavy calling period;
  • provide a reasonable permissive dialing period; and
  • avoid a jeopardy situation, as experienced in other Canadian locations,
the Commission directs carriers in NPA 604 to introduce permissive dialing and ensure that a standard 10-digit dialing automatic announcement is implemented no later than 26 May 2001. The permissive dialing period will continue until the new NPA is introduced. This new NPA will be introduced as a concentrated overlay in the Vancouver EAS, including the Abbotsford and Mission exchanges, by no later than 3 November 2001.
Unassigned NXXs (CO codes) in NPA 604, as of 3 November 2001, will be dedicated to the provision of services outside the Vancouver EAS region. Therefore the CNA is to assign CO Codes from the new area code for all applications received 66 calendar days prior to 3 November 2001.
To ensure that relief is timed to realize the benefits of the implementation strategy, the Commission concludes that additional monitoring and resource management measures are required in NPA 604. The CNA is directed to monitor the assignment rate and forecasts of CO codes in NPA 604 and to notify the Commission when the 700th code is assigned so decisions can be made on how the remaining codes should be allocated. Furthermore, to assist the CNA in this task, the Commission directs that:
  • COCUS surveys be filed by code holders and potential code holders in NPA 604 on a quarterly basis effective January 2001;
  • code holders and potential code holders report any deviations - as soon as the deviation becomes known - from the most recent forecast on file with the CNA, and include a detailed written explanation of the deviation. In the case of an increase in demand, such deviations are to be reported no less than 90 days prior to the effective date for the additional CO code(s) not previously projected. These revised forecasts, with detailed explanations, are to be submitted to the CNA and filed with the Commission before the CNA assigns a code. Codes that are not included in these forecasts may only be assigned by the CNA with the approval of the Commission; and
  • all registered CLECs that do not yet provide service are required to file a Special COCUS before being recognized as a CLEC for the purposes of securing a CO code assignment.
The Commission directs the CISC ad hoc Committee to file an implementation plan that reflects the Commission's determinations in this order, along with a consumer education and awareness plan, by 1 October 2000.

Future NPA exhaust relief in the Vancouver EAS

Current COCUS forecasts indicate that due to the high level of demand for NXXs in the Vancouver EAS area, a third relief NPA will be required in the Vancouver EAS area, and potentially in the remainder of the current NPA 604 area, within a decade. The Commission therefore directs the CNA to undertake a new Special COCUS by 15 September 2000, to project when the second NPA will be required.

Future proceeding to consider area code relief policies

A number of concerns associated with the current area code exhaust planning process, including certain policy related issues, were identified in this and other similar proceedings. The Commission intends to initiate a   separate proceeding to examine these issues on a national basis, the conclusions of which are intended to apply to future proceedings.
Secretary General
This document is available in alternative format upon request and may also be examined at the following Internet site:


Other relief options considered by the CISC

Municipality split:

  • Burnaby, Vancouver and New Westminster would retain NPA 604;
  • remaining municipalities would transfer to a new area code;
  • would require a change in area code for about 1.1 million subscribers;
  • implementation of 10-digit local dialing required on all local calls between the old and new area code;
  • Special COCUS predicts this solution would provide relief in the new 604 area code boundary until 2010, and in the new area code until 2015;
  • between 40 and 75 percent of customers would retain their current 604 telephone numbers, while the remainder would acquire a new area code.
This proposal was rejected by the committee because the number of subscribers required to change telephone numbers, and the municipal boundaries do not align with the area being split. The CNA noted there is no well-defined demarcation boundary (such as mountains, rivers, highways or municipal borders).

Vancouver exchange split:

  • the Vancouver exchange (Vancouver and a major portion of Burnaby) would retain area code 604, and the remainder of the existing coverage area would transfer to the new NPA;
  • approximately 1.6 million subscribers would have to change their code;
  • implementation of 10-digit local dialing would be required on all local calls between the old and new area code;
  • relief in the new 604 area code boundary is projected to last until 2015, and in the new area code until 2013;
  • between 30 and 55 percent of customers would retain their current 604 telephone numbers, while the remainder would acquire a new area code.
This proposal was rejected by the committee for the same reasons as the above option, but was considered to have greater merit than that option.

Split/boundary realignment:

  • the existing area code would be split into two geographic areas;
  • the Vancouver exchange would retain area code 604 while the remainder of the existing coverage area, as well as Vancouver Island, would transfer to the new area code;
  • approximately 2.1 million subscribers would have to change their area code;
  • implementation of 10-digit local dialing would be required on all local calls between the old and new area codes;
  • relief in the new 604 area code boundary is projected to last until 2016 and the new area code until 2012 while the life of NPA 250 would be extended from 2005 to 2035;
  • between 30 and 55 percent of customers would retain their current 604 telephone numbers, while the remainder would acquire a new area code, and all consumers on Vancouver Island would acquire a new area code.
This proposal was rejected because Vancouver Island consumers changed area codes in 1995 and the committee considered that the weaknesses identified in the above options were equally applicable to this option.
Date modified: