ARCHIVED - Order CRTC 2000-1187

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Order CRTC 2000-1187

Ottawa, 22 December 2000

New area code overlay to be introduced in 514 region


Reference: 8698-C12-10/00


The Commission approves the introduction of a new area code in the region currently served by area code 514. The new area code will be implemented in an "overlay" of all exchanges in the 514 region. Existing customers in the 514 area code will retain their current telephone numbers but will need to begin to include the area code when dialing local calls starting on 18 January 2002. Once the new area code is implemented on 7 June 2003, numbers in the new area code will be made available.


Growth in telecommunications services requires new telephone numbers


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. In addition, all local exchange carriers (LECs) need 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 numbering resources 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. 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.


Original 514 area code was split in 1999


All carriers provide data on their future anticipated needs for CO codes through an annual report called the Central Office Code Utilization Survey (COCUS). Once the results of each COCUS are combined, this information is used to forecast when the area code is likely to exhaust. The results of the 1996 COCUS indicated that NPA 514 would likely run out of available numbering resources by the first quarter of 1999, and relief planning activity was initiated.


The 514 Relief Planning Committee held a series of public meetings during which they considered the "split" option as well as the "overlay" options as a means of providing additional numbering resources. In its deliberations, the Committee considered the impact that a split might have on subsequent relief requirements and concluded that by implementing a "split" in 1999, subsequent relief requirements could be met by overlaying the new area code 514. At the time, it was agreed that a subsequent overlay relief solution would be facilitated by the establishment of clear geographical boundaries and relatively small size of the new NPA 514 area resulting from a split. This Committee agreed that a split of the large geographic area served by NPA 514 would be the best solution in this instance. COCUS results submitted at the time indicated that with a split solution, the new area code 514 would last until 2015.


In January 1999, the original NPA 514 was split. The six exchanges that comprise the Montreal Urban Community retained NPA 514 and the remainder of the territory began using the new 450 area code. Customers placing a local call between area codes 514 and 450 were required to begin dialing 10 digits but local calls made within the same area code could still be made using seven digits.


Explosion in demand for numbers puts area code 514 its second exhaust situation


With the introduction of local competition in area code 514 and as growth in new and existing services increased, the demand for CO codes rose faster than previously forecasted. Although the new and smaller NPA 514 was to have lasted until 2015, subsequent COCUS results indicated that additional relief would be required much sooner than anticipated. In May 2000, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) -- in its role as the independent and neutral Canadian Numbering Administrator (CNA) -- announced that area code 514 is projected to run out of available CO codes by the second quarter of 2004. In commencing the relief planning process, the CNA prepared, distributed and posted to its web site, an Initial Planning Document identifying possible alternatives for introducing a new area code and associated impact of these alternatives. As a result, affected parties, including non-industry organizations were made aware of this document and were informed that it would be discussed at a meeting open to the public.


CISC ad hoc committee meets to consider relief options


On 28 August 2000, the NPA 514 Relief Planning ad hoc committee considered the feasibility of the relief methods traditionally examined in area code relief planning such as:

  • the geographical split;
  • the concentrated overlay; and
  • the distributed overlay.


As a result of its analysis, the ad hoc committee reached a consensus that in this instance the distributed overlay, as contemplated during the implementation of the earlier 514/450 split, was the only viable method of relief for NPA 514 and forwarded its recommendation to the CISC for its approval. This consensus position was supported by the CISC at its 8 November 2000 meeting, and forwarded to the Commission for its approval.


The Commission's analysis of relief options


Using the geographical split method, the area served by one NPA is divided into two or more smaller regions. One of these smaller regions retains the original area code and the other region(s) is assigned a new area code. The Commission does not consider a geographical split to be feasible in this instance, because among other things:


a) the current geographic area served by 514 is already significantly concentrated so there are no well-defined geographic landmarks, roads or municipal boundaries in the Montreal Urban Community which would serve as an easily identifiable demarcation point between area codes;


b) the municipal boundaries do not align with the six telephone exchanges and wire centres, therefore one or more municipalities and/or exchanges would find itself split in two, with no meaningful boundaries available to define the area each NPA would serve;


c) in order to balance the benefit across the existing 514, a significant proportion of subscribers would be required to change the area code portion of their telephone numbers; and


d) it would be very difficult to split the area in such a fashion that both area codes would exhaust around the same time. As a result, one portion of the Montreal Urban Community would exhaust again much earlier than the other, thereby adversely affecting subscribers.


With the concentrated overlay method, a new area code would be added to serve only a portion of the existing 514 area code. This solution would permit all existing customers to keep their current 514 numbers. Customers requiring new numbers could be assigned in the new NPA. Subscribers served in a portion of the 514 area code -- which still had 514 numbers available to be assigned -- would continue to be assigned 514 numbers until no more 514 numbers remained to be assigned. The Commission considered the use of the concentrated overlay method and concluded that it was not feasible, in this instance, since the geographic area served is already significantly concentrated and a third area code would have to be introduced sooner to meet the demand in any coverage area outside the concentrated NPA area. Further, as with the geographical split, a clearly defined portion of the NPA in which to implement a concentrated overlay could not be identified since there are no well-established landmarks or municipal boundaries that are aligned with telephone exchanges or wire centres.


With the distributed overlay method, a new area code is introduced in the same geographic area as the existing NPA. Unlike a concentrated overlay, with this solution, the new area code is made available throughout the existing NPA rather than in a part only. This option is the clear preference of the members of the CISC ad hoc and is the option recommended by the CISC to the Commission.


Among the advantages of a distributed overlay of NPA 514 are:

  • all existing subscribers would retain their telephone number;
  • businesses and other organizations do not incur the costs associated with a change in telephone numbers; and
  • it protects the established regional boundaries within the current NPA 514.

Uniform 10-digit local dial plan required


The Commission notes that regardless of which solution is implemented, 10-digit local dialing will be required on all calls within and between NPA 514 and within and between the new NPA. In addition, 10-digit local dialing will be required on local calls between area code 450 and the new NPA, just as is required today on local calls between 450 and 514. Although this would represent a change to the dialing habits of subscribers calling within NPA 514, the Commission notes that a migration toward a uniform 10-digit dial plan has already begun and will likely be required in all areas within the North American Numbering Plan in the not too distant future. In other recent area code relief decisions (Orders CRTC 2000-772 and 2000-786), the Commission has also undertaken to introduce 10-digit local dialing in southern Ontario and British Columbia. Under these circumstances, 10-digit local dialing is a reasonable and necessary step in providing future telecommunications services in the 514 area. Since 10-digit local dialing is already required on calls between 514 and 450, by extending the requirement to include all calls within and between the area codes, consumers will have one common method of dialing, thereby reducing customer confusion.


Only one viable option to relief of area code 514


The Commission has concluded that in this instance, the only viable method of providing relief to the existing 514 area code is to implement a distributed overlay. The Commission notes that in recent NPA relief situations (Public Notices CRTC 2000-36 and 2000-67), once the CISC recommendation was submitted, the Commission initiated further public process to solicit additional public comment on the various relief methods available in each of those cases. In this particular instance, however, given that the "distributed overlay" is the only workable method by which relief can be provided, further public process would not be appropriate as it could not be meaningful.


The Commission directs the implementation of a distributed overlay


The Commission approves the implementation of area code relief for NPA 514 using the distributed overlay method. All code holders or potential code holders providing or intending to provide service in NPA 514 are directed to immediately begin implementation of relief as set out in this order. The new NPA will be introduced on 7 June 2003.


Based on the latest COCUS data available, the Commission finds that the exhaust date to be used for the purposes of commencing relief planning is June 2004.


To ensure that sufficient numbering resources remain in NPA 514 until relief is provided, the Commission directs that:

  • the CNA immediately notify the Commission if it determines that the exhaust date will advance;
  • the CNA monitor the assignment rate and forecasts of CO codes in NPA 514 and notify the Commission when the 700th code is assigned;
  • all potential competitive exchange carriers (CLECs) that intend to provide service in exchanges within what is currently NPA 514, that have not yet submitted a COCUS data to the CNA for NPA 514, are directed to do so by 15 February 2001. Should a service provider choose not to submit a forecast, it will be unable to obtain CO code assignments in NPA 514 until COCUS data has been submitted to the CNA;
  • all carriers in NPA 514 introduce permissive dialing and ensure that a standard 10-digit dialing automatic announcement is implemented no later than 18 January 2002. The permissive dialing period will continue until the new NPA is introduced;
  • COCUS surveys be filed by code holders and potential code holders in NPA 514 on a quarterly basis effective January 2001; and
  • 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 have not been included in these forecasts may only be assigned by the CNA with the approval of the Commission.

The Commission may choose to initiate additional measures at any time should the exhaust date advance significantly.


The Commission directs the CISC ad hoc NPA 514 Relief Planning Committee to file an implementation plan that reflects the Commission's determinations in this order by no later than 31 May 2001. This implementation plan must include a consumer education and awareness plan and a jeopardy contingency plan. The Commission notes that the Planning Document submitted by the NPA 514 Relief Planning ad hoc committee anticipated that a Relief Implementation Plan could be completed by July 2001. Since the early stages of the planning process have been completed earlier than was anticipated in the Planning Document, the Commission expects that the NPA 514 Relief Planning ad hoc committee will be able to meet the 31 May 2001 deadline.


Secretary General


This document is available in alternative format upon request and may also be examined at the following Internet site:

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