Rollout of new area code begins

ALBANY — The state Public Service Commission has announced that residential, business and wireless customers within the existing 518 area code can begin preparing for the introduction of the new 838 overlay area code starting March 18.

The state announced in September 2016 that the 518 area code would get a new overlay area code that would be issued to new numbers starting later this year — 838.

The North American Numbering Plan Administrator has estimated that the 518 area code is projected to run out of available numbers by 2019.

Officials have said the issue is due in part to cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices that are issued phone numbers, along with increased carrier competition putting a strain on the 518 area code.

During an August 2016 meeting, state officials said one of the benefits of the overlay is that it allows businesses and other agencies to keep their existing phone numbers. Additionally, they won’t have to change storefronts and letterheads.

The 518 area code includes Fulton, Hamilton and Montgomery counties. According to the PSC, the new 838 area code will be overlaid over the same geographic area as the 518 area code.

In addition to Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties, the 518 area code region serves all or part of 17 counties, which includes Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Greene, Rensselaer, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington.

The state PCS says that starting on March 18, a soft rollout will allow customers to dial either 7-digits or 10-digits on calls within the 518 area code. Calls to other area codes must still be dialed as 1+ 10 digits.

The permissive dialing period will end on Aug. 19. After that point, callers will be required to dial the area code before each call, including those within 518.

Starting on Sept. 19, customers in the 518 area code region requesting new service, an additional line or a move in the location of their service, may be assigned a number in the new 838 area code.

According to the PCS, customers should identify their telephone number as a 10-digit number (area code + 7-digit local telephone number) when giving the number to friends, family, business associates and business customers, etc.

“Customers should ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, applications, software, or other types of equipment recognize the new 838 area code as a valid area code,” the release states.

Some examples of such items the PCS gives include life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and similar functions, according to the PCS.

Business stationery, advertising materials, personal checks, and personal or pet ID tags should include the area code.

All calls within the 518/838 area code must be programmed to dial using 10-digits and the digit prefix “1” must be included for all calls to other area codes.

By Patricia Older

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