OMAHA (AP) — Officials expect it’ll be at least three years before Nebraska’s new 531 area code makes its debut, years later than previously expected.
Officials with the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which oversees national area codes, said planning for the phase-in began about 10 years ago.
The administration’s Joe Cocke said officials thought in 2009 that it would take about three years to implement use of the new code.
But Anne Boyle, a commissioner with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, said Nebraska avoided installing the new code because the cell phone boom slowed and small phone service providers had hoarded thousands of unused numbers they were then able to use.
There are 26 prefixes left in the 402 area code, which covers roughly the eastern third of Nebraska and a northern tier of counties. The rest of the state uses area code 308.
Officials said that when Nebraska’s 402 code has only 10 prefixes left, Nebraskans will start to see 531 area codes for new lines.
Last year, Nebraska used up only six prefixes. At that rate, it’ll be about three more years without 531, but Cocke said that could change with acceleration or slowdown of the economy.
State officials have decided to overlay the new 531 area code on top of the 402 area, so current 402 customers won’t be forced to switch area codes and possibly phone numbers.
Because two codes will be used in the same geographical area, all calls will be dialed using the area code plus the seven-digit telephone numbers.
Eastern Nebraskans began 10-digit dialing in February 2011 to prepare for phasing in the new area code. The preparations proved to have been done earlier than necessary.