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Get ready for 10-digit phone numbers

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Your dialing fingers will be getting whipped into shape come Sunday -- the day 10-digit dialing will be introduced to Manitoba phone numbers.

When picking up your phone this Sunday, enter Manitoba’s area code 204 before the standard seven-digit telephone number. Although callers are still able to dial a seven-digit phone number and have call completed, they will hear an automated message explaining the change and instructions on how to successfully complete a 10-digit dial.

The change is being implemented as part of a permissive dialing period, says CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao, in order to train your fingers for Oct. 20, when the 10-digit system takes over in Manitoba for good.

"It’s done in a way that’s most effective and least intrusive. It really should act as a smooth transition so no one is unclear of what to do Oct. 20 when 10-digit dialing comes into effect," said Valladao.

Valladao acknowledges the change might take some getting used to.

"In the beginning people do find it bothersome, especially older people who maybe are very used to dialing a standard seven numbers. But it becomes simpler because you kind of get used to it. The calls will still be local and it doesn’t cost long-distance rates," said Valladao.

And the Manitoba telephone makeover doesn’t end there. Beginning Nov. 3, Manitoba will get a new area code: 431.

However, Selena Hinds, director of corporate communications for MTS, said while the new code will be available Nov. 3, it will not be issued until all 204 numbers have run out.

"You might not even see them until 2013, although I can’t speculate for sure. It’s called the overlay method, which basically means numbers aren’t given out depending on geographic region. 431 will be added once the bank of 204 numbers runs out," said Hinds.

So why the changeover? The CRTC announced plans in July 2010 to implement 10-digit dialing in Manitoba following the Canadian Numbering Administration’s notification that the province would run out of new numbers by May 2013.

Glen Pilley, director of the Canadian Numbering Administration, says our love of smart devices is the culprit for the insatiable demand for phone numbers.

"There’s three or four different phenomena happening here. The first one is the growth in cellphones. The second one is the fact that they’re introducing smartphones to greater extent. They’re taking up a lot of numbers and users aren’t giving up their other number," said Pilley.

Pilley also identifies the "there’s an app for that" mentality as a reason for the shortage of numbers.

"The other thing is machine-to-machine use, and that includes and is not limited to iPads that use more than Wi-Fi, because you can get them with a cellphone module in it. Also the e-readers can take up numbers. Soon there’s going to be different apps used to turn your fridge on or up your (air-conditioning). Unless you have an all-house controller, those all take telephone numbers."

The permissive 10-digit dialing period begins July 29 at midnight. However, the MTS network is already 10-digit-ready for eager fingers ready to get a jump on the switch.

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

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