November 22, 2019

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Hanging up on 204

Manitoba area code running out of stock

The 204 area code is on the verge of becoming vintage.

Codes and numbers

The “CO code” is the three numbers that follow the area code in your phone number. About 10,000 phone numbers are available under each CO code, adding up to about 7.5 million phone numbers are available under each area code.

Not all CO codes are used; some have been reserved for special uses.

The following CO codes are not used in Manitoba (you'll never see a phone number, for example, starting with 204-555-XXXX):

The “CO code” is the three numbers that follow the area code in your phone number. About 10,000 phone numbers are available under each CO code, adding up to about 7.5 million phone numbers are available under each area code.

Not all CO codes are used; some have been reserved for special uses.

The following CO codes are not used in Manitoba (you'll never see a phone number, for example, starting with 204-555-XXXX):

Codes starting with 0: zero summons the operator, or indicates special call types;

Codes starting with 1: indicate long-distance calls;

204: not available, home area code;

211: used for public information, referral services;

273: not available (future use);

311: non-emergency municipal government services;

411: directory assistance'

431: not available, home area code;

460: not available (future use);

511: weather, traveller information services;

555: universal information;

584: not available (future use);

611: repair service;

610: moratorium on assignment;

711: message relay;

810: moratorium on assignment;

811: non-urgent health-care telephone triage services;

911: emergency services;

950: special access use;

958: this is used in 204 area code, but it's a plant test code in the 431 area code;

976: pay per call service;

959: plant test code.

You can see which CO code (204 and 431) is assigned to which area and company on the Canadian Numbering Administrator website.

The corporation responsible for assigning providers with phone numbers says it doesn’t have any more options that begin with 204 available.

"204 is essentially almost all gone," said Edward Antecol, general manager of the Canadian Numbering Administrator (CNA). "You have to be lucky or persistent and just keep checking back (with your provider) every day until something comes along — if you have that luxury."

The CNA co-ordinates new area code allocations across the country. It assigns providers with an area code, along with "CO codes" — blocks of the three digits that follow the area code in a phone number.

Under every CO code, there are about 10,000 possible combinations. That adds up to about 7.5 million phone numbers available under each area code, since CO codes cannot begin with a 0 or 1, dating back to historical problems with long-distance calls and operators. Certain combinations are also off-limits (for instance, 911).

All potential codes under 204 have now been handed out to providers and the stock is being depleted — though it is unclear exactly how many numbers remain free, as providers tend to keep those figures private.

 

 

 

 

A spokesperson for Bell MTS said Thursday it distributes both 204 and 431 numbers. A Telus spokesperson confirmed the provider still has 204 numbers available, including in the Winnipeg area.

 

A spokesperson for Rogers deferred a media request to the CNA. Shaw did not respond to a media request.

"As people disconnect, occasionally numbers in the 204 become available. Otherwise, if you’re a new customer, you have to take 431," Antecol said, adding numbers that begin with 204 can be brought back into circulation at least 90 days after someone forfeits the number.

Concern about a looming shortage of 204 area codes prompted the CNA to roll out the 431 area code in 2012. Hundreds of blocks of 431 phone numbers are still available for distribution on its website, although they may not be as desirable as the original.

"There seems to be a negative connotation that comes with being tied to the new area code, you’re seen as peripheral," said Matthew Flisfeder, associate professor of rhetoric and communications at the University of Winnipeg.

 

 

 

A former Torontonian, Flisfeder said there are divides between the 416 (Toronto’s core area code) and the 905 (distributed to the surrounding suburbs of Mississauga, Vaughan and Hamilton, among others). Toronto has since been nicknamed the "6ix", a reference to its area code made popular by Canadian rapper Drake.

"There continues to be a sense of an insider and outsider mentality," he said.

Area codes also become a cultural symbol of sorts, Flisfeder said, adding a new area code was once used as a joke in a Seinfeld episode when one of the characters gets rejected when she offers her phone number with a new New York area code to a prospective date.

In Manitoba, businesses sell products ranging from clothing to gin that proudly bear the 204 area code on items and labels.

The CNA's latest report predicts all 204 and 431 numbers will be scooped up by 2026, meaning the corporation will have to start consultations with Manitobans about the introduction of a third area code before that time.

Of the 20 possible options, Antecol said it’s likely Manitoba will be assigned 584, due to specific criteria, including limiting potential confusion with neighbouring numbers. That three-digit combination was formerly reserved in 2017 and is on the list of barred CO codes in Manitoba.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Friday, October 25, 2019 at 12:20 PM CDT: updates Telus info

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