When will all the area codes run out?

When will all the area codes run out in California? How will they split it up by 2050 or 2100? There was a recent split of the 424 srea code that used to have 310 included in it. How will a map look of all the splits in the future? Will there come a time when I have to use a different area code to call 5 miles away?

On another note when will license plates for California turn into 8 numbers/digits? Can someone tell me about license plate numbering? Does it really tell you something about where the person lives or when the license plate was issed? For example if I see 5TEG799 does the TEG mean something and the 799 mean a time frame? What will cars do that only have enough room for 7 digit plates do?

Area codes will not run out. Not because of mathematical constraints, but because of practical ones.

Once it becomes clear that a new system will be needed, one will be designed. There will not be some sort of super-crisis involving the lack of unused combinations of numbers.

They simply add an extra digit. This happened in the UK about ten-fifteen years ago, when mobile phones were really taking off. Wigan used to have the code 0942, but now it’s 01942. You still see some old business vans driving around with the old area code on them, occassionally.

The UK’s had two major number changes in recent years, the first as Dominic Mulligan describes, the second saw some cities (including London) and all of Northern Ireland get new 02x codes. London also had a split in two prior to any of this, going through the following: 01 - 071/081 - 0171/0181 - 020. the latter has eight following digits rather than seven, making new numbers possible (many people erroneously think the code is 0207 / 0208, but there’s new numbers being released which are 020 3xxx xxxx etc.)

Interesting. In Japan they did something similar, creating two area codes specifically for cell phones and adding an additional digit to cell phone numbers.

Similar in Britain - thins have gradually been standardised to this, from Wikipedia:

I still think there was an appalling lack of foresight going on there. If Dominic Mulligan is amused to see vans in Wigan that still have the old area code, there are shop signs around here that still have the old “01” London area code in the phone number. That’s three code changes out of date, but the signs could have been written as recently as 1990.

Possibly, but I suspect the true story might be a bit different. Making these system-wide changes always involves a lot more complications with the infrastructure than it appears from the outside, and therefore perhaps it simply wouldn’t have been possible to get everything done in one change in 1990. (Bearing in mind that it was mainly the proliferation of second and extra lines for faxes etc. in the preceding years that caused some parts of London to be running short of numbers.)

The other thing - even if the current arrangement was always intended to be the end result, there would perhaps have been all sorts of complications with 02 codes being present in the old and new systems. Complications on a technical level, possibly, but also on a consumer front: with the changes we have had, forgetting and dialling the old number never could connect you to a different line, but would be an unreachable number instead.

Examples: if we had switched from pre-1995 numbers to current ones, somebody dialling the old code for Bodmin (0208) could end up connected to a working London line. Bury St Edmunds (0284) might take you to Co. Down ((028) 437x). Quite apart from the confusion, there’s also the difference in billing for what might become a long distance call.

California plates are issued sequentially. The numbers and letters have nothing to do with location within the state. The plate can give you a very rough indication as to when it was issued, but not more precisely than “Sometime in April, 2005.” With the 1AAA111 format, California is in no danger of running out of numbers. See here for more details.

Phone numbers in the US: Presumably, when the current system overflows available capacity for numbers, we will simply add additional numbers. This used to be a difficult solution with mechanical switching devices, but now that the phone companies are (essentially) all digitalized, that just means a programming change. Probably, they are working on it right now and someone with knowledge of that will show up shortly to say what the proposed solution is.

As to California license plates on cars: There are practical limitations on how many digits you can have on the plate and still have it be readible. However, there is no reason that they cannot move the location of the numbers and letters around. That’s what they did back in about 1970, when they switched the letters and the numbers (used to be LLL NNN, but became NNN LLL, while also switching the color from gold on black to gold on blue). They then ran out of NNN LLL, so they went to the current seven-character system of NLLLNNN. So there isn’t any reason they couldn’t do LNLLNNN, followed by LLNLNNN, etc., and still use only seven characters.

Silenus, there is nothing at that link to suggest they wouldn’t run out of available plates using NLLLNNN. Indeed, since they are already up in the 6LLLNNN range, possibly even the 7’s by now (I think my recent rental was a 6ZLLNNN plate), it’s surely forseeable that they will need to change the system soon.

Also, I don’t know what they are doing now (I’ve not lived in CA for 10 years now), but it used to be that the local DMV offices would get a supply of plates to hand out, and that supply would be sequential. So, if you had, say, 417 AYT (as my mom did in 1972), and you saw another AYT plate, you knew there was a good chance it had issued out of the same office. But there was no rhyme or reason to it; when that office ran out, they simply got the next batch ready to send, which might be BBT or might be BQR.

I think we’ll hit a practical limit on the number of vehicles on the road before we run out of numbers. But an easy modification would be to switch from LNNNLLL to LLLLNNN. Same number of spaces, but a much larger pool to draw from. There will never be any need to go to 8-digit plates on cars. But yeah, a system adjustment might be in the works a ways down the road.

And the local DMV offices still get batchs of plates randomly. But the batches don’t mean anything about location other than branch issued. I could be living in SoCal, and get my plates from the Sacramento office because I was there on business. The plates don’t reflect anything specific, which was what the OP was asking (I think.)

The area codes won’t run out in California till they run out for the entire US (and then some; IIRC its called the North American Numbering Plan). There’s NO set of area codes reserved for the future use of any particular geopolitical area, they go where they’re needed.

The last time there was a potential upcoming shortage, rules about the middle digit were removed. Originally, the middle digit HAD to be a 0 or 1. This is no longer true, and the change opened up a lot more potential area codes, although it also involved a HUGE amount of work on central office switches and switching software. I don’t have access to current projections, as I’m retired, but I don’t think we’re in much danger of running out soon.

As far as calling a different area code 5 miles away, heck, it can happen now. It could happen closer. Just depends on where you are and how area code splits and allocations go in your area.

175,760,000 combinations with 1AAA111 as opposed to 17,576,000 with AAA111. And with the possibility of any registered plate being usable, you get 193,336,000 total combinations plus vanity plates.

If they went 1AAAA11, you’d get another 456,976,000 combinations, but then they’d have to spend a lot of time removing inappropriate words from the possible combinations or format it differently such as AA111AA (you’d still have the possibility for “SH111IT”. :slight_smile:

Back to the original topic, why didn’t they just add a 0 or two onto all of the existing 10 digit phone numbers and leave the familiar area codes intact? Right now in some places, you have to dial 10 digits whether it’s long distance or not (something I never could get used to when I lived in Mississippi for a year).




There are plans to add a digit to area codes and/or phone numbers when the current system is exhausted, currently predicted to happen in 2037.

There’s a lot wrong with the current discussion of California license plates. First, the 1AAA000 series started in 1980, and we’ve already exhausted 1-5; 6AAA___ was issued this summer, and we’re already into the 6AN’s, at least. The entire 5 series was used up in less than two years. At that rate, we’ll exhaust the 9 series in 6-7 years. I have no idea what’s next.

Oh, and we’re not up to 6Z at all (except for commercial plates, which use an entirely different system).

Thank-you, Nametag. :slight_smile: I couldn’t remember if it was 7 or 6 that was broken into, and I do recall being confused by the truck plates using a 6Z at the front at first. :slight_smile: