Maine is expected to continue doling out 207 area codes until September of 2032 — three and a half years longer than was previously expected — according to a press release published today by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (Maine PUC).
Earlier this year in April, the Maine PUC announced that Maine would likely need to roll out a second area code for the state beginning as soon as 2029.
Although only about 38% of telephone numbering resources are currently in use, the state is in danger of running out of 207 numbers in the near future as a result of the way numbers have been distributed to providers.
“This is one of the longest extensions of our exhaust date since we began our work to preserve Maine’s single area code,” said Chair Philip L. Bartlett II in today’s press release.
“Our staff has looked at a number of practices that have impacted the rate at which our numbers were being tied up,” Bartlett said, “including forecasting and block request practices, curbing the use of numbering resources by robocallers, and encouraging providers to work collaboratively.”
“We believe that our continued efforts to ensure numbers are used in the most efficient manner possible could extend the life of Maines single area code out until the 2050s,” Bartlett stated.
At the beginning of 2021, the Maine PUC estimated that Maine could run out of 207 numbers by 2025. Today’s extension marks a roughly seven year increase in the 207 area code’s lifespan.
Mainers are not the only ones facing a phone number shortage, however. In fact, the entire North American Numbering System could run out of area codes as soon as 2051.
There are approximately 5 billion phone number combinations available under the current 10-digit system, and roughly half of those have already been assigned.
According to a report published in 2016 by the Alliance For Telecommunications Industry Solutions, phone numbers may eventually need to have two additional digits — a solution that would add about 640 billion combinations.
That said, anything that is currently formatted to accept 10-digit phone numbers would need to be reconfigured to accept those comprised of twelve.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has estimated that this switch over could end up costing as much as $270 billion.
Others have suggested that by the time all potential 10-digit numbers have been exhausted, phone numbers as we know them today may already be obsolete altogether, ultimately being replaced by identifiers akin to IP addresses or domain names.
Currently, services utilizing a technology known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) — popularized by providers such as Google Voice — allows individuals to make phone calls via an internet connection as opposed to telephone lines.
That said, the eventual elimination of traditional phone numbers is purely hypothetical at this point and is not likely to become a reality for many decades given how ingrained phone numbers have become in today’s world.
The FCC’s phone number conservation efforts — which first launched in early 2021 — have to date resulted in the return of approximately 750,000 combinations to the numbering poll.
In 2023, Maine is one of only eleven states to still be serviced by a single area code.