Image copyright Getty Images Image caption In Scotland, the area code starts with the letter K and rolls backwards
Thirty-five US states are introducing so-called area codes – designated geographic areas where telephone numbers can only be assigned to one phone after registering with the phone company, forcing many callers to dial out of order.
These included Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin, among others.
“This is a very positive step,” National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Larry Strickling said.
He described the move as “groundbreaking”.
“The rollout will help ensure that Americans’ communications networks are interoperable and will benefit from increased cost savings for consumers over time,” he said.
According to the NTIA, it will be the “first phase” and will be expanded over the next seven years.
This is also an opportunity for the US government to sell more spectrum that has become spare because of this new technology, according to the agency.
Every decade or so, the telephone companies will introduce new technology that allows calling to continue using the telephone or cellular network on US airwaves that are already allocated.
This means telephone numbers can be assigned to new phones after phone number registrations have been done. This is called a “reservation”.
Some of the number registration requirements are already in place, but some have not yet been met.
In some cases, such as in Canada and other countries where each country uses country-specific prefixes to identify its number, the people in a particular country could not dial a certain area code even though the number they wanted was available to them.
To change your area code, you have to give three working phone numbers to the phone company – which can include a personal phone number – and the amount of call-receiving capacity for that phone.
You have another option, should your business decide you need a number associated with a business region.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption This graphic from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) shows how the number districts stack up
Any prefix corresponding to that number can be added to your phone number, but that isn’t a free-for-all.
You can choose not to receive any prefix, with the system determining which prefix the telephone carrier uses when you pick up a call.
If you do not choose a prefix, your telephone number will continue to be in the same area code as before, for example, 303 in Denver.
The entire process is irreversible, so you can’t ask for a new area code.
Google, on its verified mailing list, said that it would like to see more smart phones with NFC (near field communication) near-field communications readers included so that a smartphone could quickly transfer contact information to an NFC-equipped phone.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which represents wireless technology companies, has issued a challenge to the industry to create a Bluetooth button that can quickly send or receive information.
“We think this is a breakthrough technology. Bluetooth buttons can do things phones can’t do very quickly,” said Frank Mazzola, principal patent attorney at Pinsent Masons and co-chair of the Bluetooth SIG’s patent licensing policy steering committee.
At a major CTIA trade show in July, I talked to manufacturers who were looking at Bluetooth buttons. There was much talk about how these buttons could be used for music and for business cards, but there were no products to show off.
At the time, I asked CTIA the question: “Can these buttons work for citizens in Kentucky, and not just the tech and aviation industries?”
A CTIA representative acknowledged that there was a big issue with consumer awareness. But they also stated that there was an industry push to improve that, and that they wanted to be seen in a good light by US residents.