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NANP changes affect call accounting.

The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) went into effect Jan. 1. The changes mean quite a lot to call accounting users. The creation of the NANP in 1947 established 152 geographic and non-geographic area codes for telephone numbers. Complete exhaustion of these original area codes is rapidly taking place. Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), the NANP administrator, has designed a new numbering plan to address this current exhaustion threat.

The changes will force modification to all call accounting systems.

Interchangeable area codes are the basis for the new numbering plan. Since the introduction of Direct Distance Dialing (DDD) in November 1951, telephone numbers have used the format N0/1X-NNX-XXXX where N is any digit two through nine and X is any digit. N0/1X is commonly known as an area code or the numbering plan area (NPA); NNX is the central office code, prefix or exchange; and XXXX is the subscriber number.

Interchangeable area codes will extend the number of possible area codes from 152 to 792 by allowing the second digit to be any number between zero and nine as opposed to only zero or one.

The new plan uses interchangeable central office codes. They will allow the second digit in an exchange to be any number between zero and nine as opposed to two through nine. The change will increase the number of possible central office codes within a given area code from 640 to 792. For call accounting systems, area codes and central office codes will appear identical.

The NANP advocates the use of a prefix method to solve ambiguity problems between seven- and 10-digit calls. Under this method, the use of 1+ and 0+ for seven-digit calls will be discontinued and callers will need to dial 1 for all 10-digit numbers. Calls within the home area code must be dialed as either seven-digit or 1+ 10-digit numbers.

Various individual telephone companies are making the conversion to 1+ ten-digit dialing within Inter-LATAs. Call accounting systems that lack the ability to determine Intra-LATA long-distance calls from Intra-LATA local calls had to be changed prior to the NANP implementation date.

Other proposed changes include international dialing increasing from a maximum of 12 to 15 digits; overlays for new area codes; and long-distance equal access dialing changing from 10XXX to 101XXX.

Call accounting blues

Based on the NANP changes, the biggest challenge facing call accounting systems will be distinguishing area codes from exchanges. The call accounting process is based upon analysis of dialed digits for rating or identifying exceptional calls, measuring traffic patterns, producing reports plus other fuctions.

Systems using database lookup techniques that rely on a maximum of 160 area codes, with the middle digit represented either as zero or one, must be entirely rewritten or face the danger of becoming obsolete.

Why did the majority of call accounting companies use 0 or 1 in the second digit as the primary branching decision in their software of firmware?

Prior to improvements in speed and storage versus cost performance of computers, the size and speed of call accounting systems depended upon decisions to hardcode easily-made decisions such as always finding a 0 or 1 as the middle digit in an area code.

The odds are greater that older, less flexible call accounting systems will require an entire system changeout or a fork-lift upgrade where the system is actually changed under the guise of an upgrade. For call accounting users, changeouts or upgrades usually require as much work as installation of a new system.

Even as early as this month, call accounting users will need NANP-compliant systems to support new interchangeable area codes. On Jan. 15, Alabama's over-used 205 area code will split into two area codes. The original area code will continue to serve the metropolitan area with the most customers while the new code, 334, will serve the region outside the metropolitan center.

Washington's 206 area code is also scheduled to split into 360 on Jan. 15 and Arizona follows suit with 602 and 520 on March 19. While the old original area codes will be recognized for several months, businesses need their call accounting systems to collect and cost calls accurately from day one.

Looking ahead

It seems most users are looking to their call accounting vendors to provide NANP-compliant software. Pamela Barnes, senior telecommunications analyst for Armour Swift-Eckrich in Downers Grove, Ill., says, "The changes will be transparent to the company, but I'll be responsible for making sure that our employees can still dial telephone numbers. From what I've learned about the NANP, I know I'll have to spend hours reprogramming our switch. I haven't really thought about call accounting. We use Xiox and I have been assured they will take care of updating their system."

While most call accounting users are content to wait for vendor upgrades, users like Terry Wedmore are already using NANP-like functionality.

Wedmore, director of safety services and communications for North Iowa Mercy Health Center in Mason City, Iowa, doesn't think the new NANP policy will have much effect on his telecomm operations.

"We currently insert area codes and force the system to bypass them. Our NEC 2400 outputs the information and our Xiox call accounting system picks it up. I don't expect any changes for our users," Wedmore says.
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:North American Numbering Plan
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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