Vancouver gets 10-digit dialing

People making local calls in B.C.'s Lower Mainland must now add 604 area code.

People living in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are now being asked to punch in 10 numbers to make local phone calls.

The phone company introduced a new system Saturday that prompts callers in the Vancouver area to add the 604 area code.

If they forget, their calls will be interrupted by a recorded message that reminds them to add the extra numbers next time.

Ten-digit dialing becomes mandatory on Nov. 3, when a second area code, 778, will be introduced in the Lower Mainland.

The problem is caused by the rapid expansion in North America's telecommunications industry. Cell phones, pagers and Internet dial-ups are using up all available numbers.

Callers in the Toronto area have been making 10-digit local calls since January.

Drew McArthur, a telecommunications industry specialist, says the demand for new numbers will only get worse.

"The next big change in the telecommunications industry, that could potentially be larger than Y2K, is North America running out of 10-digit numbers in the next five to 15 years," he says.