Starting in July, new phone numbers in the Metro East could have 730 area code
Metro East and southern Illinois residents could see a new area code starting in July.
The new area code — 730 — will overlay the same geographic area as the existing 618 area code but not change current numbers, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the agency that oversees telecommunications in the state. Residents will still need to dial all 10 digits.
The new area code will be introduced after July 7. But just because it’s available doesn’t necessarily mean it will be rolled out right away, said George Licht, an engineering analyst at the commission.
“It might be months. It might be years before someone sees a 730 telephone number,” Licht said. “And the reason for that is they trickle in based on the need.”
The new area code is needed because southern Illinois is running out of 618 prefixes for the region, which stretches from east to west across the state, beginning just north of the Metro East.
Currently, there are about 50 prefixes' worth of available 618 numbers, Licht said. He expects the first 730 area codes to come from personal cellphones. However, it may take a while to use those remaining prefixes before Illinoisans can expect to see the new number.
“You’re not going to wake up on July 7 and suddenly see 730 numbers everywhere,” Licht said.
A new business in the region also could get the new area code, Licht said. For example, while there are still 618 options, a large organization might request thousands of consecutive phone numbers.
“That's kind of hard to come by in an area code that has been around for 70-plus years,” he said.
So the commission might assign that business 730 numbers instead, Licht said.
Business leaders in the Metro East don’t seem worried about the overlay, said John Keller, president of the Riverbend Growth Association, which is based in Godfrey.
“The new area code, as far as the businesspeople from what I've heard, is kind of a nonevent,” Keller said. “I’ve not heard any discussion about it. I’ve not heard anything derogatory.”
The telecommunications industry saw the need for a new area code a long time ago: In October 2000, Somos Inc., formerly NeuStar, filed a petition for the second southern Illinois area code. The commission approved the 730 area code six years later but “sought to delay implementation for as long as possible,” according to a commission press release.
Licht said new technology allowed the commerce commission and telecommunications providers to use those prefixes more efficiently — so much so that the new area code wasn’t needed until now.
The area code overlay is historic, Licht said. The 618 code is one of the 86 original area codes assigned in the 1940s by Bell Laboratories. While the previous versions of the 618 region did not include Metro East towns like Alton or Godfrey, the region is one of a few area codes that didn’t get divided into smaller territories.
“And that's rare,” he said.