By the end of the year, San Jose will be getting a new area code, 669, in addition to 408. The question is whether the split will be geographical, as it was in 1998, or whether there will be an overlay, so that two adjacent homes could have two separate area codes. The California Public Utilities Commission will be holding public hearings this month before deciding which strategy to adopt.

“It seems like every man, woman, and baby has a cell phone now,” says John Manning, and he doesn’t just mean the eTrade baby either.

Manning is the Senior Director of NANPA, the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which monitors numbering resources throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. The organization keeps track of phone numbers to determine which phone numbers are used up, and suggest which cities need new areas codes. According to NANPA, San Jose, with a population of roughly 1 million, has 8 million phone numbers allocated to it, thanks in part to the proliferation of cell phones. It’s really simple math. A family of four can easily have eight phone numbers today. Each person has a cell phone, the family has two landlines at home, and both parents have numbers at work. Add to that the number of large businesses and institutions which take over a block of numbers (often distributed in chunks of 1,000), and the number of available phone numbers diminishes.

San Jose was originally part of the 415 area code, which now serves San Francisco. It was given its own code, 408, in 1959. Santa Cruz and Monterey were split off from it in 1998 and given 831. Now we’re about to see another split, with a new area code, 669. The split should occur by the end of the year.

The question is whether the split will be geographical, as it was in 1998, or whether there will be an overlay, so that two adjacent homes could have two separate area codes. In that case, new 669 numbers would be given to new phone subscribers. The California Public Utilities Commission is charged with deciding which strategy to adopt. It will be holding public hearings in San Jose on Mar. 16, and in Los Gatos and Morgan Hill on Mar. 17 and 18, respectively.

Read More at The Mercury News.