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Second Area Code Coming To San Antonio By 2018

Public Utility Commission of Texas
A map of the current area codes of Texas

San Antonio is about to join the leagues of most other large cities in the country- it’s about to get a new area code and 10-digit dialing.   As part of our on-going Growing Pains project, we take a look at what it will mean when the long familiar 210 area code isn’t the only one assigned to San Antonio. It may be a little like an episode of The Simpsons.

On The Simpsons, Homer has a tough time adjusting when his town of Springfield gets an additional area code. 

“Your call cannot be completed as dialed,” a recorded message says. “Please check the number and make sure you have the correct area code.” This shocks Homer. “Area code?! But it’s a local call,” he responds. Marge then tells him the Springfield phone company ran out of numbers and is issuing a second one.

Terry Hadley, with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, says that’s exactly what’s happening in San Antonio.

“With continued growth in homes, businesses and the explosion of mobile phones eventually new area codes are needed and it’s getting time for one in San Antonio,” Hadley said.

The Alamo City is expected to grow by another one million residents by 2050 and San Antonio will exhaust the 210 area code in 2018. That doesn’t mean we’ll lose the 210, just add an additional area code for new phones.

Hadley says what won’t happen is what’s known as a geographic split.

“Which in essence would be dividing Bexar County into two separate area codes,” he added. "That has proven to be more cumbersome.”

Homer Simpson knows what that’s all about. When part of Springfield got a new area code it decided to become an entirely separate city.

“There! We’re officially a city. Now we just sit back and wait for an NFL franchise!”

We may not get a football team out of it either, but what San Antonio will get is an overlay, a second area code for the same area. It’s the same system Dallas, Austin, Houston and many other major cities use. It’s a

Credit Public Utility Commission of Texas
Public Utility Commission of Texas
The blue portion of this map shows the boundaries of the 210 area code

change that’s welcomed by Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez.

“We’re the last major city in Texas that does not have two area codes and so I think it’s a sign of the times in our growth and opportunity to continue to grow,” Perez says.

New homes, cell phones,  or business numbers would be assigned the new three digit area code. The numbers haven’t been assigned yet.

San Antonio’s District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez sits on the city’s Transportation, Technology and Utilities Committee. He’s also worked for AT&T in the past.

Lopez says everyone in the area would be required to dial 10 numbers instead of the seven they now dial on land lines.

“It will require additional numbers to be dialed so there will be some discomfort and that’s probably the downside to growth, to prosperity, our community is in a prosperous position,” he added.

Ten-digit dialing is already familiar to cell phone users like Lilly Stefanaic who moved to San Antonio two years ago.

“Any time I’m asked for a phone number, they don’t even say area code first, you just know automatically to say what you area code is and give the full number,” she said. “I don’t see it as a big deal, I just see it as welcome to 2016.”

On the other hand, Joyce Jefferson has lived here since the 1960s and isn’t crazy about dialing extra numbers.

“In Dallas it’s the same way, you can’t just dial the number, you have to dial the area code and I didn’t like that,” Jefferson said.

Leah Chapa, says her mentally challenged son recently learned how to dial phone numbers and 10-digit dialing could be tough.

“Teaching him that other people might have a different area code now, we have to train him on that, that presents a problem for people with special needs,” she said.

The 210 area code also has cultural meaning for a lot of San Antonians. It’s in the names of businesses, people have it as tattoos, and it’s in artwork. Chris Hutchinson, a San Antonio native says the numbers 210 represents the city.

“You think of other area codes, California, special area codes in Houston, Dallas, it represents the area and the people,” Hutchinson said. “I think when people hear 210 they think of culture, downtown, Tower of the Americas, the streets... everything.”

Longtime residents remember when San Antonio shared the 512 area code with Austin.  It was assigned 210 in 1992  and will have been the Alamo City’s only area code for about 26 years when we get a another one in 2018.  The organization that will assign the second area code predicts San Antonio will have two for another 33 years before growth will require yet a third area code for the community.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules