When it comes to area codes, 416 is as Toronto as it gets. However, for most people, it is a mystery how these TDoT numbers came to be.
This triple-digit area code has become permanently engrained in the city’s cultural fabric, which is why it still expensive to get a phone number these days that begins with the area code 416.
Despite the impact that the area code has had, you will find that it completely and anticlimactically arbitrary once it is traced back to its origins.
Creation of the 416 area code
In 1947, NANPA (the North American Numbering Plan Administration) – a system that governs 20 North American and Caribbean numbering plan areas – introduced 86 initial area codes.
AT&T assigned nine of those codes to Canada and divided those up across the country between NANP areas.
In Ontario that included 613 and 416, with 416 going to a majority of the Golden Horseshoe region and Toronto, and 613 assigned to eastern Ontario and Ottawa.
The codes that remained were assigned to the provinces. All of Labrador, Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick was entirely represented by 902.
A couple of years later, numbers in Toronto for direct distance calling were expanded to seven numbers to replace the previous six-digit format of the named exchanges.
According to Program Manager Kelly Walsh from the Canadian Numbering Administrator (CNA), the numbers didn’t have any rhyme or reason to them.
The only requirement that NANPA numbers had was that the set’s second digit had to be either a one or a zero. So Toronto could have been assigned 204 (the area code of Manitoba) instead of its beloved 416.
Since that time all of the subsequence area codes assigned to Toronto have been just as arbitrary although they are from a pool of numbers that the NANPA allotted as future geographic codes for Canada.
Walsh says that there are only 17 remaining area code numbers in the pool. That doesn’t seem like very many when you consider how widespread cellphone usage is these days.
During the early part of the 20th century, the sections of the Toronto area code that were outside of Toronto’s city limits were separated and the area code 905 was formed. Later, some labeling was produced between owners of area code 416 and new area code owners. At times, those living in the city of Toronto were called 416ers, while those living outside of the city limits were referred to as 905ers.
Many changes have occurred in the Toronto area code due to the consumption rate of phone numbers by the local residents. Because Toronto is the Ontario area’s center of business, it also has the fastest exhaustion rate of phone numbers. An overlay area code was also used as an alternative option to supplement the supply of phone numbers. The area code overlay for the Toronto area is 647. It was initiated in 2001. During the latter part of 2005, after the 416 area code had been exhausted, it became the official area code of Toronto. Since no other area codes are available any longer, new mobile phone users and phone owners are given the 647 area code.
The Toronto area requires using the 10-digit dialing system. That involves dialing the area code of a local number in Toronto. The system is more relevant for dialing on long-distance calls using an area code is also required to be used. People calling local Toronto numbers have an extra dialing requirement now. The 10-digit dialing systems make it harder for callers to phone places with area code overlays. The Toronto area is a good example since there are two area codes that are used and callers must input not only the right local Toronto numbers but also the area code that corresponds to it.
Are there any remaining 416 numbers?
Not unless they are reused.
There have been no new 416 numbers assigned since 2006, however, the area code needed relief for decades before that time.
The area code at this point is basically more just a status symbol and can command a premium for those businesses that would like to have a legacy 416 number to appear to be well-established. Pizza Pizza actually trademarked its phone number so it wouldn’t lose its iconic jingle – which is an anthem of Toronto.
CNA has the responsibility to participate within and chair the relief planning committees. Their job is planning ahead for those area codes that are about to be exhausted.
Which area codes are used in Toronto now?
That window has been entered by 415 several times. It was actually 1953 when a new area code was first introduced to provide the overburdened area code with some relief when the 519 area code arrived in southwestern Ontario to divide up parts of 613 and 416.
The 416 area code was almost completely exhausted by the 1980s, due to the proliferation of pagers, fax machines, and cell phones.
In 1993 another notable split occurred when the 905 area code was introduced. It later came to represent the GTA’s outer suburbs (which was a social demarcation between the cooler-than-thous 416ers and the suburbs).
The 416 area code was almost completely exhausted another five years later, which promoted the first overlay code in Canada in 2001, which was the 647 code (for those nomadic types such as voice over IP and cellphones which meant that in Toronto ten-digit dialing became mandatory.
Both of those numbers had almost reached total exhaustion once again by 2013, which resulted in the 437 overlay code being introduced to join the 647 and 416 codes.
The 2018 NANPA Exhaust Projections estimated that the 427, 647, and 416 area codes will all be exhausted by the year 2027.
Next on the list of new area codes for Toronto area 942 and 387. There is a lot of ring to them. However, they are simply phone numbers after all.