San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Phone Switcheroo Off to Good Start

Telephone callers might be getting an earful of a certain woman’s voice right now. The Spanish recording reminds dialers who forget to add an extra digit that they need to add a “2” to the beginning of landline phone numbers and an “8” before cell phone numbers.

The eight-digit initiative went into effect at midnight on March 20.

Other than some initial delays in receiving text messages, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) called the nationwide changeover a success.

“It went very well… with very few, isolated problems. The change was a success,” said ICE spokesman, Elbert Durán.

Telephone lines in Costa Rica number some 3 million, including cell phone lines (TT,March 7).

These new digits are supposed to meet demand for the next 30 years, though the last increase from six to seven digits in 1994, was meant to be good till 2034.

Costa Rica seems to have joined a regional trend. Guatemala bumped to eight digits in 2004 and El Salvador made the increase in 2006, while Panama uses the extra digit solely for cell phones.

The institute invested more than $8 million to complete the phone number modification, which is to increase the capacity of the telephone system to 90 million numbers, according to the daily La Nación. An additional $1.3 million was spent on advertising the change both inside the country and abroad.

Beyond reprogramming cell phone directories and changing business cards or advertisements, the new digit may have other implications.

For example, private home security systems that dial out need to be reprogrammed with the new phone numbers.


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