Ten-digit dialing presents problems, opportunity for Utah companies

Thursday, April 2, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY--Northern Utah followed through on March 1 with a previously announced plan to overlay a new zip code, 385, on the counties served by current area code 801. The plan, a response to the recent growth in Utah residents, telecommunications service providers, and available telecommunications products, was announced in July of 2007 for a 2009 start. On the first day of March, Utah residents in the counties of Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Morgan were faced with mandatory 10-digit dialing for all landline and mobile calls. Calls made with only seven digits did not get through.

Alarm companies with accounts in Northern Utah are now faced with the burden of reprogramming hundreds or perhaps thousands of alarm panels.

However, Salt Lake City-based Peak Alarm president Rick Howe purports if one was prepared and proactive, the mandatory switch to 10-digit dialing was manageable. "When we found out two years ago that they were going to eventually do an overlay, we put together a pretty aggressive plan to go out and actually start reprogramming all those customers to 10-digit dialing," Howe said. "We've probably done 5,000, maybe 4,500 service calls going out over the last two years. Basically three guys a day for two years ... It's been a headache, but we've managed to absorb most of the cost ... I do feel sorry for anyone who wasn't prepared for this."

Jacob Nielson, head of corporate communications for Provo, Utah-based Platinum Protection said the switch to 10-digit dialing had little impact. "We haven't had a problem dialing out from the panel and it sending signals because they were all dialing 10 digits already, toll free. It worked really well," Nielson said. "We don't actually do the monitoring, though."

Scott Rich, vice president of information technology at Ogden, Utah-based Avantguard Monitoring Centers, said there were a few issues. "The thing that caused the biggest problem was that it wasn't a light switch. It took about 24 hours," Rich said. "There were some issues on the carrier side. Any time you make a big change, all the carriers have to make that change through all their central offices. We did have a few issues. But all in all it actually went fairly smoothly."

Howe also noted the switch has led to varying levels of business opportunity. "I have heard through the grapevine that some of my competitors--some of the national guys--didn't know, weren't on top of things, or didn't address the issue. I've heard thousands and thousands of their alarms aren't working," Howe said. "What's happening is I'm actually getting their clients calling me, switching over right now ... So we can turn a negative into a positive."

Howe also took the opportunity all those service calls afforded him to reinforce his brand. "With all these service calls we turned it into a little bit of a PR thing. While we were out, we replaced yard signs, replaced decals, and got some new business. People would say, 'You know we wanted to add a new motion sensor, how much would that be?' And our tech was right there."