Know The Code

Take A Number

Only a year after AT&T began offering 888 prefix toll-free numbers, unprecedented demand for toll-free services has prompted the telecom giant to introduce the next toll-free prefix: 877. According to AT&T, more than half a million businesses and government agencies now accept toll-free calls, and an explosion in the number of pagers, cellular phones and fax machines has caused a 50 percent growth rate in the number of toll-free lines in use.

"We never thought so many customers would be installing 888 service," says Tom Angeline, toll-free services manager for AT&T. "While it took 27 years to run out of 800 prefix numbers, it only took two years to start running low on 888 numbers."

The planned introduction of the new toll-free prefix in April gives businesses a chance to get a much sought after "vanity" number. "Every time a prefix opens, it makes available vanity number combinations that were not previously available," Angeline says.

Businesses worried about compatibility issues have nothing to fear, Angeline adds. Phone systems that work with the 888 toll-free prefix won't need any adjustment to handle 877 calls.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Know The Code.

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