Staff writer

At 2 a.m. this morning, the telecommunications industry followed through on a New Year’s resolution that will affect users and callers of cellular phones or personal handy-phone systems nationwide.

To accommodate the ever-growing pool of portable phone users, cellular and PHS phone numbers have been expanded from 10 to 11 digits. All cellular phone numbers now begin with the prefix 090, followed by the second digit of the original phone number and its seven final digits. For example, the number 040-555-5555, would become 090-4555-5555.

PHS numbers have been changed in a similar fashion, and now begin with 070 followed by the second digit of the previous phone number, then its original final seven digits.

So to ring in the New Year, users — estimated at 44 million — will need to reprogram their telephones. Phone companies began offering various reprogramming services Thursday. Varying by company, these services are available at convenience stores around the nation.

“I just want to get it out of the way. I am not going to use it today anyway,” said Minoru Aihara, a middle-aged cellular phone user who was among the conversion early birds Thursday morning at a Seven-Eleven store in Shinagawa Ward. Because of the early change, her phone would be inoperable until 2 a.m. the next day.

Tuka Cellular Tokyo is offering free conversions at Seven-Eleven stores in the Kanto region and Shizuoka, and NTT Mobile Communication Inc. (NTT DoCoMo) phones can be converted at stores around the nation until Jan. 17.

Nippon IDO Tsushin Corp began offering the service at its IDO Plaza outlets and service centers in mid-December, and is reprogramming its phones free of charge at 19 sites, near temples and train stations, in the Tokyo area today and Jan. 2.

The shift to an 11-digit phone number system will initially allow for the creation of around 80 million PHS and cellular phone lines and ultimately permit the additional creation of several hundred million numbers.

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