|The Big Number - your questions answered|
Q. What number changes are being made to area codes?
A. If you are in the following code areas your code and phone number changed on 22 April 2000:
The table below sets out which area code numbers have changed and when, and what your number is now:
You now dial the whole new number or the new 8 digit local number. For example, you can call the Oftel switchboard by dialling (020) 7634 8700 or call us locally on 7634 8700 if you live in London.
A. If you have a mobile or pager that does not start with 07, your number will change by 28 April 2001. The new numbers can be used now.
The table below sets out which mobile and pager numbers will change and when, and what your number will become:
numbers starting 01399 0xxxxx to be discontinued by 28 April 2001.
Q. What other number changes are being made?
A. Numbers in the following ranges (mainly used by businesses) will also change by 28 April 2001. The new numbers can be used now.
The table below sets out which local and national rate numbers will change and when, and what your number will become. For Premium Rate Numbers you should seek advice from your Operator or Service Provider.
Q. Why have numbers changed again?
A. Very simply because of the explosive growth in demand. There has been a huge growth in telecommunications businesses want multiple lines not just for phones but also for faxes and access to the Internet. People are increasingly having more than one telephone line in their home for their PC, maybe another for a fax and new services are being offered which involve different numbers for individual members of the family. And there has been a huge growth in mobiles millions of people now have a mobile phone.
The result is that we were running out of numbers. The areas at greatest risk were London, Coventry, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Southampton and parts of Northern Ireland including Belfast.
While we know that no-one likes changing their number, Oftel needs to ensure sufficient numbers are available, otherwise the development of the Information Society in the UK could be delayed.
The PhONEday changes in 1995 provided a pool of 9 billion numbers providing the building blocks for a new, clearer, UK Numbering Scheme. By moving all Area Codes behind the digits 01, we freed up 02 through to 09 to use for other services (like mobile phone numbers) and plenty of reserve numbers for the future. The Big Number changes are about how these new codes are used to construct a new numbering scheme which best meets the publics requirements and which will last us well into the future. It looks like this.
Q. Why didnt you make all these changes at the same time as PhONEday?
A. Number changes have to be made in stages. This allows callers to the "old" number to receive recorded announcements telling them that the number has changed and reduces the amount of misdialled calls. So for example 0900 was the code for Workington until PhONEday in 1995 when it changed to 01900. Between 1995 to 1997 callers dialling 0900 received a message telling them to redial adding a "1". After this period of "sterilisation" 0900 has now been reintroduced as a new Premium Rate Services code.
Q. Why has London changed its number 3 times in 10 years?
A. Londons 01 code was on the verge of running out of local numbers in the late 1980s so the capacity was doubled in 1990 by splitting the area into two inner/outer London, using the codes 071 and 081. Calls to the 01 code received a recorded "changed number" announcement until PhONEday in 1995 when all Area Codes moved behind 01 changing London codes to 0171 & 0181. This didnt give London any extra numbers at all. What PhONEday did was to create a huge pool of unused numbers - 02 to 09 - an extra 8 billion numbers for use for other services. The original doubling of London capacity in 1990 has only lasted 10 years due to the massive demand for telecoms services in the capital. The new 020 code for London provides five times as many numbers again (10 x the amount of London numbers which existed prior to the 1990 changes) will also enable local dialling across the whole London area.
Q. What assurance can you give that there will be no more changes in London or elsewhere?
A. A study carried out for Oftel in 1996 concluded that London would need, at most, 30 million numbers to meet likely demand up to 2012. These changes will provide an extra 64 million numbers which, when added to the current 16 million numbers, makes 80 million in all. PhONEday created millions of new numbers to ensure that those other cities or areas undergoing a code change have sufficient numbers for the foreseeable future.
Q. Didnt Oftel say that there would be no more number changes?
A. This statement was made in the context of proposals at the time for using new codes to run alongside existing codes. In other words instead of having just one code for a particular city or area there would be two or more codes. So for example when 0171 ran out of capacity, a new code 025 was proposed to be used in the same area to meet demand for new numbers. While this would have meant customers would keep their telephone numbers, it would ultimately have led to the end of local dialling and there could be 2 different codes for houses in the same street or even for two lines in the same house. Oftels public consultation showed consumers opposed this - they wanted to keep local dialling and felt that two codes for the same place would be more confusing.
Q. Did Oftel consult people about these changes?
A. Yes we did - both nationally and in local areas affected by number changes. In fact we have been consulting with people since the late 1980s about the future of our telephone numbers. In the mid-1990s, when key decisions needed to be made, we issued documents for public consultation every year from 1993 to 1996 and this has determined the shape of the new telephone numbering scheme. Each of these received widespread media coverage and we received input from a wide range of telecoms users - telephone companies, consumer groups, businesses and a number of individual telephone customers.
Q. What is my new number?
A. Click here to go back to the tables Remember, that if your fixed line number is changing, you now have an 8-digit local number.
Q. What will happen after 22 April 2000? What if I continue to use the old number?
A. If you just dial the old local number you will receive either an announcement or the number unobtainable tone. If you dial the old code and number you will still get through for a few months, after which you will receive an announcement. The old codes and numbering will be phased out as follows:
05 August 2000
Q. What should I do now?
A. If you still need to change your stationery we recommend you do it now. When ordering new stationery make sure you set out your new fixed line phone number correctly like this (02X) XXXX XXXX. Mobile numbers can be set out 07XXX XXXXXX.
Dont forget to change any numbers you still have programmed into your phones or fax machine etc and update address books and phone indexes. New mobile numbers can be used now.
Q Why are the mobile numbers of callers on my mobile phone display screen still the old numbers?
A. The old mobile numbers still work if the whole telephone number is dialled so the information supplied is still accurate. The old mobile numbers will gradually disappear and will be replaced by the new mobile numbers by the end of parallel running ie 28 April 2001.
Q. When I dial 1471 or look at my phone display screen, the service returns an unconventional format. Why is this?
A. We are concerned about this and wish to see numbers presented in a way which is consistent with recommended formats. We are discussing with phone companies the possibility of improving presentation.
Q. What should I do if I didn't make any arrangements before 22 April 2000?
A. Ring 0808 22 4 2000 for more information.
Check whether any of your phone numbers (your normal fixed line numbers, your mobile & pager numbers or any special service number you may have) has or is changing. [Click here tables] to check this.
If any of your numbers have/are changing you need to change any stationery, adverts, signage etc to make sure your contacts and customers can continue to call you. When ordering new stationery or changing signage make sure you set out your new fixed line number correctly like this (02X) XXXX XXXX.
Whether your number is changing or not you will need to make sure that you change any records you have of other peoples numbers which have changed. Dont forget to change any numbers you have programmed into your phone or fax machine etc. If you have more complex telecoms equipment get a reputable maintainer to make sure it is properly re-programmed. New mobile numbers can be used now.
Q. What about costs? Will Oftel pay compensation?
A. No public money is available to compensate customers for the costs incurred by the changes. Obviously Oftel does not like extra costs falling on business. However to minimise inconvenience and disruption Oftel follows, where possible, three principles.
These steps should allow time for customers, particularly businesses, to plan for changes to their livery, signage, stationery etc.
Q. What is going to happen and when?
A. If you have a mobile phone number which starts with 07 then you need take no action. If your mobile phone number does not start with 07, your number will change by 28 April 2001.
Q. How do I find out my new number?
A. Go back to mobile table (click here) or phone your phone operatorto find out. You can use this new number now.
Q. When will the changeover be?
A. People will be able to make calls to you using your new number now. Your old number will last until 28 April 2001.
Q. What happens if I want to keep my mobile number and change my supplier?
A. If your mobile number doesnt begin with 07 it will change no matter what. If you are thinking about changing your mobile phone supplier check whether your existing mobile number is going to change if it is, then you will need to make your own mind up over whether you want to keep your old number or not. It may be cheaper to simply have a completely new number its up to you.
Q. Do I have to get a new handset so that the new number will work?
Q. If I buy a mobile phone now will I have to change the number next year?
A. No because all mobile phones should be sold with a new 07 number. However there may be old stock still around, so if you are going to buy one, make sure it comes with a new 07 number otherwise it will change.
Q. Southampton and Portsmouth will have the same code - 023. After 22 April 2000 will I be able to call between Southampton and Portsmouth by dialling just the 8-digit local number, without the new code.
A. Yes. You can
now call from Southampton to Portsmouth by dialling the new Portsmouth
local number 92XX XXXX. Similarly, from Portsmouth you can call Southampton
numbers by dialling 80XX XXXX.
Q. Can I dial just the new 8 digit local number across the whole of Northern Ireland?
A. The is to introduce local dialling across Northern Ireland from 16 September 2000. The phone companies will be carrying out technical checks, which may mean that local dialling across the old code areas will work earlier than 16 September. However, we recommend that you dial the new (028) code and new 8 digit local number to make sure you get through.
Q. Does this mean that the calls will be charged at local rates?
A. No the number changes themselves have nothing to do with call charge arrangements. It is a matter for those telephone companies with customers in these cities to decide what tariffs they wish to charge. There has never been a direct connection between local call charges and local dialling. Local call charges cover home and adjacent areas (BT) whereas local dialling only works within an area code boundary. Some telephone companies now have no 'distance related' charging at all (eg NTL) but do allow local dialling.
Q. How does changing the Area Codes create more numbers?
A. Because the local number is being made longer. For example, the London number (0181) 604 5678 (7 digit local number) becomes (020) 8604 5678 (8 digit local number). This means that extra new local numbers for London can now begin with a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 9. These changes create over 60 million new telephone numbers for London more than enough for the foreseeable future. The same principle applies to the other cities and areas undergoing a code and number change.
Q. Why couldn't we locally dial both the old and new local numbers in London?
A. The answer is best explained by using an example. Take the telephone number (0181) 604 5678. This will change to (020) 8604 5678. Until the 22 April 2000 local calls can only be made using the "old" local number - 604 5678. After 22 April 2000 only the new local number can be used - 8604 5678. If you tried to dial the new local number before 22 April 2000 telephone networks will think you are dialling 860 4567. This may be a "live" number and misdialling may occur.
Q. What about local dialling both the old and new local numbers in other number change areas like Southampton, Portsmouth, Coventry, Cardiff and Northern Ireland?
A. The same rule applies.
Q. How should the new numbers be set out on letterheads etc?
A. Numbers should be set out like this.
The new 02 numbers should be set out as (02X) XXXX XXXX and, if you want to present your number for people to call you from overseas, it should be set out +44 2X XXXX XXXX.
Mobile, pager and personal numbers are usually set out as 07XXX XXXXXX.
Q. What is being done to tell people about the changes?
A. A publicity campaign ran since the beginning of 1998. The campaign used a wide range of marketing techniques TV, Radio, National & Local Press and was supported by a Free National Helpline; a website www.numberchange.org and various pieces of literature.
Q. Who is responsible for this?
A. Oftel has brought together all the telephone companies and asked them to run a three year publicity campaign. Oftel is closely involved in this but the campaign is actually managed by the telephone companies.
Q. How much is being spent on publicity?
A. The telephone companies have put together a total of over £20 million to fund a national publicity campaign to tell everyone about the changes.
Q. Will there be any more changes?
A. Although the number changes has created a huge pool of numbers for different services, there will still need to be changes to individual towns and cities when they are in danger of running out of numbers. These places will get a new area code and local telephone number. Oftel will give at least 3 years notice of these changes wherever practical. For example in 1996 we announced probable changes to the following areas by 2005 because they are likely to run out of telephone numbers before then.
Oftels policy is to monitor very closely the amount of telephone numbers left but to make the changes only when it is necessary. This means we give as much notice as possible and the inconvenience associated with number changes is delayed as long as possible there is little point in making the changes if they are not yet necessary.
Q. How long do you think these latest changes will last?
A. The Scheme as a whole has huge amounts of spare capacity which will last for the foreseeable future. For example the codes 03, 04 and 06 each holds a billion numbers and they are all reserved for future use. Uses of telecommunications and electronic mail continue to expand. The huge spare number capacity is available to meet future demands for numbers.
Q. Whats happening to freephone numbers?
A. No changes are being made to freephone numbers.
Q. Who owns numbers?
A. They belong to the nation and are managed by Oftel. Oftel allocates numbers to telephone companies who in turn allocate numbers to customers. When customers are allocated a telephone number they have freedom to use that number as they wish subject to certain conditions usually set out in service contracts. Oftel believes in giving customers as much freedom as possible over telephone numbers and the ability to change telephone company whilst keeping the same number is a good example of this.
Q. What about telephone directories when will they be updated?
A. Telephone directories are updated every 18 months. They have already started being updated so the next one you receive, should have the new numbers in it.
Q. Are other countries facing similar problems in needing to change numbers
A. A lot of Western countries have changed their numbering scheme in the last 5 years, for example France, Spain, Italy, Denmark and The Netherlands. USA and Canada have continual splits of codes, (like the Inner/Outer London change of 1990) and a complete revamp is scheduled for early in the Millennium in USA. Also Hong Kong, Australia and Brazil in the Southern Hemisphere have relatively new numbering schemes.
Q. My overseas friends say that the new codes are not being recognised. What is wrong?
A. Nothing is wrong, parallel running is a buffer period intended to give UK and overseas Operators the time to introduce the new codes.
UK Operators and Government are putting considerable effort into briefing overseas countries to make the necessary changes to their networks, but this message doesn't always get to the overseas consumer. You can play a part in this in advising your overseas contacts to make the changes before parallel running ends (in Autumn 2000). If they find the new number doesnt work, they should report it to their Operator as every jog of the memory helps.