People living in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch will soon have to dial the 01202 area code to make a local call, Ofcom confirmed today.
Ofcom has proposed that this change comes into effect on 1 November 2012, subject to consultation. It is designed to safeguard the future supply of landline numbers in the Bournemouth area and avoid the need to change existing phone numbers.
The supply of new landline numbers also ensures that consumers and businesses continue to enjoy the widest choice of telecoms providers. The cost of calls will not be affected by dialling the code.
Ofcom is working with communications providers, the local council, local consumer and business groups and charities to inform the community well in advance of the need to dial the code.
Dialling the local area code
In a small number of areas of the UK, where phone numbers are becoming very scarce, people will need to dial the whole number when making local calls.
This measure will enable Ofcom to make more numbers available in those areas. Ofcom's consumer research shows this to be the least disruptive option for making new phone numbers available for homes and businesses.
Based on current forecasts, Ofcom expects that similar changes may also be required in Aberdeen (01224), Brighton and Hove (01273), Bradford (01274) and Middlesbrough (01642) by 2015.
A map of the areas where people might need to dial the whole number when calling locally accompanies this press release. The map reflects Ofcom's forecasts up to 2021.
Charging for wholesale number allocation
Ofcom is also proposing to launch a pilot scheme to charge communication providers 10p per phone number per year in 30 areas (out of a total of 610 areas) with the fewest number blocks remaining available for allocation to encourage their efficient use.
Ofcom is consulting on its final proposals on charging providers for phone numbers.
The charge would be applied to numbers that have already been allocated to telecoms providers as well as to future allocations.
The aim of this is to encourage communications providers to consider their plans carefully before applying for new bulk allocations of phone numbers and to incentivise the return of unused numbers to Ofcom. This should help to delay the need for measures to increase the supply of numbers in some areas.
The majority of European countries, including France, Spain and Belgium, already charge communications providers for phone numbers.
Ofcom proposes to launch the pilot on 1 April 2013 and review it around two years after implementation.
Ofcom's further consultation can be found here.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. This measure will only apply to 01XXX numbers. Dialling the area code does not affect the cost of the call.
2. Currently, Ofcom allocates 01 and 02 telephone numbers to around 300 communications providers free of charge in large blocks. These companies then use the numbers to provide services to homes, businesses and other organisations. The number of communications providers with landline numbers has increased significantly over the last eight years, leading to more competition and cheaper landline bills for millions of homes and businesses. But it has also led to increased pressure on the supply of phone numbers as well as some communications providers holding a significant quantity of unused numbers.
3. At the moment, when making a local call it is not necessary to use the area code anywhere in the UK.
4. Currently, Ofcom cannot allocate phone numbers in which the first digit after the area code is 0 or 1 (for example, 01202 075 362 or 01273 118 903). This is because the network that is connecting the call may confuse the number with other existing dialling codes (such as a mobile number beginning with 075) or with a number reserved for special use (such as 118 for calls to directory enquiry services).
Dialling the code would avoid this confusion and would allow Ofcom to allocate numbers in which the first digit after the area code is 0 or 1.
5. Under section 63(1) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to encourage the most appropriate and efficient use of telephone numbers.