Ofcom has today proposed to change the way people dial local telephone numbers in some parts of the country, in order to free up new numbers where supplies are running low.
The change would require people in five areas of the UK to include the area code when dialling a local number from a landline. At present the code can be omitted for local calls, but this means Ofcom is unable to allocate local numbers beginning with a 'zero' or a ‘one’.1
Ofcom is proposing to implement the measure on 1 October 2014 in Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Milton Keynes - five dialling code areas where the supply of new telephone numbers is running low due to high demand.2
The number of communications providers has increased significantly over the last ten 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 new phone numbers.
Requiring landline callers to use the code locally is intended to safeguard the future supply of new landline numbers and avoid the need for more disruptive measures, such as changing existing phone numbers.
The cost of calls would not be affected, and those who dial without the area code after the change would hear a recorded message asking them to include it.
The measure was first implemented in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (the 01202 code area) in November last year, and the process ran smoothly.3 Ofcom ran a local information campaign to inform the public of the change, and expects to do the same in the next five areas if the measures are confirmed.
Today's consultation closes on 13 September 2013. Ofcom expects to publish its decision in a statement later in the autumn.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Allowing callers to omit the code makes it impossible to allocate local numbers that begin with zero or one - such as (01234) 077 345 or (01234) 118 456. This is because if a person dialled such a local number and omitted the code, the network would interpret the dialled digits as a mobile number (e.g. beginning 07) or directory enquiries number (e.g. beginning 118), rather than a local number. This could lead to the call failing to be connected, or being connected to the wrong number.
2. The area codes that would be affected are Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908).
3. Going into the change in the 01202 area, Ofcom research showed that 81% of local residents were aware of it, and 94% said they were not concerned by it.