Conserving geographic numbers - Statement

08 April 2010


1.1 This statement sets out Ofcom's decision to give number conservation status to 336 geographic area codes in addition to the existing 265 areas with that status. It follows on from our consultation Conserving geographic numbers ('the Consultation'), published on 30 November 2009. That document sought views by 11 January 2010 on our proposal to ensure the ongoing availability of number blocks to meet communication providers' ('CPs') requirements in areas experiencing a shortage, in line with established geographic number management policy.

1.2 The Consultation and this document are concerned solely with the way that blocks of telephone numbers are allocated and used by CPs. They do not propose or make any changes to existing telephone numbers or the way that consumers use geographic numbers.

1.3 It is our duty to ensure that what appears to us to be the best use is made of the UK's telephone numbers and to encourage efficiency and innovation for that purpose. This includes making sure that sufficient and appropriate numbers are available so that CPs can supply services to consumers. Due to the sustained increase in demand for geographic numbers in certain areas, available number blocks to allocate to CPs have become scarce. The Consultation set out our proposal to implement conservation measures in specific geographic areas to supplement those already in place. We proposed those measures to ensure the continued supply of geographic numbers, thereby promoting competition, consumer choice and innovation in service provision.

1.4 Number conservation measures are central to our management of geographic numbers as they help us to meet CPs' demand in a way that has no impact on consumers. They work by reducing the size of number blocks allocated in conservation areas from units of 10,000 ('10K') to 1,000 ('1K') numbers. This increases the quantity of blocks available for allocation in those areas tenfold and aligns more closely the allocation of numbers to requirements, thus enabling numbers to be used more effectively and efficiently.

1.5 We received seven responses to the Consultation. Five respondents fully supported our proposals, agreeing that conservation measures were the best way of managing the existing supply of numbers and delaying or forestalling any potential need for more disruptive action to increase the supply (such as additional codes to cover areas that have run out of numbers, known as 'overlay codes'). Two respondents were concerned that the proposals would impede CPs' access to sufficient numbers to meet their requirements. We do not consider that this would be the case, because we are able to allocate multiple 1K blocks in conservation areas where this is justified by demand.

1.6 Having considered all responses, we have decided to proceed and give conservation status with immediate effect to all 336 geographic area codes proposed in the Consultation. The specific areas are listed in Annex 3 of this document. As a result of our decision, all remaining areas with '0' plus 4-digit area codes (that is, all area codes in the format 01XXX) except for 01481 Guernsey and 01534 Jersey are now subject to conservation measures.

1.7 To reflect this decision, the National Telephone Numbering Plan ('the Numbering Plan') has been modified. The notification of the modification and an explanation of how the modification meets the necessary legal tests are set out in this document.