This consultation concerns geographic telephone numbers - these are fixed-line telephone numbers that begin with '01' and '02'. These numbers are widely recognised, valued and trusted by consumers. Ofcom administers this national resource and seeks to ensure that sufficient numbers are available to allocate to communications providers ('CPs') so that they can provide a choice of services to consumers.
Geographic numbers are an increasingly scarce resource. Although the quantity of geographic numbers that CPs already hold in total exceeds likely demand from end-users, individual CPs nevertheless need new allocations of geographic numbers from time to time. Our forecast of CPs' demand shows that, unless we take action, we risk running out of geographic numbers to allocate to CPs in some of the areas which have four- and five-digit area codes in the foreseeable future. We therefore consulted in November 2010 and September 2011 on measures designed to ensure the ongoing availability of geographic numbers across the UK.
In September 2011 we decided that where an area with a four-digit area code needs more local numbers, we will increase supplies by closing local dialling. This means that fixed-line phone users in those areas will need to dial the area code when making local calls. This change in dialling behaviour enables us to release new numbers for use without requiring any changes to existing phone numbers. Dialling the full number will not affect the cost of the call.
The Bournemouth 01202 area code will be the first area code in which we will implement our policy for increasing the supply of numbers in this way. Demand for 01202 numbers is high and we forecast that we will run out of new 01202 numbers to allocate to CPs later this year if we do not take action. In this document we are consulting on the date for closing local dialling in the Bournemouth area.
We are also consulting further on some measures to improve the effective and efficient use of geographic telephone numbers that we proposed in the November 2010 and September 2011 consultations. These measures are introducing a pilot scheme to charge CPs for allocated numbers in 30 specified area codes and allocating smaller blocks of numbers in 11 areas with five-digit area codes.
In summary, the purpose of this document is to:
- consult on 1 November 2012 as the date on which local dialling in the Bournemouth 01202 area code will be closed. From that date, local consumers would need to include the 01202 area code when dialling local calls from fixed-line phones;
- consult on the final arrangements for introducing number charging in a pilot scheme covering 30 area codes with the fewest number blocks remaining available for allocation;
- consult on the detailed arrangements to make a limited quantity of blocks of 100 numbers available to allocate to CPs in the 11 areas with five-digit area codes; and
- consult on the legal instruments to give effect to these measures.