1.1 Ofcom administers the UK's telephone numbers. This Statement sets out and explains our decision to change the way local calls are dialled in five UK area codes: Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908). We refer to these area codes as 'the Five Area Codes' in the rest of this document.
1.2 The change will come into effect on 1 October 2014 and will require the whole phone number, including the area code, to be dialled when making local calls from a landline in any of the Five Area Codes, in the same way that such calls are currently made from a mobile phone. Dialling a local call with the area code will not affect the price of the call.
1.3 The change is necessary in order to make sure that the choice of providers and services available to consumers and businesses local to the Five Area Codes will not be constrained by shortages of new phone numbers.
1.4 Geographic telephone numbers are an increasingly scarce resource. We allocate these numbers in large blocks to communications providers ('CPs'). 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.
1.5 Our forecast of CPs' demand shows that, unless we take action, we risk running out of geographic numbers to allocate to CPs in some areas, including the Five Area Codes. While this does not present a direct risk to the availability of numbers for consumers' use, a lack of number blocks for allocation to CPs could restrict the provision of services and deny local consumers the full benefits of competition. We therefore consulted in November 2010, September 2011 and March 2012 on measures designed to ensure the ongoing availability of geographic numbers across the UK.
1.6 In September 2011 we decided that where a four-digit area code (i.e. in the format 01XXX) needs more local numbers, we will increase supplies by requiring local landline users to dial the area code when making local calls. Making this change (known as 'closing local dialling') enables us to release to CPs previously unusable local numbers in which the first digit after the area code is either '0' or '1'. This increases the supply of numbers without requiring any changes to existing phone numbers.
1.7 Following that decision, the first area code in which our supplies of geographic numbers approached exhaustion was Bournemouth (01202). After consultation, local dialling was closed in the 01202 area code on 1 November 2012. We worked with an industry group formed to consider the implementation of closing local dialling to plan the implementation of the change, which was completed successfully with apparently minimal disruption to consumers.
1.8 Our current forecasts show that, after making the change in the Five Area Codes, 25 other four-digit area codes are likely to need new supplies of numbers over the next 10 years. We consider that it would be appropriate to address number shortage in those area codes progressively as their existing supplies of numbers approach exhaustion. We will consult when proposing changes in those other area codes, but our general intention is to close local dialling in several areas at the same time every few years, in order to facilitate clear communication to consumers and cost-effective implementation.
1.9 We forecast that we will exhaust our existing supplies of geographic telephone numbers in the Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908) area codes in the period July 2015 to October 2016 unless we take action. We need to safeguard the future of supply of landline numbers in the Five Area Codes to ensure that a shortage of new numbers does not restrict the choice of CPs and services available to local consumers and businesses.
1.10 Consistent with our September 2011 decision, and the approach followed in Bournemouth, we proposed in a consultation published on 19 July 2013 ('the July 2013 consultation') that we close local dialling in the Five Area Codes to address the forecast shortages. We asked for views on our proposals to close local dialling in these areas on 1 October 2014.
1.11 We have considered all responses received in relation to these proposals. No significant issues were raised with the proposed date. Some respondents made general comments on the decision to close local dialling to increase the supply of numbers, preferring alternative options such as number change or closing local dialling across the UK. However, they did not make any new points to affect our implementation of the policy decision we made in September 2011 to close local dialling in four-digit area codes forecast to run out of available number blocks. We have decided, therefore, to proceed with our proposals to close local dialling in the Five Area Codes on 1 October 2014.
1.12 This Statement confirms 1 October 2014 as the date from which the whole number, including the area code, will need to be dialled when making local calls from a landline in Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908).
1.13 We have modified the National Telephone Numbering Plan ('the Numbering Plan') so that from 1 October 2014 CPs must withdraw the provision of the local dialling facility to their customers in the Five Area Codes (there is a general requirement in the Numbering Plan to provide local dialling for geographic numbers).
1.14 Now that the date for closing local dialling for these area codes has been confirmed, Ofcom, CPs and other stakeholders can begin to communicate the need to dial the area code to residents and businesses in the areas affected. Consumer awareness campaigns will ensure that the change is communicated effectively in the local areas. CPs will communicate with their customers directly and Ofcom will coordinate a wider consumer communications campaign in coordination with local stakeholders and the industry group. Further information on closing local dialling in the Five Area Codes can be found on our website at www.ofcom.org.uk/dialthecode.