Telephones – from numbering to call costs and codes
Telephone numbers are probably not the first thing that spring to mind when you think of important national resources.
But they’re vital in keeping communications running smoothly across the UK and one of Ofcom’s roles is to ensure they’re managed effectively.
We work to ensure that phone numbers are available for homes and businesses, and that they mean something to those who call them.
But there is a limited amount of telephone numbers available and Ofcom continually monitors demand across the country.
We can also take measures to ensure that numbers in certain areas don’t run out where demand is high.
How do we allocate numbers?
Ofcom allocates geographic numbers – the ones which start 01 and 02 – to communications providers, who in turn allocate them to businesses, homes and organisations.
So, for example, 023(8x) is the code for Southampton.
The first batch of numbers allocated by Ofcom in the Southampton area all began with the numbers 023 80
But when those numbers were all allocated, we then had to release another batch for anyone else requiring new numbers.
So the next set of numbers that Ofcom has made available in that area begin 023 81, which are being used now.
Can you take your number with you when moving home?
It depends on where you’re moving to and which company provides your telephone service.
Is it (020) 7 or (0207)?
Since 2000 the area dialling code for London has been 020 – although some people mistakenly believe it is actually 0207 or 0208.
However, the 7 or 8 element is actually the first digit of the local number, depending on whether the number had previously been Inner (0171) or Outer (0181) London.
Ofcom allocates hundreds of thousands of new London numbers every year and as result also introduced new (020) 3 numbers in 2005 to meet the growing demand in the capital.
Sometimes it is not possible to move a number from one exchange to another – even though it is in the same area.
If you want to keep your old number you should check with your service provider.
There are around 650 area codes in the UK, ranging from the Isle of Wight (01983) in the south to Shetland (01806) in the far north and some are a bit easier to remember than others.
For example, the dialling code for Bedford is 01234 while the newest area code – for Ebbsfleet in Kent – is also relatively easy to recall – 01987.
But do you ever get a missed call on your phone and don’t recognise the number?
Ofcom has a code checing tool which could put an end to that confusion by narrowing down which area of the country the call came from.
It contains a list of all the area codes in the UK. So, for example, if you typed in 01509 you’d find that this is the code for Loughborough.
We also have a guide to international dialling codes.
There are so many different types of phone number these days that it can be hard keeping tabs on how much they cost to call.
Ofcom has produced a guide which looks at some of the common numbers in use today, what they are used for and how much it costs to call them from a BT landline.
The pdf guide gives you the lowdown on geographic numbers – numbers beginning 01 or 02 – as well as 03 numbers, which many organisations now use as an alternative to more expensive 08 numbers.
There’s also information on 030 numbers –used by not for profit organisations – and 07 mobile numbers and 070 personal numbers.
Did you know?
Itemised billing was first introduced on a trial basis in parts of Bristol and Bath in 1983
There are almost 77 million mobile subscriptions in the UK – more than the entire population
Over 100 billion texts were sent last year
999 was first introduced in London in 1937. You can also dial 112 in any EU country to get through to the emergency services but you’d need to ring 21606666 to call an ambulance in Algeria
The red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed Bankside Power Station which now houses the Tate Modern
London telephone operator Miss Jane Cain was the first voice of the speaking clock in 1936
Comedian Ernie Wise made Britain’s first mobile phone call across the Vodafone network in January 1985
The guide explains all about 08 numbers, ranging from 0800 numbers – which are free to call from a landline – to 0843, 0844 and 0845 numbers, as well as 0870 numbers.
Finally the guide will tell you how much you can expect to pay if you call the more expensive 0871/2/3 numbers and premium rate 090 numbers.
Sometimes a film or TV show includes a shot of a phone number as a part of the story – but who would pick up if you dialled the number?
The answer is no-one. Instead you would hear an automated message telling you that the number was not recognised.
That’s because programme makers don’t just randomly pick phone numbers out of thin air.
Ofcom has a dedicated list of numbers set aside to be used specifically by production companies.
For instance, the mobile numbers between 07700 900000 to 900999 have been set aside for drama purposes.
Mobile companies can’t allocate these numbers to customers because of the potential influx of calls should the number be shown in a drama.
We have also reserved blocks of landline numbers in different geographical areas of the UK and programme makers can also use the generic area code 01632 for any areas not covered.
Cyngor a chwynion
Eich linell sefydlog, symudol a'r rhyngrwyd
Ein swyddogaeth yw sicrhau bod cwmnïau ffôn yn eich trin yn deg.
Ein ffurflenni cynghori a monitro
Rhaglenni teledu a radio
Ydych chi'n poeni am raglen yr ydych wedi'i gweld ar y teledu neu wedi gwrando arni ar y radio?
Sut i gwyno
Problemau derbyniad teledu a radio
Y BBC sy'n gyfrifol am gwynion am dderbyniad teledu a radio.
Cyngor a sut i adrodd ar broblem
Cadwch yn gyfoes
Adroddiadau'r Farchnad Gyfathrebu
Profiad y Defnyddiwr