Ofcom confirms plan to safeguard supply of telephone numbers

09 October 2013

Ofcom has today confirmed plans to change the way people dial local telephone numbers in some parts of the country, to free up new numbers where supplies are running low.

The change will require people in five areas of the UK to include the area code when dialling a local number from a landline, in the same way they currently do when calling from mobile phones.

At present the code can be omitted for local calls from landlines, but this means Ofcom is unable to make available new local numbers beginning with a 'zero' or a 'one'.

Following a public consultation that closed last month, Ofcom has decided to implement the measure on 1 October 2014 in Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Milton Keynes. In those five code areas the supply of new telephone numbers is running low due to high demand.

Growing competition

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.

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.

The area codes affected are Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908).

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 supply of new landline numbers also ensures that consumers and businesses continue to enjoy the widest choice of telecoms providers.

The cost of calls will not be affected, and those who dial without the area code after the change will 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.

A statement on today's decision is available online.