Dial the Code

What change is happening to local phone calls?

From 1 October 2014, people in five areas of the UK will need to include the area code whenever they dial a local number from a landline – in the same way people 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’.
The change will free up new telephone numbers to be issued in areas where supplies are running low.

Which areas are affected?

The change will happen in five dialling code areas:

  • Aberdeen (01224): Includes Aberdeen and the area to the west, including towns such as Westhill.
  • Bradford (01274): Includes Bradford and the surrounding areas such as Baildon, Bingley, Cleckheaton and Shipley.
  • Brighton (01273): Includes Brighton and Hove, as well as places such as Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven and Southwick.
  • Middlesbrough (01642): Includes Middlesbrough and surrounding places such as Stockton, Redcar, Stokesley and Yarm.
  • Milton Keynes (01908): Includes Milton Keynes, Bletchley, Newport Pagnell and an area to the north as far as Ravenstone.

When will the change happen?

If you live in one of the five areas, you will have to dial the local code from 1 October 2014. However, you can already do this and it is good idea to get into the habit of dialling the code from today.

What if I forget to dial the code?

After 1 October 2014, if you dial a local number but forget to include the code, you will hear a free message asking you to redial including the code.

Will the cost of making a call change?

No. Dialling the code does not affect the price of the call.

Will phone numbers change?

No. The change is only to the way local numbers are dialled from landlines. By this change, we can increase the supply of numbers without changing anybody’s existing phone number. This is important for us, as we know that number changes are costly and inconvenient for consumers and businesses.

Why are the changes necessary in these particular areas?

The number of telecoms companies 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 and we have forecast shortages in these five areas.

Asking landline callers to use the code when dialling local numbers 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.

How will the changes increase the supply of phone numbers?

Allowing callers to omit the code makes it impossible to allocate local numbers that begin with zero or one – such as (01224) 077 345 or (01224) 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. Around 200,000 more numbers will be made available in each of the five areas as a result of the change to the way local numbers may be dialled.

Has this been tried anywhere else?

Yes. In November 2012, Ofcom implemented the same change in the Bournemouth dialling code area, where the process ran smoothly. (Going into the change, Ofcom research showed that 81% of local residents were aware of it, and 94% said they were not concerned by it.)

How are you going to tell people about this change?

Telecoms companies will help to communicate the change to their customers. Ofcom is also engaging with residents through local media, local councils and business groups. Together, Ofcom and the telecoms companies will ensure callers in the five areas are informed of the change in good time, and the local community is prepared.

Who should I contact for further information?

Ofcom is working with telephone companies to ensure callers in the five areas are informed of the change in good time, and the local communities are prepared. In the meantime, if you have any questions you can contact Ofcom at dialthecode@ofcom.org.uk or call 0300 123 3333.

Is this change happening in any other areas?

No, not at the moment. Changes in dialling local numbers are only being introduced when areas need an additional supply of numbers. This limits disruption to people in other areas that do not need more numbers.

There is no change on 1 October to the way local numbers can be dialled in surrounding areas with different codes.  

Why don’t you change numbers as you have done in other areas in the past?

Ofcom has changed consumers’ numbers and codes in the past to create more new phone numbers, and this solution ensures a long-term supply. However changes to numbers are costly and inconvenient for consumers and businesses. Ofcom’s consumer research found that local residents and businesses prefer having to dial the code to changing their phone number.