OFCOM is slowly introducing changes to the way we make local phone calls, beginning next year. Because there is a shortage of telephone numbers, in order to effectively give them more options on which numbers they can use and to manage future demand, they are changing the telephone system so that if you phone someone who has the same area code as you, you will still have to dial the full area code to phone them. This means that OFCOM will be able to create telephone numbers with 0 and 1 at the beginning of them. At the moment they cannot because if you have a phone number starting with 0 or 1 and phone it as a local number without an area code, then the phone will think it is an area code, which is why it can’t be used. This option will open up a great deal more numbers. Previously if you were making a local phone call by phoning someone in the same area code as you then you did not have to dial the area code, you could just dial the six digit phone number.
On its website, OFCOM headlined that it was announcing “plans to safeguard the supply of UK telephone numbers” in a way that meant not changing existing telephone numbers, and therefore causing the least amount of confusion and upheaval possible to people. However, it should be reiterated that this scheme is only being rolled out in areas where there is a shortage of phone numbers remaining. Bournemouth is expected to be the first area code to need this applied from the middle of next year, so if you live in Bournemouth and want to phone someone else in Bournemouth you will have to dial 01202 and then the number. Once this is introduced, you could start seeing Bournemouth numbers beginning with 01202 0 or 01202 1 which you currently don’t see. After Bournemouth, OFCOM expects Brighton and Hove on 01273, Aberdeen on 01224, Milton Keynes on 01908, Bradford on 01274 and Cambridge on 01223 to need this scheme within the next 5 years. OFCOM have published a very useful map showing the timeline for the expected changes to local phone numbers up to 2021 and beyond. London 020 numbers will not be affected by this change.
David Clarke is a Director of DBS Telecoms, which provides a wide range of telephone numbers, including virtual local phone numbers. Commenting on the announcement he said: “This is probably going to cause a minimum amount of disruption to individuals and businesses, firstly because it means there won’t be any changes to numbers or dialling codes, as has so often been the case in the past, but also because a lot of people automatically dial the full area code these days anyway because they are so used to using mobile phones. Also, many numbers are often saved on speed dial functions, which will include area codes. This is probably the best way of making sure there are still plenty of numbers to go round without making numbers longer or adding different digits. It doesn’t mean companies have to change their advertising on signs, posters, listings or vehicles, and we welcome that”.