Landline phone-users in five areas now have to include area code for local calls

Change in Bradford, Middlesbrough, Aberdeen, Brighton and Milton Keynes is to ‘safeguard future supply of numbers’.

Telephone users in five areas of the UK now have to include the area code when dialling local numbers from a landline – just like they do when ringing from a mobile.

From Wednesday, people in Bradford, Middlesbrough, Aberdeen, Brighton and Milton Keynes will hear an error message telling them to redial if they omit the area code. The change comes after the telephone regulator, Ofcom, decided to introduce the measure “to safeguard the future supply of landline numbers”.

Ofcom says the change will allow it to release 200,000 more landline numbers in each of the five areas.

Dialling the code does not affect the price of the call. But it will irritate local business owners, who often advertise their phone numbers without the dialling code on signs or publicity materials.

In a statement the regulator explained the logic behind the move: “The number of communications providers with landline numbers has increased significantly over recent 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 phone numbers.

“Currently, Ofcom cannot allocate phone numbers in which the first digit after the area code is 0 or 1 (for example, 01274 012 345 or 01274 123 456). This is because the network that is connecting the call may confuse the number with other existing dialling codes (such as a mobile number beginning with 075) or with a number reserved for special use (such as 118 for calls to directory inquiry services).“

“Dialling the code avoids this confusion and allows Ofcom to allocate numbers in which the first digit after the area code is 0 or 1.”

In November 2012, Ofcom implemented the same change in the Bournemouth dialling code area, where the process ran “smoothly”, it said.

Ofcom has been coordinating a local information campaign in the affected areas, including adverts in local media, leaflets and posters in public places and letters sent by telephone companies. Ofcom has also worked with councils to inform and prepare the local community, and is encouraging friends and family to lend a hand to someone who may need extra help.

Telephone companies are expected to have implemented the change by late afternoon on Wednesday.



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