back to article End of UK local dialling in sight as numbers run out

Dialling your neighbour is going to take longer as Ofcom abolishes local calls in some areas of Britain, warning that numbers are running out. Starting in Bournemouth, people will have to dial the area code along with their 01 local number to stop the network confusing your Auntie Lynne's landline with a stranger's mobile …


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  1. gotes

    Phone numbers

    I wonder how many of the existing numbers are used solely as an internet connection and are therefore unused... I know mine is, and I can think of several others.

  2. Ian 62

    So where does the money come from then?

    "The price of calls for Joe Public won't be affected by either of the new measures"

    Ok, clever enough that the exchange still knows that its a local call.

    But if they are going to charge providers for pools of new numbers, umm.... that money has to come from somewhere. Its not going to be the shareholders or the directors golden parachute.

    So I bet Joe Public will pay extra of the new charge for new numbers being allocated.

  3. Billa Bong


    I don't use phone numbers anyway, dialling friends by name rather than number, and I doubt it'll be long before a "phone number" becomes a hidden thing that users themselves aren't expected to remember.

    1. Brezin Bardout


      they think the companies will actually try to reduce these costs by trying to reduce the amount of numbers they ask for. Which I imagine they probably would. I also imagine they will put their prices up anyway, because they can just blame it on Ofcom charging for new numbers.

    2. Chad H.

      Surely not

      Don't be silly - BT has INSISTED there is no market for Naked DSL in the UK.


      1. Peter2 Silver badge


        There is a market for one at each office we run and I bet everybody else is in the same boat.

        I mean, if you have an ISDN 30 and a decent telephone system then analogue lines exist only for the duration of the call. Hence to avoid having a line on the ISDN30 and a circuit on the telephone system taken up 24/7/365 (with the potential hit on stability from needing another 2 bits of kit working) there is one POTS line doing nothing but being a carrier for DSL lines.

        I have yet to meet anybody who puts their ADSL over a ISDN30 and telephone system, which makes you suspect that there is at least one at every single office in the country, assuming everybody uses ADSL (which is the case everywhere i've seen, even when you have a leased line then there's still a ADSL backup?)

        Obviously though, BT's never going to change until they are forced to. What they mean is that they'd have to charge less for a naked DSL line, and the chances of this particular turkey voting for christmas is about zero.

        I'd love to know how many lines are just serving ADSL.

        1. DRendar

          Not possible

          You can't put ADSL over an ISDN line, PRI or otherwise.

          ADSL works over PSTN because it uses frequencies which are mostly outside the range of human hearing, and the microfilters deal with any overlap.

          A PRI channel has only 64k of bandwidth available to it, it doesn't have the available frequency overhead that is required for an ADSL connection.

          1. John Hughes

            Yes you can share lines between BRI (2B+d) and ADSL - the Germans used to do it lots. No reason to do it now - everyone sensible used VOIP. The ADSL doesn't go "over" the ISDN, it goes along side it (just like it goes along side analogue).

            One ISDN B channel is 64kbits. A PRI line is (in Europe) usualy 30B+D on an E1, i.e. 2Mbits. (usualy SDSL these days).

            1. DRendar


              I thought he meant running the ADSL by connecting it to a DAC adapter like you can with a fax / 56k modem.

              I can see how it may work with a BRI (but not ADSL2 surely?), but a PRI? For one thing it doesn't use the same wires as PSTN / ISDN2.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      A very good point. Same situation here for the most part - the land line is a dedicated internet line. The only calls that come through are spam - the rest is done with mobiles.

    4. Hyphen

      "Ok, clever enough that the exchange still knows that its a local call."

      It has done for a long, long time. It knows it's local even if you dial the STD code *now*. If you dial a short number it automatically substitutes the dialling code anyway.

      Anyway, in the mobile era this decision just makes incredible amounts of sense. Now everybody has a single unique number that's the same regardless of where you dial it from.

      ...unusual for Ofcom to offer some, erm, sense!!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I don't use phone numbers anyway, dialling friends by name rather than number, and I doubt it'll be long before a "phone number" becomes a hidden thing that users themselves aren't expected to remember." So how do you tell someone who doesn't have it already your number?

      Also having a landline number is very important, the company I work for and others can be persuded to deliver to an address other than the cards registered address if they are given a land line number of the registered address.

      I'm also much less likely to respond to an advert for a car or whatever if only a mobile number is given. Nose cut face...

      1. ArmanX

        Actually, I'd love to see phone numbers go away

        Phone numbers have the same problem as IP addresses - difficult to remember, and in danger of running out in some locations. So instead, use the same system as the web; make phones numbers into web addresses:


        -current phone numbers port 100%; is perfectly valid.

        -free lines (800 numbers and the like) can all be on one TLD: mycompany.freephone

        -toll lines (900 numbers) can all be on one TLD: mycompany.tollphone

        -numbers can easily be masked, that is, the root number of will be called if you dial,, or Plus, smart(er) phones can display not only the caller, but the called number, and possibly even route that to different internal phones.


        -old phones will only call numbered phone lines

        -requires a DNS lookup before routing call will keep getting calls for

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    UK is such a small country. FFS, why not just have the whole of UK as a "local" place for dialling? Like in USa, and it ought to be free (rather inclusive in the monthly rental).

    I just dont get it, when providers like TalkTalk can give free internationl calls to 36 countries (which are thousands of miles away), why can they make the whole of uk free ( ie inclusive in the monthly charge) ?

    Am I missing something here? Just to call my local doctors surgery is 0845/0844 ( about 10 p per minutes PLUS connection charge) or my next door neighbour is local rate, yet they give calls to CHna,OZ, NZ, Europe USA/Canada free?

    Just dont get it...... Anyone can enlighten? IS this a classic case of RIpoff Britain at its stupidest? And we, Joe public still pay them.

    As for OFCOM, well the less said the better, bunch of dimwits.........

    Paris, cos shes at least a dumb blonde!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Simple solution.

    If BT stopped charging me line rental for my home phone that I don't want, just so I can get ADSL broadband, I would hapilly give my number back to the pool, as would hundreds of thousands of other people who only have a home phone because of broadband...

    Does it really need expensive think tanks to work this out'???? Come....

  6. Anonymous Coward

    54th time lucky

    Ofcom's crap track record of dealing with numbering is coming back to haunt them. If providers are hoarding numbers, what's the big deal (no, really, I do know) with just telling them to cough up? Not really that onerous a demand, is it? After all, they're supposed to be a regulator, so why not regulate something in a useful, resource sharing, tree huggy sort of way that benefits all (apart from those who get some perverse pleasure from hoarding numbers)?

    Light touch? Soft touch? Or just completely out of touch?

  7. Refugee from Windows

    Just the second step

    They already ditched short local dialling codes for adjacent exchanges a while back, so you have to dial the full STD code.

  8. DJ 2


    I haven't dialled a number that hasn't used the full area code since the late 70's.

    I'm shocked that it's still possible.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: give my number back to the pool

      I imagine that if you want your ADSL to actually *be* attached to the network, your landline needs an "address". That's your number. If you give it back, you cease to exist.

      1. Pete B

        @Ken Hagan

        They could always use the CBUK number - that's what it was invented for!

      2. kevjs

        The ones we have at work (for SDSL) have "(0115) 0" numbers attached to them already... These being used as you can't dial them locally! (Not that it really matters too much as only "(0115) 9" and "(0115) 8" are used anyway!)

    2. Chris 3

      Presumably you don't live in London...

      ... or another large city?

      1. Ian Yates

        I live in London, and I still always dial the full code.

        Most people here believe London's area code is "0207" or "0208", when it is actually "020".

        Even knowing this, I'd rather waste a fraction of a second of my life dialing three extra digits than mistakenly trim the number and get the wrong person.

        Academic argument really, since I never use my landline and tend to use the phone's contact list for nearly all my calls.

        1. DRendar

          Same in Cardiff.

          Cardiff Area code is 029, not 02920 as most blithering idiots think.

          This causes people to think that you have to dial the full 11 digits, instead of just the local 8.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So funny!

      So as a Brit who now lives in the US, I really can't understand anyone trying to claim the the UK should do numbers like the US. Firstly, the US does have a very distinct difference between local and long distance calls. Quite often the difference isn't transparent. For example New York has a number of different area codes - 212, 646, 917 to name but a few. Most new phones won't even allow you to make a long distance call until you have enabled that part of the service (and paid extra for it). Of course, you also get charged for incoming calls as well as outgoing in the US. This is because mobile phones are included in the area they are registered in, so my mobile phone is a New York number and is officially a local number for anyone dialling it from within New York. This means that I have to pay for the connection cost from New York into the mobile network whenever someone calls me.

      The US does a lot of things well. Telecomms; however, is not one of them. Please don't advocate ruining the British telecomms system by making it more like the USA.

      1. Martin Usher

        It depends on your provider and plan

        A few legacy cellphone plans and some landline plans still distinguish between local and toll calls. Most don't bother any more. That's why its now common to have people living locally who have cell phones that have numbers based anywhere in the country.

        Long distance phone calls have always been a bit of a scam. For many, many, years call routing has been a bit like Internet routing -- the path the call takes to get from source to destination doesn't have any relationship to where the end points actually are -- the route may be quite tortuous but so long as it works the user doesn't care. It really doesn't cost any more to route a call for 3000 miles compared to routing one for (say) 30 miles so the only rationale for charging different tariffs is marketing based - you charge what you think you can get away with.

    4. It'sa Mea... Mario

      Re: WTF

      While what you are saying would seem to make sense, from the telco's POV people in the UK call other people in the UK a whole lot more than they call China, OZ, NZ, USA , Etc.

      When it's all about the £££$ which are they gonna offer free?

    5. Velv Silver badge

      Nope, you totally missed the point. It's not about the cost of the local call, but the actual digits you dial.

      In most places it isn't mandatory to dial the area code to phone your neighbour. You simply dial the last 6 (or 7 for some cities) digits. Under this new scheme, it will be mandatory to dial the 01xxx as well.

      1. HipposRule


        ... in my area most local numbers are 5 (not 6) numbers

        1. Richard Bragg

          One area I lived in had a mix of 5 and 6 digit local numbers depending on which part of town/exchange you were on and it was a smallish town. And a couple of "institutions" couldn't accept the shorter number as their computer systems said nay. Not having a mobile that meant some fun and not having a mobile means I do utilise the shorter form of dialling local numbers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Yep, Tamworth 01827.

      2. DRendar

        Not quite

        Velv: "You simply dial the last 6 (or 7 for some cities) digits."

        Actually in several large cities, including London, Cardiff & Southampton, it's a 3 digit area code, with an 8 digit number.

        I think N.I is now one big area code now too.. 027 or 028... I don't remember.

        I wouldn't be surprised if the place that this story refers to simply moves to a 3Digit area code instead.

    6. Ian Yates

      What are you driveling on about?

      Most providers DO give you the option to pay a monthly charge for all your calls. Even mobile operators do this (though, normally with a use limit).

      The 084* (and 0870, among others) numbers you list are /premium/ numbers - the people using them have asked for them specifically to make some money out of taking your call.

      If you're still stuck:

    7. Ian Yates

      Here's your reason:

      TL;DR: BT don't think anyone wants it

      Although, I don't think it would remove the line rental cost, since you'll still need the final mile cable.

    8. DRendar

      Not everywhere

      For example, Scarborough (01723) spans quite a few exchanges, including 3 or 4 in Scarborough itself, Filey and Hunmanby, plus several outlying ones.

      You can still dial the 6 digits from anywhere within the 01723 area and get that number.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    missing link

    How does dialling longhand solve the scarcity of numbers? Do you mean one area will have more than one area code? Or the prefix (as was) will cease to represent an area?

    And what is an "01 local number"?

    Anyone care to hazard a guess on what proportion of calls these days are dialled by keying rather selected than from a contact list?

    1. Montreux

      So your number can start with a 0 or 1

      Currently your phone number, excluding the area code, cannot start with a 0 or a 1 as it would be confused with dialling a longer number. Once you force the use of an area code then numbers starting with 0 and 1 become available.

      1. Aged Cynic

        Why ever not?

        Calls are no longer routed by mechanical Strowger step-by-step gear, but by computer. Computers should be able to count the number of digits "dialled".

        Any fewer than 9? digits cannot possibly include a UK area code

        1. Badbob

          Dialling starts instantly...

          As soon as you start to input the numbers on an ordinary telephone, the dialling sequence commences in order to speed up the call connection. It therefore connects you to the first available line with a number corresponding to what's been dialled.

          If you lived in Bournemouth and your friends new number was (01xxx) 150282 and you forgot to use the dialling code, then as soon as you dial the first three digits you would be connected to the BT fault reporting line.

          I can't see what the fuss is about, as most people use the full STD these days anyway as many calls are made from mobiles.

          Also.... as exchanges are no longer mechanical and numbers are merely a computer allocation, why can't every exchange be given an 02xxx number as well and these used for new connections (02xxx could be used for DSL exclusive lines without voice capability which would free up 01xxx ranges).

    2. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: missing link

      > How does dialling longhand solve the scarcity of numbers?

      It allows local numbers that begin with 0 (which I understand) and 1 (which I don't), thereby increasing the available numbers in the existing area code by 25%.

      1. Steve Evans


        It means they can use multiple dialling (STD) codes for the same city... We have plenty of those. What we are lacking is the 6 or 7 digit local codes.

        Say your number is 234567, there can't be another 234567 on your exchange because people dialling it without an STD (no tittering at the back) would mess it up...

        If you get people into the habit of always dialling the STD code (like on mobiles), there is no reason someone in the next street can't also be 234567, just as long as your town/city has multiple STD codes and you and the guy round the corner have different ones.

        STD codes had an extra digit added a few years ago to tidy up the allocations and make room for new ones. If we went off and built a new city there wouldn't be a problem. The problem occurs when an existing city expands to the point it uses all the available local numbers, that's when it gets messy like it did in London. In that case it got really messy because they changed the numbering scheme several times in only a few years... 01 -> 071/081 -> 0171/0181 -> 020n. At the moment only 0207 and 0208 are used, the others are in reserve.

        1. deadlift

          No no no

          The only area code for London is 020.

        2. Iain

          London pedant

          London's STD is now 020, the 8 digit phone numbers start with 7, 8 and since June 2005 3

      2. kevjs

        The number of numbers beginning 1 are used for stuff qute early in the number preventing use - e.g. anything starting 100 is out because of the operator, 101 for NHS direct, 112 for emergency calls, 118 for directory enquiries and god only knows what other short codes the operators use!

    3. Tony Humphreys

      I still hesitate when 01 is mentioned and think the next 7 digits are 811 8055

      1. Steve Evans

        @Tony Humphreys

        Gonna show my age now, but was that Swap shop?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        wow,, titles are optional !!

        " still hesitate when 01 is mentioned and think the next 7 digits are 811 8055"

        SWAP SHOP!!!!!!!!

    4. Velv Silver badge

      For charging, a local number is numbers in your area and all adjacent areas. Originally it was geographic, being within 35 miles. In theory two adjacent properties could be serviced by different exchanges and have different area codes, therefore it was possible for a "local" call to cross to another area.

      For example, Livingston(01506) is a "local" call from edinburgh(0131)

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another badly written incomprehensible article

    Are they creating new local numbers that start with 0? Is it just local calls to those numbers that will require the 01202 prefix, or are they forcing all local calls to use 01202? If so, why? And why can't they add a digit to the local numbers, like what has been done many times before?


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