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
    FAIL

    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
    Coffee/keyboard

    Meh.

    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

      Maybe

      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.
      Alert

      Surely not

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

      /Sarcasum.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        *mutters*

        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
          Stop

          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

              Ahh

              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

      title

      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
        Go

        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: joepublic.landline.phone

        Positives:

        -current phone numbers port 100%; 5555555555.landline.phone 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 JoeSmith.landline.phone will be called if you dial SonOfJoe.landline.phone, JoesWife.landline.phone, or JoeAtWork.mycompany.phone. Plus, smart(er) phones can display not only the caller, but the called number, and possibly even route that to different internal phones.

        Downsides:

        -old phones will only call numbered phone lines

        -requires a DNS lookup before routing call

        -JoeSmith.verizon.com will keep getting calls for JoeSmyth.verizon.com

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    WTF

    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
    FAIL

    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
    FAIL

    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
    Alert

    Really?

    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
        Mushroom

        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
        Happy

        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
      Meh

      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
      FAIL

      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

        Actually...

        ... 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
        Boffin

        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
      WTF?

      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: http://www.saynoto0870.com/

    7. Ian Yates

      Here's your reason: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_DSL#United_Kingdom

      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
      WTF?

      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
        Facepalm

        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
          Stop

          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

        Also...

        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
          Mushroom

          No no no

          The only area code for London is 020.

        2. Iain
          Headmaster

          London pedant

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

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_telephone_code_misconceptions

      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
      Boffin

      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?

    1. Chad H.
      Alert

      All local calls will requrie the full number, includiung area code.

      At the moment on your exchange a number that begins with "0" goes in one direction (the National Trunk network) whereas numbers that don't stay local - so you can't have a local phone number beginning with 0.

      To add an extra number I imagine would require issusing a whole lot of people a new number causing issues for people phoning into that area from outside; whereas by forcing local calls to use the full STD code the change is seemless from outside the local area.

      Personally, working in a national call centre it irritates the heck out of me when people don't give the area code (like I know where you are), so enforcing local calls to use the area code to me is a good thing.

    2. Lamont Cranston
      Thumb Up

      Broadband and emergency calls only

      is a good idea, but I don't think that "most people" only have a landline for broadband.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        Most people only use landlines because they are there. Almost everyone has a mobile phone, and if the landline wasn't there, would be using it.

        Nobody likes to be chained to the house.

        I think 60% of savvy consumers would pick a Naked DSL service at discount. (£8/Month line rental)

  12. JasonW
    WTF?

    Typical half-assed OFCOM

    Why not do it everywhere? Then again I have all the (full, including code) numbers I call programmed into my phone anyway so makes no difference to me...

  13. Owain 1
    Facepalm

    Always change your number

    I was stupid enough to take the phone-number already allocate to the line to the house we bought. It had been empty for a couple of years and so I thought nothing of it. However 4 years later we are STILL getting calls from debt collectors for the previous but 1 owners. We hear they emigrated to Spain. Swines.

  14. Marky W
    Angel

    Oh, El Reg!

    How I love your subheadings.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one...

    ... remember the "1 to remember" campaign all those years ago, that informed us that they were adding "1" to the numbers in a move that would ensure we'd never run out of numbers.

    Many years later a "2" was added to london numbers, again in a move that would ensure we'd never run out of numbers.

    Why don't they just add nnnn to ensure we never run out of numbers (at not in my lifetime anyway). Or lets swtich to hexadecimal phones :)

    1. Pete B

      When is a new number not a new number

      Heh - just because you change it doesn't mean that your "new" number won't have any history attached to it.

      1. Blofeld's Cat
        Unhappy

        New number

        Indeed. I was given a "new" number which had once belonged to a taxi firm. The firm had stopped trading about ten years earlier, but evidently some of the local pubs etc. still had their cards.

        I finally managed to get a different number.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Reused number

        3 numbers, was originally 1, now back to original 1

        The second line number was the local catalogue bargain shop and used to get calls and faxes, ended up using line 1 for that phone rather than its own line.

        Returned to 1 line when broadband replaced ISDN.

        Can't remember the ISDN number now at all.

        1. LateNightLarry
          Joke

          Reused number...

          Well not really reused... There was a joke floating around some years ago about a woman who moved into a new house and got a telephone number which was the same as a major hotel in the city, except the hotel had an 800 (toll free) number... hers was 415-253-nnnn, the hotel's toll free number was 800-253-nnnn. Soon she started getting calls all day long for reservations, and for banquets, wedding receptions, etc. At first she gave the callers the correct number. Then she tried to get the hotel to change their number... no dice, they had many thousands of dollars in advertising in circulation. Finanlly, when nothing seemed to work, she started "taking" all the reservations, etc., and of course, not doing anything with them. People were arriving expecting a room, or a banquet, or a wedding reception, and of course the hotel knew nothing about them... After a few months of that, the hotel's reputation tanked, and it was bought out by another chain. The first thing the chain did was come to the lady and ask her to work with them... they changed their 800 number, and paid the woman a substantial sum to refer calls to the correct number, which she gladly accepted. The final thing she did was to change HER number, and have the telephone company forward all calls for her old number to the hotel. Don't know if the joke is really true or not, but it's fun reading.

    2. Clive Galway

      And the rest

      IIRC

      It started off 01

      Then went to 071 / 081

      Then 0171 / 0181

      Then 0207 / 0208

      I remember the first stage anyway, cause that was my first programming job - writing DBASE IV code to trawl a database and convert 01 codes to 071 / 081

      1. Steve Evans

        @And the rest...

        Almost spot on... Technically speaking 020 is now London.

        At the moment only 0203, 0207 and 0208 are used, the rest are held in reserve. 0200 and 0201 aren't available due to routing.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Owain 1

      I would tell them to stop immediately as you consider their behaviour harassment.

      If they keep calling then report it to the police.

  16. Alex Brett

    All sounds good in theory...

    ...until you realise that a lot of Communication Providers (CPs) who offer local numbering have to have a block in every area code, and given restrictions due to the traditional telco's equipment not being able to cope with smaller, some of these blocks are 10,000 numbers big. This means that for a provider with the smallest possible block in every area code they end up having an annual bill of £400,000 (if they were to charge for every area code, which I'm sure will be the next step).

    If they charged based on numbers actually in use, or only charged if the provider couldn't cope with a smaller block (i.e. give the companies whose equipment needs updating a financial incentive to do so) then it might be OK, but as is it's just going to put smaller CPs out of business...

  17. Test Man
    Thumb Up

    To be fair...

    ... I don't know of anyone who even dials numbers, let alone omitting the area code, even on landlines.

  18. M Gale

    Uhm...

    How could you possibly confuse a land line with a mobile number? Even if the mobile phone itself is in the same room as the landline with the same number. That's like saying that the phone system could confuse a number from Kendal, Cumbria with the same number from Fobbing, Essex.

    In any case, if numbers are becoming scarce, surely the answer is either to add an extra digit to the local number or split the place into two area codes? I'm no phone engineer, but asking someone to dial 01... to call their next door neighbour seems a little retarded. Especially when mobiles are all 07 anyway.

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: To be fair...

      > I don't know of anyone who even dials numbers

      Huh? So, say I want to call Example Ltd. I look at Example Ltd.'s web site, click on "contact us", and it shows a phone number. I pick up my phone and dial that number.

      Tell me, how can I avoid doing that?

      1. NogginTheNog
        Go

        Browse from your mobile

        Then, on the web page you select the number and then hit the dial button, and many smartphones will call that number for you, without you having to ever get your digits 'dirty' doing anything as old-fashioned as actually DIALING :-O

      2. King Jack Silver badge
        Joke

        Easy...

        Get the person sitting next to you to dial it.

    2. kevjs
      Go

      Its quite simple really - it saves businesses in the area a lot of money and confusion.

      For example, at the moment Bournemouth University has the number 01202 524111 - under OFCOM's Bournemouth will get around 200,000 new numbers and therefore the University will not need to make any changes to letterhead, signage, websites or anything else. The only difference is that people in Bournemouth will now need to call 01202 524111 instead of 524111.

      If on the other hand Bournemouth was to get a new code the number would change to 023 2524111 nationally and 2524111 locally (for example) requiring significant expense of all business in the Bournemouth area.

      All I can say is that I am glad all the numbers on our phone system at work include the area code should this change come nationally.

      1. M Gale

        Oops

        Forgot about the zeros and ones.

        Still, an extra 200,000 doesn't seem like a massive amount. It seems more like delaying the inevitable, whereas adding an extra digit or an extra area (or STD, or whatever you want to call it) code is going to mean no more new livery required for a much longer period, no?

    3. Fred Goldstein
      Meh

      Smaller-block pooling helped in the US

      Unlike the UK, the US has a fixed-format numbering plan, 3-3-4 digits everywhere. Providers used to be assigned whole 10,000-number prefix-code blocks (NPA-NXX-xxxx), and that led to massive area code exhaust and splitting/overlays. So they went to pooling, where providers get 1000 numbers at a time (NPA-NXX-Dxxx). This has hugely helped, and new area codes are rarely created any more. Carriers have to give back any blocks, after the first one in a rate center, that are <10% full. These blocks are recycled to carriers who need them.

      It's all done via the number portability system. A pooled block is essentially 1000 pre-ported numbers. A "contaminated" block (recycled with <10% used but some numbers in service) leaves its existing numbers in place. It works pretty well. So perhaps the UK can move to smaller block assignments.

      1. Robert A. Rosenberg
        Boffin

        US Areacodes

        As noted US Phone numbers are NPA-EXC-NNNN. EXC is exchange which is of the from XYY where X=2-9 and Y is 0-9 (the first Y was originally 2-9 to avoid being confused with the NPA Area Codes. NPA (The area code) is of the form of XYZ where X=2-9, Y=0-8, and Z is 0-9. Y was originally 0 or 1 but was extended to allow 2-8. 9 is reserved for when they run out of area codes at which time XYZ will become X9YZ. Once a designated Permissive dialing period is over (during with you can dial the area code as 3 digits (XYZ) or 4 (X9YZ - the 9 acting as a flag that this is a 4 digit area code) additional 4 digit area codes will use 2-8 in the second position. BTW: The restriction on 9 prevented the issuance to New York City of area code 692 (ie: NYC).

        NYC is one of the few areas where 10/11-Digit dialing is required due to the use of Overlay Area Codes (the assigning of the more than one area code to the same geographic area). The 1 can be omitted if you are dialing a number with the same area code as you have but can be used even in this case.

        In most cases when an area code runs out of numbers there is an area code split where part of the area code gets to keep its old while the rest gets a new area code. Who gets to keep their old area code is based on who makes the best case for not being inconvenienced (or pays the most money under the table to the agency in charge of deciding who keeps the area code). The idea of just going the overlay route by mapping the new area code over the area covered by the old one is not allowed (except in NYC), as is the "inconvenience everyone" method of assigning 2 area codes and retiring the old one to be reissued later when the pool is almost all assigned.

        1. Fred Goldstein

          Overlays are now the norm

          Area code splits are less common in the US now, and overlays are becoming the norm for expansion. The special case in NYC is that 917 was originally an overlay for cellular only, not wireline, and the FCC later banned service-specific overlays. But area codes have split too much, and overlays are far more convenient, even if we have to dial all 10 digits (when not using a speed dial function, of course). In urban areas, the splits got to such small areas that 10-digit calling was too common anyway, just to call the next zone over (notably Los Angeles, which got carved into tiny geographic areas before the California PUC finally got a clue).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      number portability

      Blows that "10K numbers" theory right out of the water.

  19. Tony S
    Facepalm

    Ummm....

    Would it not be easier to split some of the exchanges where this is an issue? Not all potential exchange numbers are in use by a long way, and although it might be a bit of a learning issue for some people, it would seem a bit better than what they are proposing. (They did this in Springfield in one Simpsons episode - built a massive wall around the posh area code to keep out the riff raff)

    As for not charging people national rates when they dial the full national number - forgive my cynicism but HAH! That will work without anyone getting overcharged (I don't think!)

    1. Fuzz

      Already happens

      "As for not charging people national rates when they dial the full national number - forgive my cynicism but HAH! That will work without anyone getting overcharged (I don't think!)"

      This system is already in place and works, I live in Manchester dial code is 0161. I can dial 01204 (Bolton), 01457 (Glossop), 01565 (Kutsford) and a few others and they are counted as local calls.

      If you dial same area without using the dialling code, the billing software assumes the dialling code. In the same way that from your mobile you can dial your numbers starting with +44 but you don't get charged for an international call.

      1. Tony S

        @Fuzz

        I'm not saying that it won't work - just that I rather suspect there will be a few bills (possibly more than a few) with charging errors that slip through the net and if no-one spots the mistake, then there is no need to correct it.

        OK, I'm miserable, cynical, grumpy old sod. So sue me 8-)

        AFAIK, the national charging is not done totally by exchange code. It may have changed, but there was a distance factor involved from the calling exchange to the receiving exchange which placed them in charging groups. I'm pretty sure that the exchanges that you quote are all within the same charging group.

        But I could be wrong...

        1. deadlift

          Local can be far

          I live in the arse end of south London but my sister lives in St Albans, quite some distance away. However, 020 and 01727 are adjacent area codes, so it's a local call.

  20. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    An odd fix

    Numbers have been squeezed many times before and every time in the past we've just split area codes (like when London's "01" code was abolished) or added another digit to the length of the "local" part of the number. Either of these strategies adds *far* more possible numbers than what is proposed here, so presumably we've hit some terrible IPv4-like technical limit on the address space.

    Anyone here know the details?

    1. Fuzz

      Very odd

      surely the solution is to move a digit from the code to the local number.

      Bournemouth is currently 01202, just remove the last 2, prefix all numbers in Bournemouth with a 2 and suddenly you have an extra 8000000 or so numbers. Forcing the dialling of the area code only seems to create 100000 extra numbers.

      1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

        Re: Very odd

        > Bournemouth is currently 01202, just remove the last 2, prefix

        > all numbers in Bournemouth with a 2 and suddenly you have an

        > extra 8000000 or so numbers.

        No, that doesn't work. You're proposing new numbers like "0120 3123456", right? Unfortunately that number already exists as "01203 123456", in Bolton or somewhere.

        It would be necessary to use a new code, e.g. 02XY.

      2. kevjs
        Stop

        Nice idea, except

        01200 is used in Clitheroe

        01204 is used in Bolton

        01205 is used in Boston

        01206 is used in Colchester

        01207 is used in Consett

        01208 is used in Bodmin

        01209 is used in Redruth...

        The funny thing here is that Bournemouth originally had 0(1)201 and 0(1)202....

      3. janster

        Sadly, people are too dim to get this.

        Cardiff, for example, went from (01222) xxx xxx to (029) xxxx xxxx. All the old 6-digit local numbers got prefixed with a '20' to make them 8 digits in length. e.g. (01222) 872087 became (029) 2087 2087. Perfectly logical, releasing massive new capacity and also retaining a single area code with local dialling (albeit 8 digits instead of 6).

        Unfortunately, huge sections of the population misinterpreted this as the 'code' changing from 01222 to 02920 and you routinely see people writing their number as (02920) 123456 etc. Problem with that being that it's ingrained in people's minds that 02920 = Cardiff and they then get confused by newer numbers that don't start (029) 20xx xxxx.

        That means you end up with massive misidalling as people see an unfamiliar new number like 029 2111 2111 and then either dial it as (02920) 2111 2111 or "correct" it to 029 2011 2111 - both leading to a wrong number.

  21. My Alter Ego
    Boffin

    I'm sure I'm being thick

    But how can the network get confused when I dial a 6 digit number which doesn't start with a zero from my landline, Surely a lack of area code should default to the originating area code.

    If I dial my home number sans area code from my mobile nothing happens. Likewise, if I dial my mobile number sans prefix the call isn't connected.

    Saying that, whenever I dial a local number from a landline, I always add then prefix. No idea why, I don't do it when I'm back in Ireland.

    More information please?

    1. Chad H.

      Well

      That is how it works now - but its that 0 at the start that causes isues.

      Allowing local numbers that don't begin with a 0 to connect would advantage and disadvantage certain people. People who have a local number beginning with 0 would always need the area code otherwise noone could reach them; people will forget, businesses with an 0 local number may lose business as people struggle to reach them (leaving off the area code because it works everywhere else).

      Easier just to enforce one rule for everyone, and that way every numbers on a level playing field.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Offcom - slamming the stable door since 1990

    "London needs 071 because ... sorry we mean 0171 ... I mean 020 ...."

    Dear Ofcom

    Look up 'exponential' in a dictionary and plan accordingly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      01 ?

      I might be showing my age, but you've missed a step, London used to be 01, like the Saturday Swap Shop - 01 811 8055 ... although you might have missed that because maybe Buzby was in charge of phones back then :-P

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No I didn't miss a step

        0171 was the first *change* I remember. Hence 1991.

        Buzby may have been in charge ... but I was one of his minions ;)

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Well, put your local code in speed dial, then.

    It may be annoying to dial 01974 123456 every time, but you can cut 01974 down to one button press, probably.

    I haven't touched a real circular dial for a long time although the other day I fondled a phone in a flea-market that had buttons ranged in a circle instead of a grid. But I do punch numbers into a handset one by one, quite often, on a landline - my mobe is pay-as-you-go and is used sparingly.

  24. Steve Evans

    Planning ahead as usual....

    Who remembers London being 01?

    Yup, most of us I guess... Then they ran out of numbers and made it 071 and 081 for inner and outer London (only doubling the numbers available)... Guess what, soon ran out again, so they made it 0171 and 0181 to give them more room and tidy up the scheme...

    Soon ran out, and now it's 0207 and 0208 (catchy for the capital city no?)

    All this in the past 20 years! FFS, give someone who isn't terminally myopic the planning job in future!

  25. AJames

    The hidden financial reason

    The loss of local number dialing has already happened in many other places, and an interesting reason turned out to be at the bottom of why the phone company couldn't make it optional to dial the full number with prefix within the same local. Of course modern phone computers could allow that. But as numbers run out, new customers are forced to take numbers in the new area code. Naturally they will perceive those numbers as having lesser value if people have to dial an extra prefix to reach them. In order to mollify them and keep all prices the same, the phone company forces everyone else to dial an unnecessary prefix too. Sort of like the theater making people who came early and got a seat close to the stage watch the play through the wrong end of binoculars so that they will be equal with latecomers sitting too far back

    1. janster

      020 for London

      No, it's not "0207 and 0208" for London and never has been.

      The whole point of the year 2000 changes for London was to increase capacity and move the city back from two separate codes with 7-digit local numbers to a single area code of 020 and 8 digit numbers. Swapping 0171 for 0207 and 0181 for 0208 would have achieved nothing.

      Prior to 2000 you had:

      (0171) 200 0000 through to (0171) 998 9999 for inner London

      and

      (0181) 200 0000 through to (0181) 998 9999 for outer London

      Total: 2x 7,990,000 = 15,980,000 numbers

      From 2000 London has been able to use:

      (020) 2000 0000 through to (020) 9989 9999

      Total: 79,900,000 numbers

      So far, only numbers beginning with 3, 7 or 8 are in use.

      The small added bonus is that now London is back to a single area code, you can dial any regular (020) landline number from any other with just eight digits.

  26. kain preacher Silver badge

    Confusion

    You think thats bad . Here were I live some times I have to add a 1 to the area code IE 1-510-xxxx . Some times I don't . If I'm lucky I'll here it is not necessary to dial 1 for this number , other times the call gets misdirected.

  27. Graham Marsden
    Boffin

    I use Call 1899...

    ... so I dial a prefix and then the full "national" number, no matter what.

    It's not really that hard, especially when you've got the prefix and your most commonly called numbers on speed dial!

  28. Gary 24
    Windows

    It was bad enough....

    when live and kicking changed their number from 0818118181 to 01818118181

  29. Wanda Lust
    Facepalm

    Clackedy, clack

    The UK's whole stupid numbering scheme was predicated on ancient clackedy-clackedy mechanical switching systems and when the system transitioned through various stored program control systems such diversity became less and less necessary.

    Of course, the legacy scheme gave the operator the means for charging on an area code basis: the more areas your call traversed, the more it cost. Anyone, recall linked number schemes where local, adjacent areas had a short 9- code.

    Transitioning to 2 digit area codes & 8 digit numbers (Cardiff, N. Ireland, etc) helped & they should've kept going with that but the previous mimicing of the US 800 free "area code" format has rendered a whole scope of numbers unusable for general use.

    Given the current technology there should, of course, be a flat rate for calling within the country but, hey, then BT wouldn't make any money & that's the game.

    Maybe there's a reason why it was called STD, just as hard to get rid of as a dose of herpes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I miss the clackedy clackedy clack

      You knew something was happening with your phone call - it had a purposeful sound.

      Mind you, that's the same way that a steam locomotive sounds better than a diesel (Deltics excluded?) . Sounds better but not necessarily better.

      "Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon" - how about some variety in anonymous coward icon then?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    I can not understand why this is supposed to help. Presently if an area code isn't dialled the local one is assumed. After this scheme is introduced apparently an area code has to be explicitly entered. How does that increase the pool of available numbers ?

    By the way, would appreciate it if the idiocy of the pink sign was removed. Someone bored and looking to amuse themselves ? Or just hoping to get folk fed up with the site, and not come here to comment any more, maybe.

    1. janster

      The point is that phone numbers aren't just an 11 digit string processed by a database lookup. The digits are processed and interpreted sequentially. For example, (01202) 391234 isn't interpreted in one go: 01202 39 would be enough to route to BT's exchange in Boscombe, where further processing on the rest of the number takes place.

      When you start dialling on a landline, the first digit has a special significance and tells the system what to do next:

      0 means "this is going to be an area code or international call"

      1 means "this will be a short code, like the operator on 100"

      2,3,4,5,6,7,8 or 9 means "this will be a local call"

      In Bournemouth, you could dial (01202) 234567 as just "234567". As you've started with a "2", the system can easily spot it's a local number and knows to expect 5 more digitis. Remember, there's no "send" or "call" button on a normal landline so the system needs such information to know what length number to expect to identify when you have finished dialling.

      Now imagine the number (01202) 020722 is issued. If you dialled 020722 locally, that leading 0 suggests to the system you're making a long distance call and it would just sit there forever waiting for you to dial the next 5 digits.

      Likewise, what about (01202) 123456? If you dialled that as simply 123456, you'd be connected to the speaking clock as soon as you'd got as far as dialing "123".

      Requiring the area code removes those kinds of clashes.

      Of course, it's still a big bodge job. Odds are this will only see us through a few more years before they have to find more numbers for Bournemouth, Brighton, MK, etc. I guess Ofcom would rather dodge the bad press of a futureproof number change and leave somebody else to sort out the inevitable mess ten years down the road!

  31. dogged

    Wait, hold on..

    The USA manages with 10 digit numbers and they haven't run out.

    Something's fishy here.

    1. janster

      We haven't run out... there are millions and millions of spare numbers - just not within the current area codes. In the case of Bournemouth, usable numbers beginning 01202 are running out.

      There are plenty of spares elsewhere: you could give Bournemouth a batch of numbers starting 01660, or you could renumber the place to use seven digit numbers and a shorter area code e.g. (0119) xxx xxxx. However, Ofcom believes that people want to stick with their familiar area codes, rather than see several different area codes covering the same area or getting caught up in renumbering.

      The USA and Canada have been using a different strategy - they just issue extra area codes for the same area when numbers run out. So, New York originally had the area code 212 and 7-digit local numbers. Over the years it's evolved to the point where a New York number could start with any of six different codes: 212, 718, 917, 347, 646 and 929.

    2. Fatman Silver badge
      WTF?

      RE: The USA manages with 10 digit numbers and they haven't run out.

      Now hold on there!

      The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) area includes Canada, Hawaii and some portions of the Caribbean. There is some concern that in the 2030's we (North America) will need to deal with number exhaustion. How that will be accomplished without serious pain is up for grabs.

      Also, in the US, there are areas where local numbers are only 7 digits, some areas where the local number is 10 digits (3 digit area code + local number). Then you have a few oddball cases where you have to dial 1 + a local number (8 digits) for some calls. Then of course, you have the 1 + 10 digit long distance dialing.

      Where I live, several years back, the area code began to run out of numbers, and the choice was splitting the area code, or 10 digit dialing. The people demanded splitting the area code. The thought of having to dial 10 digits for a local call pissed off a lot of people.

      In other areas, it was 10 digit dialing that was either desired (or imposed by some entity).

      Simply put, for you guys, trying to emulate the US 'solution' may be an example of a serious clusterfuck - one you may wish to avoid.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm

    For some bizarre reason I have been doing this for the last few years. When I call my old man, who only lives about a mile away, I dial the whole number including the area code. I just find it easier to remember long phone numbers than short ones.

  33. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Offcom - slamming the stable door since 1990

    I don't think they studied maths.

    We are running out of numbers - so we will prefix all numbers with an extra '1'

    Oh dear that didn't help, lets try prefxing all the new numbers with a 2

    ...... and so on .....

  34. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Can't you just make longer numbers?

    Seriously, there are systems like in the US where you have fixed number lengths. In Germany on the other hand, you can have numbers of different length. For example I company I've once seen had the number 3, a branch of Siemens once had 7. Someone in our vilage had a 4 digit phone number while we had a 5 digit and I have a 6 digit one.

    Actually there's one funny fact in the German phone systems. As you might know, after the separation of east Germany, it was clear that the re-unification was imminent. That's why the 09... area codes were set aside for East Germany. The codes were regional and were based on the routing structure. However in the 1970s nobody believed in the re-unification anymore. That'S why the 09... area codes were re-assigned to northern Bavaria.

    After the reunification they had no normal area codes left. However by then the Network was largely digital and they could just assign part of the Berlin area code to those new areas.

  35. Luiz Abdala
    Meh

    Adding a digit before the title...

    Be glad you don't have to dial an IPV6 number... yet.

    Around here they just added another digit and presto, 9 times the available numbers. Yeah, 9... (or 8?) everybody that had 7 digits got a 3 prior to their previous number. Nothing really fancy, and no need to use the whole area code either. And that capacity bump worked for *each* area code.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lower costs for local calls?

    "I can dial 01204 (Bolton), 01457 (Glossop), 01565 (Kutsford) and a few others and they are counted as local calls."

    Really ?

    Which telco are you with?

    Most tariffs on most telcos got rid of local calls many many years ago. I'd say all, except I've not checked on magsys tariff list for a while.

    Have local call rates been resurrected?

    ps re "Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon"

    Anonymous not because of cowardice but because the message is more important than the messenger.

  37. Sir Barry

    ABC

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

    That's nice for Joe, but what about the rest of us?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow! The title is now Optional!

    Which is much more exciting than all of this stuff about phone numbers :)

    (Or does it mean I'm connected to some some Turkish hacker?)

    Anyway (get on with it!) what I came here to say was...

    OK, I can see why the whole of London, for example, got to have so many telephones that 01 nnn nnnn just didn't cut it any longer, but that's UK's biggest city, and vastly bigger than the runners up.

    So what's this about certain areas in which numbers are scarce?

    Probably a stupid question.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    local dialing and indeed concerns about the number/area code etc redundant thesedays

    The local call system predates the use of electronicly stored number/name access as you have with mobiles and alot of home phones. The user picks the contact via name and not via number which is for all effect beyond initial contact setup utterly transparant with regards to there concerns in making a call from a stored contact.

    Now that all said the only people this will effect will be in general older people who already have a local exchange number/dialing code. Those are the people effected - but there not the types who would be reading this forum or indeed internets as a whole. Though I'm sure BT et all will adress this with the ability for the small sum of £1 a month to default to a local number if a area code isn't dialed. But then are we supprised.

  40. Pierre Castille
    Boffin

    Businesses use up large blocks of numbers

    In ye olde days, when a business could afford a receptionist, a company would "own" a single telephone number but perhaps half a dozen overflow lines as well. Customers would dial in using the advertised telephone number, but because of the use of overflow lines, six (in this example) different customer calls could be handled simultaneously. The receptionist would transfer the calls to anyone of the let us say 30 internal telephone lines.

    Now we shall come upto date. The company has sacked the receptionist and moved onto direct dialling. So the 6 lines still exist but they now handle 30 different telephone numbers. These extra numbers are purchased in blocks - and in our example, 100 numbers reserved for 30 direct dial numbers. So ye olde company used 1 telephone number and now it uses up 100 telephone numbers.

    Pedants among you will want to add fax numbers - but they are just nit picking, like those of you who blame the use of extra telephone numbers on adsl only connections.

    Come to think of it, it's the same problem as ip (v4) addresses

  41. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    FAIL

    I can see a problem here...

    I know that some carriers are already using numbers beginning with 1 or 0 for use "within" their network. (i.e. not meant to be seen by customers) So all these extra numbers that OFCOM think they're going to get don't exist.

    1. Gradivus

      People, not businesses

      Yes, what you say is true, but sadly is a red herring. Ultimately telephone numbers are all about people, not companies.

      The company I work for employs 13,000 people in the UK. So it will need 13,000 telephone numbers. OK, a few more because some people might do different work at different times of day and the company might want them to have different numbers for their different roles. And some of those 13,000 (around a quarter, perhaps) will be mobile workers and will need a mobile number.

      But the point is, each and every telephone number in the UK is ultimately linked to a PERSON; be it landline, mobile, fax, ADSL, smartphone, iPad, emergency panic alarm, etc.

      And I've tried and tried but cannot see how any one PERSON would need, or indeed could cope with, more than a dozen or so phone numbers. And remember roughly half of our 60 million population are children or elderly, who will be content with one or two numbers.

  42. Red Bren

    I might be a freak...

    I never used to remember actual phone numbers, I memorized the thumb movements on the keypad. If someone asked me for a number, I'd have to imagine tapping it out.

  43. Nights_are_Long
    Holmes

    Sweet the title is finaly optional! I now have wood....

    The main issue I can see is useless DDI purchaseing, I know of one (large) company who has a 10 person office but baught the whole DDI range from the telco I was working for at the time, lots and lots of places just really don't need the whole range available.

    It would free up numbers and also make things a whole lot cheeper.

  44. bleh_meh
    Pint

    Don't forget the new number for Police, Fire or Ambulance...

    It's easy to remember too!!!

    0118999881999725 3

    1. LAGMonkey
      IT Angle

      unfortunatly...

      That number wont get you the emergency services.

      But this one will!

      0118 999 881 999 119 725 3

      IT? as in IT crowd

  45. Chumlee
    Thumb Down

    Are those my feet?

    I live in the Bournemouth 01202 area and this is going to be truly annoying for a lot of locals. Christchurch has the highest proportion of pensioners in Britain and they are going to have a right time of it, they have enough trouble remembering where the local lunch club is let alone a new telephone numbering method. Won't somebody please think of the wrinklies!!

  46. Dropper

    Ahh I remember those days..

    It's funny, but it seems like yesterday when I left the UK, except I can no longer remember the new area codes - which had changed a few years prior to emigrating.

    Although the UK is definitely ahead in some things, like digital TV, I still find it amazing that people are charged actual money for local calls. For the person that wonders why they aren't "free" with the monthly rental of a phone line - UK phone providers charge roughly the same as they do in the US for a phone line and still charge local calls.

    On the other hand UK carriers don't scam their customers by forcing them to pay for a long distance package and all long distance calls cost the same, unlike the US where usually you pay MORE to call long distance numbers within your own state. UK carriers also don't add imaginary taxes to your phone bill either.

    So just like healthcare, its swings and roundabouts. I find it weird that they went this route tho, surely it would have been easier to add an extra digit to phone numbers like they did a couple decades ago.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DDI, "the dialing sequence" (BadBob)

    Posters mentioning mostly-unused DDI have spotted a major part of the problem.

    Posters thinking along BadBob's lines ("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.") need to get a clue about how the switching side of telephone systems work (and have worked for decades).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If we're all so clueless, perhaps you could enlighten us?!

      There will be all types of switching technology in use by different operators, especially once you move away from local exchanges and deeper into the network. But the leading digit retains a significance and during the original Ofcom consultation on this all the major fixed-line operators confirmed that local numbers starting '0' and '1' would clash with area codes and short codes under current dialling arrangements.

      By further way of proof, have you tried dialling an unallocated block of numbers locally? For example, in our area, the block of 6-digit local numbers beginning "223" is unused and not allocated to any telephone company. If I dial 2-2-3, my call fails immediately that I press that "3". Ergo, the exchange I am connected to *must* be analysing my number and applying logic to it as soon as I start dialling - even if it doesn't complete routeing until I dial the final digit.

      The key problem is not switching anyway, so much as how you'd get exchanges to distinguish between local number 012345 and Bedford (01234) 5xxxxx without ending every number dialled with a "send" button as on mobiles. You could set a timeout, but that has its own problems: do you slow down connection time by waiting 3 or 4 seconds to see if any more digits will be dialled, or do you choose a very short timeout and risk misdials by people who dial slowly?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Decision tree

        Telephone switching is a decision tree. You dial '2', the switching system takes it and sees there are more switches to follow, so waits for a another digit. You dial another '2' and the '22' switch sits there waiting for another digit. You dial '3' and the switchin unit connects you to the "number unobtainable" destination.

        Alternatively, you don't dial '3', you dial '4' (for example, if this is a used range) and the switching system sits there waiting for another digit. You dial another digit. It switches you though to either the next switch, or the number unobtainable destination. And so one until it's got to a destination.

        Unused blocks switch to Number Unobtainable as soon as you've dialed enough digits to identify that block. In Sheffield if I dial '6' I get NU immediately. Only '0', '1', '2', '3' and '9' switch through to another level.

        1. Gradivus

          Yes but...

          Yes, very interesting. And I'm certainly NOT having a go at you personally, J.G.Harston.

          But the telephone was invented in the 19th century. I suspect decision tree switching was also introduced in the 19th century. Many of us now live in the 21st century. A full 135 years since the telephone was invented.

          It doesn't have to be like this. The world has changed enormously in the last 135 years. OFCOM really should be making some bold decisions to move UK telephony, at least into the 20th century, if not into the 21st century.

  48. John Hughes

    France did this around 15 years ago.

    Or was it longer? I can't remember.

    All our numbers are 10 digits .

    (Well, 9 really, all but special numbers start with a zero).

  49. Sir Adam-All
    Stop

    everyone's an expert ....

    I presume all of you lot are fully qualified carrier-trained telephony network engineers ?

    1. Gradivus

      Luddites

      No. I'm not a fully qualified carrier-trained telephony network engineer. And, to be honest, I'm glad I'm not.

      But I DO know that our eleven digit telephone numbers give us 100 billion unique numbers. And in a country of around 60 million that should be enough.

      The telephone was introduced in the 19th century. We now live in the 21st century. It's about time our 'fully qualified carrier-trained telephony network engineers' joined us.

  50. Wize

    Why dont they follow the IP4/IP6 change and give us all really long numbers.

    And follow the IT Crowd for the new emergency services number.

  51. Radio Wales
    FAIL

    DUH!

    What is the matter with this country? Every few years we get another number crisis as though it is beyond conception that we would ever need more and the everytime promise is that it will finally solve the problem for once and for all - until the next time...

    I'm no comms expert but is it really beyond the wit of people to come up with a sustainable solution?

    It's nice having an autodial phone and I agree most people dial by name nowadays but I'm certainly fed up with having to frequently change all my stored numbers which kind of defeats the purpose.

    I have been hearing about 'personal' numbers for a while - what's the problem with an unique number? - I've managed to keep my mobile number since the start without a problem and everybody whose ever known me knows my number despite moving several times. I usually find out about my son's phone change by him not being at the number I have because he forgets to tell anyone.

  52. Rob Beard

    This reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Springfield was split into two when they introduced area codes. I wonder if Bournemouth too will split into Old Bournemouth and New Bournemouth? :-)

    What they need is The Who to go and sort it out.

    For me at least, I've not got into the habit of dialing the area code regardless even when dialing a number in the same area code from my home phone.

    Rob

  53. Tidosho
    WTF?

    First IP adresses, and now phone numbers

    Wow, we're really running out of resources in life! Coal, diesel, petrol, then IPV4 addresses, and now telephone numbers?

    What next, oxygen?

  54. J.G.Harston Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It's actually dickwads like these people: http://www.ttnc.co.uk/numbers/list/01947_whitby who are the reason numbers are running out. It's not that the numbers are running out, it's that people are buying up numbers and holding onto the to sell on.

  55. Mike Flex

    "writing DBASE IV code to trawl a database and convert 01 codes to 071 / 081"

    Ah, yes, must do that sometime.

    Just as soon as I get a round tuit.

  56. Grease Monkey

    One of the reasons numbers are running out is that providers do no reuse them. If providers were actually allowed to use previously deleted numbers there would be lots to go round.

  57. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Local number expansion no problem with Siemens

    When VietNam decided to modernize it;s POTS system, it decided upon Siemens equipment.

    Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh/SaiGon had 04 and 08 as area codes and all the line numbers began with 8 - a lucky number for many here - followed by 5 digits.

    Expanding subscriber numbers were accommodated by simply inserting an additional prefix number universally across an area code. Recently we went big time in these major cities maintaining the same area code followed by a new prefix digit (either 2 or 3) plus the former 7 digit, for a line number with 8 digits.

    At all times local dialing was possible, i.e. no area code, and because the new numbers were the older, familiar, number plus a new prefix, and inconvenience was minimized. This schema has been used throughout the country with each province retaining it's unique code.

    Of course, the secret lies in the flexibility of the switching software.

    North America has stuck with it's 7-digit local number plan and now has cities that have two or three different area codes, intermixed rather than by geographic area. Really confusing. The problem started when they allocated cell phones numbers within land area codes - the UK solution of having separate area codes for cell phones is far superior and enables call billing to be implemented.

  58. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Hey wait a minute

    The UK doesn't have widespread ISDN anymore as far as I've heard. (some article here recently mentioned that the author couldn't get ISDN)

    Now if you need to dial the area code with every number, won't that keep up valuable resources in the switches? I mean every digit is about half a second on analog dialling. So with a zero plus 4 digits, the part decoding the numbers will be, on average, 3 seconds longer in use. Phone operators might need to buy new equipment. (It's less of a problem with ISDN as it's digital and everything can be done with computers instead of electromechanical systems)

  59. Gradivus

    How many numbers do we need?

    UK telephone numbers puzzle me. My landline telephone number has eleven digits. That gives (theoretically) one hundred thousand million (100 billion) telephone numbers available for use in the UK.

    Or, about 1,650 telephone numbers for each man, woman child and baby in the UK. Or, about 6,500 (yes, six and a half thousand) numbers for a traditional family of mum, dad and two kids.

    WTF is going on here? How can we be running out of numbers?

    And yes, I realise that existing telephony conventions mean that not all 100 billion are available, but many billions are.

    I'm wholeheartedly behind OFCOM's plan to charge 10p per number per year. That'll cost me 60p per year (1x landline, 1x mobile, 1x 'spare' mobile, 1x international SIM, 1x work landline, 1x work mobile). Better still, make it £1 per number per year. Call me a wealthy, extravagant fool if you wish, but I suspect I'll not even notice a 60p (or £6) per year charge in amongst all my other telephony costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But the point is that BT are looking at making you dial the whole number including STD. At the moment you don't dial the STD code, so you don't get all those theoretical numbers. BT are just dealing with the six digit local numbers in this case.

      The problem is apparently compounded by the way numbers are allocated to different providers, and to smaller local exchanges and the way calls are routed to these. This effectively means that there are loads of numbers within that range of a million possibilities that are out of bounds to any given provider. Then there are chunks of numbers that get eaten up by big corporate systems. Then add to that the fact that numbers can't be reused for no sensible reason.

      So you start with a million possible numbers within a given STD code, but how many of those numbers are available to a particular line in a particular house?

      And as you say some number combinations can't be used at all. However if you make the STD code mandatory then suddenly those particular ranges become available. For example, without the STD code 999123 is obviously impossible. With the STD code however 01234999123 would be possible.

      The thing that puzzles me is why they can't just add another leading digit as they have done so many times before. Hey, maybe they could think about the future and instead of adding just one digit try two or three this time.

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