UK 'Running Out of Phone Numbers': Ofcom

Expansion to existing area codes is needed for several areas across England and Scotland.


By Michael Moore

Industry regulator Ofcom has introduced new guidelines surrounding how people make local calls as it attempts to deal with the fact that the UK is running out of phone numbers.

From today, residents in five areas at risk of running out of numbers across the UK will need to dial their entire local area code when making a local call over a landline. Callers who omit the local area code will not be connected, but will hear a message telling them to redial with the code included.

The affected areas are Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908).

Ofcom says the new methods will add around 200,000 more numbers in each area, increasing the possibility of future expansion, and would be less disruptive that having to add in an extra digit to existing numbers.

Your Number Is Up

Without this change, the five areas would run out of telephone number sometime between February 2015 and September 2016, Ofcom said. The regulator also added that it is looking at expanded the scheme to other at-risk localities, as it was monitoring several areas which could run out of numbers sometime after 2018.

The cost of making the calls will be unaffected, and residents should not experience any disruption to services, Ofcom said, noting that in preparation for the move, it had carried out a similar pilot scheme in 2012 around the Bournemouth area with minimal disruption, finding that 94 percent of residents were not concerned with the change.

"Geographic telephone numbers are an increasingly scarce resource," the regulator said in its statement outlining the move, which had been under consideration since September 2011.

"Our forecast of CPs' (communications providers) demand shows that, unless we take action, we risk running out of geographic numbers to allocate to CPs in some areas."