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Phone Number Shortage Means 5 Cities Must Dial Full Area Code

Earlier in the year, we reported on Ofcom's announcement that – in response to the fact the UK is rapidly running out of telephone numbers - five areas will see the introduction of new dialling codes from October 2014.

So, where are the new codes?

New codes have now been implemented in Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Middlesborough and Milton Keynes to make way for new telephone numbers across the rest of the country.

From Friday, 31st October, these regions will now have to include the area code, just as you do when dialling from a mobile phone. Before, everyone in the UK could leave out the five digit prefix.

The change in dialling procedure is a direct response to millions of households across the country signing-up to new telephone numbers, and switching telecoms providers from BT to companies such as TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin. This has significantly depleted the remaining number of dialling options in certain areas of the country.

Ofcom’s response to this has been to make certain regions dial the number and area code in full. Failing to do this will now result in an automated error message.

Phone Number Shortage

Image by: Chris Campbell

The first phase of many

The move is also the first in a proposed series of dialling code changes to be rolled out across the country for other areas, with Oxford, Slough and Stoke-on-Trent being touted as next in line.

A spokesman from Ofcom said: "Asking landline callers to use the code when dialling local numbers is intended to safeguard the future supply of new landline numbers and avoid the need for more disruptive measures, such as changing existing phone numbers," a spokesman said.

"The supply of new landline numbers also ensures that consumers and businesses continue to enjoy the widest choice of telecoms providers."

A successful trial run

New dialling codes had already been introduced in Bournemouth in 2012, with Ofcom saying the transition had ‘ran smoothly’ and 94% of residents stating that the changes didn’t bother them.

In a bid to encourage telecom companies to use the new numbers more efficiently, the regulator ran a 12-month pilot scheme, charging them for the numbers they supplied to them.

It targeted the 30 areas in the country with the lowest volume of telephone numbers – although there still remained a shortage of numbers, even with companies returning a large amount of unused numbers.

Reacting to the risk of running out

Ofcom was prompted into conducting a more comprehensive review after identifying a problem in Bournemouth in 2011. The regulator concluded that if they didn’t take action with telephone numbers in the five identified areas, then numbers could potentially run out by July 2015 and October 2016.

There will not be any additional costs for dialling the area code in the affected regions.

Find what you’re looking for

The UK now has approximately 650 area codes based on geographical location. This makes something such as looking for a relative’s address a lot easier. Providing you have their full name and telephone number, White Pages could help you locate them, as long as they’ve supplied their address details on the electoral roll.