How relevant is a local number's prefix?

Telecoms /

There is quite often some degree of confusion when it comes to choosing a local number and it is mostly caused by the prefix. If you’re not sure what the prefix is, it’s the first few digits after the area code.

I was talking to a customer a few days ago and they told me they were looking for a Bradford number beginning 01274 8XX XXX. I had a look at our available 01274 numbers and found they all began 01274 456 XXX. The customer was disappointed that we couldn't offer the right number for her area.

Well, that's not very good of you…

But this is where the confusion begins. The prefix has absolutely no bearing on the relevance of the local number. The only thing that matters is the area code itself, which for Bradford is 01274.

Each telecoms provider is given a different prefix for each area code. So in this case, all our Bradford numbers have the prefix of '456'. The customer's understanding of what a Bradford number is most likely based on BT's range of numbers, which have the prefix starting '8'.

But as providers such as Sky and Virgin Media gain more prominence in providing landlines, you'll start to see more and more prefixes in your local area.

So what difference does the prefix make?

None whatsoever. The most common confusion we find regarding prefixes, come with London numbers. Historically, 0207 is associated with inner London, whereas 0208 is associated with outer London. People actually get even more confused when we talk about the new 0203 range - what part of London is this associated with?

London. Not any particular part of London either. The fact is, the area code for London is actually just 020, so all three number ranges are the same. People believe that they represent different areas because this is where BT originally chose to place them.

You may start to notice different prefixes in your local area. My current home phone number begins 01245 63, however the last two houses I’ve lived in began 01245 47. Ok, so I now live in a different part of town, but the real difference in the prefix is based on provider - '63' is a Sky range, whereas '47' is a BT range. A friend of mine who lives about 20 houses away from me down the same road, has a Virgin Media number which begins '60'.

On my way to work each morning, I walk past a little parade of businesses such as cafes, estate agencies and hairdressers. I don't normally pay much attention to them, but as I walked past this morning, I noticed something for the first time - they all use local numbers, but they all had completely different prefixes.

So which business had the right local number? The answer: all of them