Ofcom plans future of UK Telephone Numbering

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Ofcom today set out its future approach to telephone numbering in the UK. The statement follows a full public consultation earlier this year. Ofcom received more than 200 responses from industry and consumers.

Ofcom's approach includes four key priorities:

1. No changes to geographic numbers

Geographic telephone numbers starting 01 and 02 are not changing.

Ofcom plans to avoid changes to anyone's geographic number in the future, primarily by improving the efficiency with which numbers are allocated. Ofcom allocates blocks of numbers to communications providers, who in turn allocate them to customers.

To prevent changes to geographic numbers in the future, Ofcom will:

  • Assess five years in advance where numbers will be in most demand;
  • In those areas, allocate numbers in blocks of one thousand instead of ten thousand numbers, and;
  • Actively reclaim unused numbers to prevent allocated numbers being wasted - and to keep providing numbers to new competitors.

2. New UK-wide 03 number range

Ofcom will introduce new UK-wide 03 numbers from early next year. Calls to 03 numbers will cost the same as calls to geographic numbers, and be included as part of any inclusive call minutes or discount schemes for geographic calls. This will apply to calls from any line. No revenue sharing will be permitted on calls to 03 numbers.

The introduction of 03 numbers will enable organisations to offer consumers a single national point of contact without making additional charges for the service. This should give consumers confidence about calling 03 and Ofcom expects public services and many others to view 03 numbers as more appropriate than chargeable 08 numbers.

3. Clearer and simpler prices for 08 numbers

Ofcom's future approach to making 08 numbers available is designed to ensure that the first three digits of these numbers give consumers a clear message about the likely cost of a call. Ofcom will move to three clear categories of 08 numbers:

  • 080: Free-Phone (including current 0800 and 0808 numbers);
  • 084: Up to a lower rate (5p per minute from BT lines);
  • 087: Up to a higher rate (10p per minute from BT lines).

Pricing levels for 084 and 087 for calls from any line, including BT lines and mobiles, will be reviewed in detail as Ofcom implements this approach.

The 087 category will include calls to 0870, which will be capped at the price of national geographic calls. This reflects Ofcom's decision earlier this year to address consumer concerns about chargeable 08 numbers, especially 0870.

Ofcom also plans to simplify 09 numbers in a similar way, so that the first three digits of the number will give customers a clear message about what service or tariff is involved in a call. Ofcom expects to consult on detailed proposals for 09 numbers later this year.

4. Protecting consumers from telephone scams

Ofcom is changing the process for allocating numbers to communications providers to increase consumer protection. Providers applying for telephone numbers will be subject to a consumer protection test.

Telephone numbers will not be allocated to providers whose previous conduct points to a risk that they will be involved in future telephone scams. This idea has strong and widespread support, and Ofcom expects to consult on the details later in 2006.

Ofcom is also taking specific action to prevent scams on 070 personal numbers, which are often confused with mobile numbers. Ofcom will end 070 personal numbering allocations from the end of 2007, and from early 2007 customers will have to get a pre-call announcement of call charges for any calls above a certain price.

During 2007 Ofcom will assess demand for genuine personal numbering services and may then open replacement 06 numbers for them. This will allow 07 numbers to be used only for mobile services, ending any potential confusion.

For more information please visit the Ofcom Web Site;