UK Area Codes and Phone Number Information

Area codes without local dialling

What is local dialling?

Traditionally, it has been possible to omit the area code when making telephone calls between two landlines that share the same area code. Telephone users could dial each other using just the 'local number' that followed the code, allowing local calls to be dialled more quickly and easily than if the full number had to be entered.

The value of this feature has diminished in recent years, as telephones have gained in-built phone books and shortcuts to dial favourite numbers. Accordingly telephone companies are no longer required to offer this service and it is gradually being withdrawn. BT's new Digital Voice home phone service requires the full national number to be dialled, for example.

Enforced removal of local dialling

In addition to the generally decreasing availability of local dialling, there are some areas where local dialling has not been available at all for several years. These areas lost the facility as part of regulator Ofcom's attempts to ease localised shortages of spare telephone numbers.

Areas where telephone companies have been instructed to withdraw all local dialling are:

Area codeLocationEffective from
01202Bournemouth1 November 2012
01224Aberdeen1 October 2014
01273Brighton1 October 2014
01274Bradford1 October 2014
01642Middlesbrough1 October 2014
01908Milton Keynes1 October 2014

Reason for the change

All these areas have come close to running out of available telephone numbers. The traditional method to relieve this situation is to lengthen numbers - such as in London where 7-digit local numbers were replaced with 8-digit numbers during 2000.

The method now favoured by regulator Ofcom is to require individuals to include the code when dialling local numbers, thus allowing previously unusable local phone numbers beginning with 0 or 1 to be used.

Losing the facility to dial locally without the code is considered to involve less upheaval for consumers and businesses than renumbering.

How it works

Prior to the change only the local numbers 200000 to 998999 were available for use in each area, as numbers beginning with '0' or '1' or '999' conflicted with the area codes and special services that begin with these digits.

More specifically, the first digit dialled is used by landline phone networks to determine what type of number is being called:

Accordingly, local phone numbers beginning with '0' or '1' have not been issued as there is no way to dial them without the code; the network could not tell if somebody dialling '012345' required the local number 012345, or was trying to connect to a number in the Bedford (01234) area code, for example.

These conflicts are removed if the facility for dialling locally without the code is removed and all numbers are dialled in full.

Bringing local numbers beginning '0' and '1' into use increases the amount of numbers available locally by about 25%.

How did numbers run out?

There are a few main reasons why these areas have run out of numbers:

Future plans for these areas

The withdrawal of local dialling has helped these areas avoid running out of numbers so far, with spare capacity still remaining as of 2022.

It is likely that the migration away from traditional phone lines to newer fibre networks and digital phone services will also help free up numbers; technical inefficiencies in the old phone networks will be eliminated and demand for numbers may drop as broadband-only lines with no associated phone service become available to customers.

Should any of these areas see a sustained increase in demand for phone numbers, it is likely it will be given a second batch of numbers beginning with a different area code. This means some numbers will begin with the area's original code, while others may begin with completely different digits. This situation does not exist anywhere else in the UK as yet, although it is common in other countries. In Spain, for example, Las Palmas splits its telephone numbers across area codes 828 and 928. Meanwhile, telephone numbers in central New York can begin with any of four area codes: 212, 332, 646 and 917.

Telephone wires and a telephone pole

 

 

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