Future of telephone numbers

Posted on: 12th April 2022, by Magrathea

Ofcom started consulting back in 2019 and again in 2020, which we summarised briefly in a previous article (https://www.magrathea-telecom.co.uk/regulatory-review-the-year-so-far/), and now they have finally issued a statement.

This statement only covers two of the three key points, relating to geographic numbers, leaving any statement about 084/087 numbers to follow.

Magrathea did suggest that 084/087 were low priority given all of the other consultations underway at the time so it’s quite a relief to see that we are not yet being asked to entirely redesign how we manage and charge for these numbers and calls right now!

For now Ofcom have confirmed two key things, both of which we are pleased to see align with the position we took in our response in 2019.

Firstly, Ofcom have decided to keep the existing rules on geographic numbering whereby the area code has location significance.  Ofcom agree that some people and businesses still put value on this connection between location and area code so there are no changes here.

Magrathea clients are reminded that you can use numbers ‘out of area’ if your user expresses a requirement for a particular area code.

The second point focused on local dialling.  Ofcom are removing the requirement to provide local dialling on landline phone services – that means that service providers can now require their users to dial the full number, including area code, for every call.

Ofcom recognise that the value of local dialling has declined and that it is more complex to provide on IP networks but they have set out expectations for the measures that service providers must take to introduce the changes to reduce consumer harm.

For any provider who wishes to maintain local dialling, they are free to do so, but for everyone else they must communicate with their customers about any withdrawal of local dialling, something which could easily dovetail with migration to IP services for many providers.

One area we disagree with is the lack of a co-ordinated approach.  Magrathea pushed for a UK wide closure with associated awareness campaign but Ofcom feel this would not be proportionate.  Instead they want to ensure providers mitigate any harm during a staged approach by providing a misdial announcement (if the caller forgets to include an area code) and give reasonable notice of the changes, paying particular attention to the needs of vulnerable users.

The above change takes effect immediately with a new Numbering Plan available here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/102613/national-numbering-plan.pdf

You can see the whole statement here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/233745/Future-of-Numbering-Statement-on-geographic-numbering.pdf