UK telephone numbering plan

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The UK telephone numbering plan, also known as the National Numbering Plan, is regulated by the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which replaced the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) in 2003.


[edit] Format

[edit] General format

Following the changes in 1995, 2000 and 2001, the numbering range in use is as follows. Note that the initial "0" of a telephone number (called the trunk prefix) is not properly considered part of the area code but is, rather, the national long distance calling prefix, and thus (for example) 023 is a "two-digit" area code.

  • Calls originating in the UK
    • The leading "0" is only required for calls originating in the UK.
    • Likewise, "00" is the UK dialing prefix for international calls (to be followed by the international country code and number).
  • Calls originating from outside the UK
    • Note: The leading "0" should be omitted for all international calls and replaced with the international country code for the UK: +44.

[edit] Geographic numbering

  • (01xxx) xxx xxx — a four digit area code and six digit subscriber number. The break is placed in the middle by convention but this does not reflect normal allocation blocks. e.g:
01382 Dundee 38 = DU
01482 Hull 48 = HU
01582 Luton 58 = LU
  • (01x1) xxx xxxx — the geographical number format for the larger cities, a three digit area code, with a seven digit subscriber number where the first three digits identifies an area within the city.
0121 Birmingham 2 = B
0131 Edinburgh 3 = E
0141 Glasgow 4 = G
0151 Liverpool 5 = L
0161 Manchester 6 = M
0171 Used for inner London until 2000
0181 Used for outer London until 2000
0191 Newcastle upon Tyne/Sunderland/Wearside/Durham 9 = W
  • (011x) xxx xxxx — the geographical number format for a second tier of large cities, a three digit area code, with a seven-digit subscriber number, e.g:
0113 Leeds formerly 0532  
0114 Sheffield formerly 0742
0115 Nottingham formerly 0602  
0116 Leicester formerly 0533
0117 Bristol formerly 0272
0118 Reading Phased in between 1996 and 1998
  • (02x) xxxx xxxx — the geographical number format for areas of high population densities which had run out of spare numbers using six or seven digit numbers and now the most common format, a two digit area code with an 8-digit subscriber number. The short area code is known as a wide area code. e.g:
020 London
023 South Hampshire (Southampton and Portsmouth)
024 Coventry
028 Northern Ireland (e.g. Belfast 028 90xx xxxx, Omagh 028 82xx xxxx)
029 Cardiff (Cardiff 029 20xx xxxx) (may also become code for the rest of Wales)
  • (01xxx[x]) xxxx[x] — other geographical number formats; note that STD code and subscriber number do not have to total 11 digits, e.g:
(01204) xxxxx Bolton (Daubhill)
(015396) xxxxx Sedbergh
(01697) xxxxx Brampton

[edit] New '03' nationwide code

It has been agreed by Ofcom on 27 July 2006 that soon companies will be offered to use a '03' geographic number as well as the '0870' national rate numbers.

Callers would be charged at the same rate as existing area codes which start with 01, or 02. This means that customers benefitting from 'free' minutes on mobiles or landlines would also be able to call these numbers. '0870', '0845' and sometimes the freephone '0800' numbers are not usually covered under such call plans.[1]

[edit] National Dialling Only ranges

These ranges have subscriber numbers beginning with the digits '0' or '1', eg:

01332 050 xxx Derby
01382 006 xxx Dundee
0141 005 xxxx Glasgow
020 0003 xxxx London

In order to avoid confusion with codes beginning with these digits, the area code must always be dialled, even from within the same geographic exchange. Traditionally these have not been used for inbound calls, although these are now being allocated to some Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services[citation needed]. This has been problematic as some mobile phone operators in the UK do not allow access to these ranges, and there may also be difficulty accessing these numbers from outside the UK.

[edit] Nongeographic numbering

  • 05x xxxx xxxx — Reserved for corporate numbering.
055 xxxx xxxx Used by BT for its Broadband Voice service
056 xxxx xxxx Allocated by Ofcom for VoIP services

The 0500 range is used for some freephone services which were originally provided by Mercury Communications Ltd (now Cable & Wireless).

  • 07xxx xxxxxx — mobile phones, pagers and personal numbering.

Individual mobile phone companies are allocated different ranges within the 077xx, 078xx and 079xx area codes. Changes to mobile numbers were mostly straight replacements, such as Vodafone customers on the 0378 block became 07778.

070xx Personal numbering (to be scrapped in 2006 for more space for mobile phone operators) Personal numbering to be moved to '06'.
076xx Pagers
077xx Mobile phones (former 03xx and 04xx — mostly Vodafone and O2 (formerly Cellnet)
078xx Mobile phones (former 05xx, 06xx and 08xx — mostly Vodafone and O2 (formerly Cellnet)
079xx Mobile phones (former 09xx — mostly Orange and T-Mobile (formerly one2one)

Since the advent of Mobile number portability, mobile prefixes can no longer be relied on to determine the current operator of a particular mobile number - only the original operator.

  • 08xx — Non-geographic fixed-rate, or special-rate services, e.g. Many UK businesses employ this type of number because of extra benefits 08xx numbers can provide, such as fax to email, virtual office applications, and also because they are totally portable - if your business moves, the 08xx number can move with you.
0800 xxx xxxx
0800 xxx xxx
0808 xxx xxxx
"Freephone" (free to caller), except usually for those calling from a mobile phone.

[edit] Crown dependencies

The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey etc.) and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK but, as a legacy of their postal and telephone services being operated by the UK GPO until 1969, they continue to form part of the UK numbering plan, using the following ranges:

  • Guernsey
01481 Fixed line 48 = GU
07781 Mobile phones and pagers
  • Jersey
01534 Fixed line 53 = JE
07797 Mobile phones and pagers
  • Isle of Man
01624 Fixed line 62 = MA
07624 Mobile phones and pagers

On the Isle of Man, both fixed and mobile phone numbers can be dialled locally in the six-digit format.

Although calls from the UK to these islands are charged at the same rate as those to geographic numbers in the UK, calls to the Channel Islands may be excluded from calling plans offering unlimited UK fixed line calls.

[edit] Drama numbers

Ofcom has also reserved certain number ranges for use in television dramas and films, so as to avoid the risk of people having their telephone numbers displayed, and receiving unwanted calls. This is similar to the use of fictitious telephone numbers in the United States and Canada with the digits 555. In most of the large cities with three-digit area codes a range of numbers is reserved, usually all the numbers starting with the digits 4960. For fictitious numbers in other areas the area code 01632 is reserved; this code is not in use, although 0632 was used for Newcastle upon Tyne until the late 1980s (63 = NE). There are also reserved ranges for fictitious mobile, free and premium rate numbers.

[edit] Special service numbers

Short codes beginning with 1 are reserved for telecom service providers' own functionality; some of the most well-known are codes for use with Caller Display:

141 Number withhold when normally released
1470 Number release when normally withheld
1471 Call Return caller may press 3 to return call on most networks

The UK has two free emergency numbers — the traditional 999, which is still widely used, and the EU standard 112, which can be used in all member states of the European Union. Both 999 and 112 are used to contact all emergency services: Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Mountain Rescue, Coastguard and Cave Rescue. The chargeable number 101 (10p per call) is being introduced in stages, with an aim to cover all of England and Wales by 2008, for "non-urgent emergencies". As of November 2006 however, it appears that owing to low takeup in trial areas this proposal is on indefinite hold.

The operator is obtained via 100, while directory enquiries, formerly 192, is now provided in the 118xxx range, e.g. 118 500, 118 118, by different companies. International Operator assistance is reached through "155".

Fixed BT line telephone subscribers have the opportunity to use an automated messaging service which takes messages when the called number is either engaged ("busy") or not answered within a given time. This can be accessed by calling 1571.

Since the early 1990s speaking clock services have been available throughout Britain using the number 123 (before this some areas used local clocks on numbers such as "8081"). Some mobile operators allocate other services to these numbers, such as customer services or voicemail etc.

Incidentally, the website has a TIM2000 machine featuring the voice of Pat Simmons, who was for many years, the voice of the speaking clock. To hear you can dial 0871 789 3642 (10p/min).

Two special telephone numbers within the regular code space have only eight digits, namely 0800 1111 the national ChildLine helpline, and 0845 4647 for NHS Direct medical advice.

[edit] History

The telephone service in the United Kingdom was originally provided by private companies and local councils. But by 191213 [2] all except the telephone service of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire and Guernsey had been bought out by the Post Office. The Post Office also operated telephone services in Jersey until 1923 and the Isle of Man until 1969 when the islands took over responsibility for their own postal and telephone services - although the Isle of Man remained part of British Telecom until 1987.

Post Office Telecommunications was reorganised in 198081 [3] as British Telecommunications (British Telecom, or BT), and was the first major nationalised industry to be privatised by the Conservative government. The Hull Telephone Department was itself reconstituted as Kingston Communications, in 1987; it was sold by Hull City Council in the late 1990s and celebrated its centenary in 2004.

[edit] Director system

In 1922 the first 'Director' telephone exchange was brought into service in Holborn, London and rolled out progressively across Greater London. A 3 digit code, represented by letters, identified the local exchange. Director schemes were gradually introduced in the other major cities of the UK--Birmingham, Edinburgh (although a relatively small city, it obtained all-figure dialling for political reasons), Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

[edit] Introduction of area codes

Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) was introduced in 1958 [4] to allow a caller to call another telephone directly instead of via a manual telephone exchange operator. Uniform exchange codes, usually called STD codes, were allocated for every exchange in the country, progressively as STD was rolled out. This process was not completed until 1979 [5].

The original concept was for STD to be a nationwide Director system, and in common with the Director system, the exchange codes were originally assigned based on two letters of the respective place's name and the corresponding numbers on a telephone dial. For example Aylesbury was given the STD code 0AY6, where the letter A can be found on the number 2 and the letter Y on the number 9. The letter O became a zero, such as for Bournemouth: 0BO2 where BO = 20. Originally, where a place's name began with the letter 'O' the code would begin with two zeros, such as Oxford: 0OX2 where OX = 09. These codes starting with '00' were later reallocated, freeing the prefix 00 for use by calls to the Republic of Ireland, to radiophones and to premium rate numbers.

For the Director areas a 2 or 3 digit code was used for the city. These were:

Area code City Notes
01 London See 01 for London below
021 Birmingham (2 = B)
031 Edinburgh (3 = E)
041 Glasgow (4 = G)
051 Liverpool (5 = L)
061 Manchester (6 = M)

The codes 071, 081, and 091 were reserved for later expansion, with the former two eventually being allocated to London (see below), and 091 to Tyne and Wear and Durham.

[edit] All figure dialling

Main article: All figure dialling

The use of names was intended to provide a mnemonic for the exchange, but as more and more places were given STD codes the mnemonic link became more and more obscure, and this system became unworkable. The use of alphabetic exchange (area) codes was abandoned in 1966 in favour of all figure numbering. As such about 60% of current area codes are still based on the original alphabetic STD.

[edit] Calls to the Republic of Ireland

Until the late 1980s, calls to cities in the Republic of Ireland were made using short codes starting with 000:

Dublin     0001
Cork       0002
Drogheda   0004
Waterford  0005
Limerick   0006
Sligo      0007
Galway     0009 

As the network was upgraded direct dialling was possible throughout the whole country, but this was not completed in the rural areas until 1988. Until then, calls from the UK to Ireland were made through the operator and diverted to the "Irish Service".

This was discontinued in the late 1980s, so that all calls to the Republic of Ireland from the UK had to be dialled in the international format using the international access code (since 1995, 00) and country code (353).

Although full international dialling is now used, calls from Northern Ireland to landlines in the Republic are charged at UK national or local rates, and calls from Great Britain to the Republic are charged at a special "Irish Republic" rate, higher than inland rates, but lower than those for elsewhere in Western Europe.

[edit] Number shortage

With growth in second phone lines, direct dial-in (DDI) lines, fax machines and multiple telecoms operators during the 1980s the demand for telephone numbers exceeded the available number ranges. A number of changes were made to the UK numbering plan.

[edit] 01 for London

The first major change was in May 1990, when the London 01 area code was replaced with 071 and 081. Exchanges in central London used the 071 code with the remaining exchanges using the 081 code and formed a ring around the 071 area. Although this effectively doubled the available numbers it was not the last change for the capital.

[edit] PhONE Day

On "PhONE Day", 16 April 1995, which was also Easter Sunday in Western Christianity, the digit "1" was inserted into all UK geographic area codes. Promotion of this day included special Easter Eggs. Under the new changes, for example, central London's 071 became 0171. This was with a view to reorganising the numbering plan, so that the first two digits would indicate the type of service called:

Area code prefix Service type
00 International dialling
01 Geographic area codes
02 New geographic area codes
03 Geographic area code expansion
04 Reserved for future use
05 Corporate numbering
06 Reserved for future use
07 Mobile phones, pagers and personal numbering
08 Freephone and shared cost
09 Premium rate, similar to US 1 900 number range

The international access code also changed on 'PhONE Day', from 010 to 00. Five new area codes were introduced for cities that were running low on phone numbers — and a digit was prepended to each existing local number.

City New numbering Old numbering Notes
Leeds 0113 2xx xxxx 0532 xxx xxx 53 = LE
Sheffield 0114 2xx xxxx 0742 xxx xxx 74 = SH
Nottingham 0115 9xx xxxx 0602 xxx xxx 60 = NO
Leicester 0116 2xx xxxx 0533 xxx xxx 53 = LE
Bristol 0117 9xx xxxx 0272 xxx xxx 27 = BR
Reading 0118 9xx xxxx 0734 xxx xxx →
01734 xxx xxx
73 = RE; changed between 1996 and 1998, not on PhONE Day[6].

Note that the first digit of the local numbers within these codes is no longer restricted to those shown: for example, while all pre-'PhONE Day' Leeds numbers migrated to 0113 2xx xxxx, this numbering range has since been exhausted, and local numbers of the form 0113 3xx xxxx are now assigned; similarly in Bristol, the range 0117 9xx xxxx has been exhausted and new numbers take the form 0117 3xx xxxx.

[edit] Big Number Change

Main article: Big Number Change

On 22 April 2000 the second phase of the plan came into operation, dubbed the "Big Number Change". With 02* freed up by the previous reorganisation, it could be re-used.

City New numbering Old numbering Notes
London 020 7xxx xxxx 0171 xxx xxxx Used for existing inner London numbers and new numbers London-wide
020 8xxx xxxx 0181 xxx xxxx Used for existing outer London numbers and new numbers London-wide
020 3xxx xxxx   New phase of numbers, released London-wide from June 2005
Southampton 023 80xx xxxx 01703 xxxxxx 70 = SO
Portsmouth 023 92xx xxxx 01705 xxxxxx 70 = PO
Coventry 024 76xx xxxx 01203 xxxxxx 20 = CO
Cardiff 029 20xx xxxx 01222 xxxxxx 22 = CA
029 21xx xxxx   New phase of numbers from June 2005

Note that although Southampton and Portsmouth are one code from a code structure point of view, as of January 2006 calls between them are not local calls and the "codes" (023) 80 and (023) 92 are treated as separate by the BT site for determining local call area.

It is planned that the new codes will eventually cover a larger area than at present. For example, although 029 presently covers just the Cardiff area, it may in the future cover all of Wales. It is interesting that AW (All Wales) and CY (Cymru, the Welsh for Wales) are both represented on a telephone keypad as 29.

The code for Northern Ireland is 028, which can be represented by both BT (for Belfast) or AU (for All Ulster).

The transition codes for Northern Ireland are shown below. These can be accessed from the Republic of Ireland using either the domestic code 048, or the international code 00 44 28.

The prefixes for existing numbers in Northern Ireland are split up into 7 groups, roughly based upon the county in which the main exchange is based. The initial digit of each phone number is based on the designated county - for example, the first county alphabetically is County Antrim so numbers in this county start 2. The next county is County Armagh so numbers here start 3. One exception to this is the Greater Belfast area, initial digit 9, which is extended to include each adjacent former STD code area, including towns such as Antrim, Bangor and Saintfield.

Town/City Region New numbering Old numbering
Larne County Antrim 028 28xx xxxx 01574 xxxxxx
Armagh County Armagh 028 37xx xxxx 01861 xxxxxx
Newcastle County Down 028 437x xxxx 013967 xxxxx
Enniskillen County Fermanagh 028 66xx xxxx 01365 xxx xxx
Derry County Londonderry 028 71xx xxxx 01504 xxxxxx
Dungannon County Tyrone 028 87xx xxxx 01868 xxxxxx
Omagh County Tyrone 028 82xx xxxx 01662 xxxxxx
Belfast Greater Belfast 028 90xx xxxx 01232 xxx xxx

In addition, mobile and pager numbers were all moved into the 07 range. Pagers moved into 076, while personal numbers moved to 070. Mobile numbers moved into the 077, 078 and 079 ranges. In addition, lo-call and nationalcall numbers migrated to 08xxx and premium rate numbers to 09xxx.

[edit] 020 for London

The number change meant that London returned to a single area code again (as in the old 01 days), with no "inner/outer" split. Existing London numbers acquired the prefixes 7 or 8, but from that point on 020 7xxx xxxx and 020 8xxx xxxx numbers were assigned or reused anywhere in the London area covered by the single (city-wide) 020 code.

From June 2005 the regulator, Ofcom, ceased to allocate number blocks to suppliers in the 7xxx xxxx and 8xxx xxxx ranges. From this date onwards all number allocations were in the 3xxx xxxx range and can be used anywhere in the London (020) area. Although new blocks of 7xxx xxxx and 8xxx xxxx range numbers are no longer being allocated to suppliers, those that have not yet exhausted their existing blocks are able to continue to issue and re-issue them to their customers.

Numbers in the 020 0xxx xxxx and 020 1xxx xxxx number ranges have also been made available. However, these numbers cannot be dialled without the 020 code and are called "London National Dialling" numbers.

It is a common misconception that London still has more than one area code (i.e. "0207 & 0208"). This is incorrect in the sense that omitting the "020" area code will give a local number that can be dialled from any other "020" line, so the commonly seen spacing 020x xxx xxxx, does not conform to the normal practice of separating the area code by a space.

This misconception of area code and number separation is also seen in other areas of the country where an area code reduction was seen due to the Big Number Change, such as Reading numbers still being written 01189 xxxxxx, whereas the correct number sequence is 0118 9xx xxxx, Coventry being written as 02476 xxxxxx, whereas the correct number sequence is 024 76xx xxxx, Cardiff 029 being written as 02920 xxxxxx whereas the correct number sequence is 029 20xx xxxx. See, for example, the Ofcom FAQ [7] (PDF file).

[edit] New '06' Code in 2006

Creating numbers beginning 06, to replace 070 numbers - sometimes confused with mobiles - is also being considered.

At the moment, companies such as Patientline use 070 numbers. There is no cap on caller charges.

Ofcom wants 070 and 06 numbers to have a price cap, and 07 numbers to be used exclusively for mobile phones.

Under plans, rates charged to people calling 08 phone lines would be made clearer by linking the cost of the call to the third digit. Numbers starting 080 would be free, while 082 would be cheaper than 089.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

UK telephone numbering plan

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