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10p per year charge to stop phone numbers running out

Landline rentals could be tagged with a 10p annual phone number charge to stop Britain running out of new phone numbers.

Fixed line phone users in Bournemouth will also have to start dialling their national code to make local calls from November 1 – or the area will run out phone numbers this year.

The proposals by communications regulator Ofcom follow two years of consultation with industry to solve Britain’s looming shortage of landline phone numbers.

Ofcom’s consultation on Geographic Telephone Numbers says: “We risk exhausting our stocks of geographic numbers to allocate to communication providers from 2012 onwards, with seven area codes running out of numbers before 2016 and 45 area codes, covering around 18 per cent of the UK population, running out by the end of 2021.”

Ofcom - UK phone number shortage

The end of local dialling without Bournemouth’s 01202 area code will enable phone providers to offer local numbers starting with numbers like 01, which can be confused for area codes.

The scheme is likely to run out to four other areas likely to run out of numbers by 2015: Aberdeen (01224), Brighton and Hove (01273), Bradford (01274) and Middlesbrough (01642).

Ofcom also wants to start a number-charging trial from April 2013 in 30 areas most likely to run out of phone numbers.

Phone providers would be charged 10p per number per year to encourage them not to sit on large reserves of phone numbers – causing a shortage for other providers.

Ofcom expects this to add at least 6p per year to line rentals nationally, but other costs could raise the final cost (hence our 10p estimate).

The two-year scheme could raise £2.1m/year for the Treasury – from a business with a turnover of £9,315m in 2010.

Ofcom’s consultation is open until May 2, 2012, with a final plan for the date for closing local
dialling in the Bournemouth 01202 area code expected in May 2012, and a statement on the number-charging trial in July 2012 – including a list of the the 30 trial area codes. 

Headline image: Flickr/MarkGregory007


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