Local phone calls in Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Middlesborough and Milton Keynes might need an area code from October 2014.
Communications watchdog Ofcom has proposed the change to stop the areas running out of landline phone numbers, which could happen as early as February 2015.
If it’s agreed, local landline callers in the five areas will have to dial an area code to reach another number in the same dialling code from October 1, 2014.
Ofcom said: “Geographic telephone numbers are an increasingly scarce resource. Our forecast of demand shows that, unless we take action, we risk running out of geographic numbers to allocate in some areas, including the five areas set out above.
The consultation on Changes To Making Local Calls In Five Area Codes adds: “This change in local dialling (known as ‘closing local dialling’) enables us to release new local numbers without requiring any changes to existing phone numbers.
“Dialling local calls with or without the area code does not affect the price of the call.”
The latest bid to close local dialling follows its first use in Bournemouth in November 2012, which phone providers said caused ‘little to no disruption’ following an extensive information campaign.
The changes for Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesborough (01642) and Milton Keynes (01908) will delay further landline number shortages until between 2025 and 2028.
After that, phone providers will be able to offer numbers starting with combinations such as ‘0’, which get mistaken for dialling codes, or 1, which can get mistaken for numbers like 100, 1471 or 118 directory enquiries.
Ofcom has also run a pilot scheme since April 2013 that charges landline providers for their allocation of phone numbers in 30 area codes facing shortages.
The charging scheme has already encouraged landline providers to hand back enough area codes to prevent any more local dialling closures until 2017 at the earliest.
“We are likely to need to close local dialling in additional area codes in the future,” Ofcom adds.
“Our current forecasts show that exhaustion of our existing supplies of geographic numbers is likely to occur in other area codes after 2018, although our forecasts are subject to change as patterns of demand change over time.”
The deadline for responses to this consultation is 13 September 2013, with a decision expected soon after.
Ofcom hands out local phone numbers to phone providers in 1,000-number blocks, and describes a number-shortage as having less than 70 blocks available.
That’s still enough numbers for every new home and business line, but it can make it difficult to have a range of phone providers in an area offering competing rates.
Image: Willy D/Flickr