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‘Phone Bug’ could cripple UK businesses

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An independent IT consultancy is warning firms that they need to start planning now -- or face severe disruption -- when the "The Big Number" telephone changes come into effect in June. Hampshire-based Commslogic says that companies failing to take notice of the "phone bug", as senior consultant Jonathan Tucker puts it, face higher charges and dialling difficulties if they don't plan ahead for the change. It's a view supported by National Code & Number Change (NCNC), a group set up by the UK's telecoms operators, to oversee the mammoth project. Last November the NCNC published research which revealed that only one in 10 firms had taken any action to prepare for the changes. A spokesman for the NCNC today was unable to confirm how many more businesses had taken the necessary steps to prepare themselves for the changes. Yet if businesses fail to re-configure equipment, their calls may not get through or could connect to wrong numbers, the NCNC admitted. The Big Number telephone change is far more reaching than BT's PhOneDay in 1995 when the "1" was slipped into codes. It is set to overhaul telephone numbers in the UK and will affect codes, numbers and mobile phones. It will also provide additional capacity by reserving four additional number prefixes for future area codes. The move has been ordered by telecoms watchdog Oftel as a way of creating more numbers to meet the ever-growing demand for telecoms-related services, such as access to the Internet. At the moment, it is gearing itself for a major awareness campaign to be begin later this month when it hopes to make more people aware of the problem. Until then, it is targeting equipment suppliers and service engineers asking them to approach their customers as a way of ensuring that businesses are ready for the changes which begin to take effect on June 1. "But they've only got six months, which is not long, given the number of customers who need help," said a spokesman for the NCNC. The NCNC has identified six technical issues which need to be addressed before June 1. · least cost routing · payphones · call loggers · ISDN · 01 quick fixes · call barring ®

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