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UK companies face chaos as phone numbers change

Only four months to go and only one per cent of firms have taken heed

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Half of UK companies are unaware that new telephone numbers and codes are being introduced in less than four months time. Figures obtained by The Register from National Code & Number Change (NCNC), the organisation managing the project, show that only 53 per cent of UK businesses are aware of the sweeping changes due to come into effect on 1 June. The number of firms that have taken any action to prepare for the changeover has remained unchanged at just 10 per cent since November, and the lack of any progress could leave many exposed to problems. An NCNC representative confirmed that only around one per cent of necessary equipment changes had been carried out. He said: "Work on changes to equipment needs to be started soon and it's worrying that more hasn't been done." The changes have been instigated by Oftel to meet the growing demand for telephone numbers in the UK. An Oftel representative expressed little concern over the amount of changeover work still outstanding. "If the research shows that more than half of companies are aware of change, I don't see what else can be done if they chose to ignore it," he said. All businesses in the UK are potentially affected by the new 02 area codes planned for London, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Southampton, Coventry and Northern Ireland. Disruption could occur, if no action is taken, from 1 June 1999, when new codes and numbers will run in parallel with existing codes and numbers. In particular, changes need to be made to telecomms systems which use call barring, call routing and speed dialler services. The recent introduction of the euro and the continuing saga of the millennium bug has forced many companies to ignore the issue altogether while they deal with more pressing matters. But unless companies in the UK implement the changes it could cause widespread disruption and added cost, NCNC has warned. ®

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