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UK Phone changes to go ahead

Chaos looms as MPs' concerns dismissed

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OFTEL has defied the wishes of an influential group of MPs and vowed to continue with the planned changes to the UK's telephone numbering system. In spite of receiving stinging criticism from MPs the telecoms watchdog insists the changes are necessary to meet the huge explosion in demand for telephone services. David Edmonds, Director General OFTEL, said: "The Trade and Industry Committee asked us to review the proposed changes to the national numbering scheme, and OFTEL will submit a full response to the Committee in the near future. "However, it is clear that the scheduled changes to the numbering system must go ahead, and it is important for an early decision to remove uncertainty," he said. In a bid to placate MPs, OFTEL has said it will review its proposals for freephone numbers and numbering administration. From 1 June this year, old and new telephone numbers will run in parallel in six areas - London, Northern Ireland, Cardiff, Coventry, Southampton and Portsmouth - before the switch comes into force from 22 April 2000. Parallel running for new mobile phone numbers will begin on 30 September 1999. And changes to mobiles, pagers, local, national and premium rate numbers will take place over the next two years, OFTEL has said. Yet despite spending £20 million on a nation-wide publicity campaign only half of companies and organisations know that the number changes are taking place. ® See earlier stories London set to run out of phone numbers as row breaks out UK companies face chaos as phone numbers change

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