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Ofcom unveils phone number plans

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Ofcom is tinkering with telephone numbers to ensure there's plenty of digits to go around in the future. But the regulator moved to assure punters that it had no plans to meddle with geographic phone numbers as part of its review of the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan.

Instead, Ofcom's looking at other areas where it can increase the availability of numbers. For instance, it's looking to create a new country-wide number range, beginning "03", which would be charged at the same rate as calling a geographic number.

It also wants to introduce a new "06" range for personalised number services that would, over time, replace the current "07" personal numbers. That's because some mobile numbers also begin with "07" and Ofcom says this can confuse people and open the door to potential scams.

"The use of 06 numbers would remove confusion, strengthen consumer protection, and allow the 07 number range to be uniquely identified with mobile services," Ofcom said.

It also wants to simplify charging structures for numbers beginning "08" and premium rate numbers beginning "09", and wants to bar providers from getting their hands on new numbers if they have a history of phone scams or ripping off punters.

"Telephone numbers are a finite resource," Ofcom said, cutting the ribbon on its review. "As competition grows, an increasing number of providers require Ofcom to allocate new number blocks.

"Additionally, new technologies (such as Voice over Internet Protocol services) and changes in demographics over time (such as population growth in London and South-East England) mean Ofcom must ensure its approach to numbering is sufficiently flexible to adapt to future demand," it said. ®

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