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End of UK local dialling in sight as numbers run out

Bournemouth locals first for tiring fingering ordeal

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Dialling your neighbour is going to take longer as Ofcom abolishes local calls in some areas of Britain, warning that numbers are running out.

Starting in Bournemouth, people will have to dial the area code along with their 01 local number to stop the network confusing your Auntie Lynne's landline with a stranger's mobile number.

Ofcom said that more providers had led to "pressure on the supply of phone numbers" and that some of them were hanging onto lots of unused numbers as well, limiting numbers in certain areas of the country.

"From next year, people in a few areas where phone numbers are becoming very scarce will need to dial the whole number when making local calls," Ofcom said.

Bournemouth will be on the new system by mid-2012 and the regulator is also expecting to introduce the measure in Brighton and Hove, Aberdeen, Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Bradford by 2016.

As well as local area code dialling, Ofcom is also proposing a pilot scheme of charging providers for local numbers "to encourage their efficient use". Providers will have to cough up 10p per number per year in the places where they're most scarce – 30 areas out of 610. The telcos will be forking out both for new numbers and the ones they already have.

"The aim of this is to encourage communications providers to consider their plans carefully before applying for new bulk allocations of phone numbers and incentivise the return of unused numbers to Ofcom," the regulator said, adding that the majority of European countries were already charging for numbers.

The pilot scheme will kick in around this time next year, and be up for review two years after that.

The price of calls for Joe Public won't be affected by either of the new measures. ®

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