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Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan (Read 250,400 times)
idb
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Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Feb 23rd, 2006 at 12:01pm
 
Source: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2006/02/nr20060223

Ofcom today published its review of the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan.

Telephone numbers underpin all telecoms services and play a key role in how UK households and businesses access and pay for £34 billion worth of services every year. Under the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom is responsible for managing the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan - an important national resource.

Background

Ofcom allocates blocks of telephone numbers to communications providers upon request and at no cost; providers then in turn allocate these numbers to their customers. Geographic numbers - the numbers used for homes and businesses in every part of the UK - are normally allocated to providers in blocks of ten thousand for each telephone exchange covering a specific area. Ofcom is also required to allocate other kinds of numbers, such as mobile numbers or non-geographic numbers, when asked to do so by any provider.

Telephone numbers are a finite resource. 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 that Ofcom must ensure its approach to numbering is sufficiently flexible to adapt to future demand.

No changes to geographic telephone numbers are proposed as part of the numbering framework; instead Ofcom is proposing specific measures to reduce the need for such changes in the years ahead.

Proposals

Ofcom's telephone numbering framework seeks to encourage greater innovation, support the creation of new services, increase consumer awareness and enhance consumer protection.

Ofcom’s proposals cover six key areas:

Create a new country-wide number range - 03 - which would be charged to the consumer at the same rate as calling a geographic number.
Organisations requiring a national presence would be able to use this range without charging consumers a premium for contacting them; and calls to 03 numbers could be included in any inclusive or low-cost call packages offered by landline or mobile phone companies;

Introduce a new consumer protection test to the allocation system which would deny numbers to providers who have previously abused consumer trust and might do so again through their involvement in telephone scams;

Introduce a new 06 number range for personalised number services. Over time this new number range would replace the current 070 personal numbers, and both the old and new numbers would have a price ceiling. Many consumers confuse 070 numbers with mobile numbers (which also begin with 07), leading to the potential for abuse and 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;

Simplify the structure of the 08 range used for chargeable services. Ofcom plans to band new numbers by price and type of service to develop an association in the consumer's mind that the lower the digit that follows 08 the lower the price in that range. For example, calls to a number beginning 082 would be charged at a lower rate than those to a number beginning 089. These proposals complement work already underway to reform the current 084/087 numbering scheme, the conclusion of which will be published next month;

Simplify the structure of 09 premium rate service numbers in a similar way to 08, by making different groups of 09 numbers represent different prices and services. This will also enable consumers to bar specific types of 09 numbers;

Introduce a new allocation system to avoid changes to geographic numbers in the future. Ofcom wants to encourage providers to use the numbers available in blocks already allocated to them as efficiently as possible and is consulting on principles for a new administrative pricing system (at a nominal cost). It also proposes to allocate more numbers in smaller blocks of one thousand instead of ten thousand, to maximise supply.

A table illustrating Ofcom’s proposals and the full consultation document are available from the Related Items. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 4 May 2006.

Ofcom Chief Executive Stephen Carter said: "Telephone numbers are at the heart of a well-functioning communications industry.

He added: "From 01 to 09 we are proposing a planning framework that provides clearer consumer information and is future-proofed for growth."

Ends.


UPDATE:

Ofcom's webpages on this consultation can be found here and below are important links taken from their site:-
Consultation Summary
Full main Consultation (.pdf - 1.5mb)
Numbering Review: Report of Market Research Findings
Finer Digit Analysis of Telephone Numbers for Routeing Purposes
Consultation Responses
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« Last Edit: Feb 26th, 2006 at 6:30pm by bbb_uk »  

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andy9
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #1 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 5:48pm
 
idb wrote on Feb 23rd, 2006 at 12:01pm:
Create a new country-wide number range - 03 - which would be charged to the consumer at the same rate as calling a geographic number.
Organisations requiring a national presence would be able to use this range without charging consumers a premium for contacting them; and calls to 03 numbers could be included in any inclusive or low-cost call packages offered by landline or mobile phone companies;

Simplify the structure of the 08 range used for chargeable services. Ofcom plans to band new numbers by price and type of service to develop an association in the consumer's mind that the lower the digit that follows 08 the lower the price in that range. For example, calls to a number beginning 082 would be charged at a lower rate than those to a number beginning 089.

Simplify the structure of 09 premium rate service numbers in a similar way to 08, by making different groups of 09 numbers represent different prices and services. This will also enable consumers to bar specific types of 09 numbers;

Outwardly, at a brief glance, that looks reasonable enough although some will find problems with parts of it.

The questions are - how fast will reputable organisations that want to show goodwill migrate towards the 03 numbers; how fast will public opinion realise this and expect them to do it? And - will telecoms companies actually include these in call packages rather faster than the 0560 numbers that half of them seem to have still not heard of?

I know some disagree about the 08/09 overlap, but any improvement in the clarity of 08 number tariffs would be welcome, so you could know the charge from looking at the number. Here, I am thinking that they are legitimate for callthrough numbers to reach international destinations, rather than that some companies will want to keep them for call centres
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bbb_uk
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #2 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 7:40pm
 
I liked the second paragraph:-
Quote from The Register's website:
Quote:
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.
The important question would they include revenue sharing and whether or not they would be included within 'inclusive' calling plans many of us have.

UPDATE:
Just noticed this paragraph from Ofcom's link quoted by idb:-
Quote:
Create a new country-wide number range - 03 - which would be charged to the consumer at the same rate as calling a geographic number. Organisations requiring a national presence would be able to use this range without charging consumers a premium for contacting them; and calls to 03 numbers could be included in any inclusive or low-cost call packages offered by landline or mobile phone companies
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« Last Edit: Feb 23rd, 2006 at 7:45pm by bbb_uk »  
 
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bbb_uk
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #3 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 7:54pm
 
Quote:
3.  Introduce a new 06 number range for personalised number services. Over time this new number range would replace the current 070 personal numbers, and both the old and new numbers would have a price ceiling. Many consumers confuse 070 numbers with mobile numbers (which also begin with 07), leading to the potential for abuse and 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

Quote:
4.  Simplify the structure of the 08 range used for chargeable services. Ofcom plans to band new numbers by price and type of service to develop an association in the consumer's mind that the lower the digit that follows 08 the lower the price in that range. For example, calls to a number beginning 082 would be charged at a lower rate than those to a number beginning 089. These proposals complement work already underway to reform the current 084/087 numbering scheme, the conclusion of which will be published next month

Quote:
5.  Simplify the structure of 09 premium rate service numbers in a similar way to 08, by making different groups of 09 numbers represent different prices and services. This will also enable consumers to bar specific types of 09 numbers

One would think that had this been thought of in advance then it wouldn't be needed now but at least they are finally going to look into the mess of number allocations that currently exist.

I've also started a thread on MSE here.
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« Last Edit: Feb 23rd, 2006 at 8:07pm by bbb_uk »  
 
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andy9
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #4 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 9:07pm
 
You're spot on with the yellow highlight - could, should, might, must, can't be arsed?

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bbb_uk
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #5 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 9:21pm
 
Just noticed the following taken from paragraph 4:-
Quote:
...These proposals complement work already underway to reform the current 084/087 numbering scheme, the conclusion of which will be published next month
So this would still seem to indicate that ofcom will publish the result of the consultation next month as planned!?!?!?!?
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #6 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 10:24pm
 
idb wrote on Feb 23rd, 2006 at 12:01pm:
Create a new country-wide number range - 03 - which would be charged to the consumer at the same rate as calling a geographic number.

Organisations requiring a national presence would be able to use this range without charging consumers a premium for contacting them; and calls to 03 numbers could be included in any inclusive or low-cost call packages offered by landline or mobile phone companies


This 03 NGN code charged at geographic rates is basically my proposal as put forward at the Ofcom NTS Consumer Workshop back in November.  I and my fellow less well known SayNoTo0870 reps also hit Ofcom very heavily with the current NTNP being essentially a bankrupt and totally compromised document.  To which they now seem to be responding with this consultation before no doubt then tieing it all up in about June with their report back on NTS Way Forward.

At the meeting in November Ofcom ran us through their NTS Way Forward consultation and justified most of their proposals in the consultation, including their retention of higher rate charging for all 0845 numbers for 3 or 4 years, by rabbiting on about all the value added services 084/7 had provided etc.  To which they were then hit by our response that there weren't any value added voice services on 0845 and 0870 and that 0845 number users in particular (eg Inland Revenue) had only adopted these numbers because they wanted a national number that could be directed anywhere using Intelligent Call Routing.  It was pointed out that the disgraceful situation with 0845 costing more than 0870 for up to 2 years or more was only coming about because of regulatory failure to ever establish separate NGNs that were only charged at geographic call rates.  I even suggested at that meeting that the 03 number range be used for this geographically priced set of NGNs and I think also suggested this in one of my consultation responses.  I was strongly supported in most of these suggestions by Marc Michaels from the COI.  He said they wanted a number which could be routed around call centres and be national but that did not cost more than normal calls.  The COI did not want to use freephone numbers for most government call centres because they brought many problems of their own with some users making unnecessary calls and kids making calls from phoneboxes etc, etc.

What I am very unhappy about though in these proposals is the proposal that 080 Free will be kept with the rest of 08 Chargeable Services which will let the 087 scammers carry on untouched.   This is quite wrong as to bring the 084/7 local/national rate scam rapidly to an end can only be achieved by 08 being returned to Freephone only number use and the chargeable 08 services either moving to 09 or to another code which shows they are lower rate chargeable services.  My suggestion to Ofcom was that 06 be used for the 084/7 services but I see they are depressingly going to use that for the continuation of Patientline and other PNS scamming.  Logically 04 would be the most appropriate code for lower cost chargeable services since that code has been unused since the original 04 codes all became 014 several years ago.

What this is all about though is letting those companies who were conned to get an 0845 number replace it with a geographic equivalent immediately without having to wait two or three more years for 0845 to move to being charged as per geographic calls.  So all the legitimate 0845 voice users will now have to get a new 03 number to do the right thing.  Bang goes the argument that 084/7 is so great as you never have to get a new one.  Well that was always a lie anyhow and is bound to be so when we all move to voip phone names over the next 5 to 10 years.

So in summary Ofcom have found a way to let legitimate 0845 users immediately offer customers an alternative charged at geographic rates and this will be adopted with enthusiasm by people like the Inland Revenue, the Police and so forth.  But meanwhile all the 0844 and 0870/0871 scammers can stay put and and ISP can go on ripping off customers on old legacy dial up charges at 3p per minute for as long as possible.

The big issue is that unless use of 084/7 chargeable services is banned they are not going to have to obtain replacement numbers and so will have little incentive to migrate to using 03.  The most likely outcome is that the ethical 0845 voice service users (the vast majority of those using 0845 for voice) will set up an 03 charged at geographic rates routing to the same place as the 0845 before those are ultimately discontinued.  I also have a big fear that Ofcom is now going to change its mind on 0870 being charged at geographic rates.

So don't be fooled as this new NTNP is going to allow most of the scamming to continue and not to be regulated by ICSTIS as Premium Rate.  Its only point is to offer Ofcom and its predecessor OFTEL a back door way out of their mistake in letting 0845 be used for data services and local rate voice so that all the original local rate voice services can migrate to the new 03 national rate NGN call code.  Although unless Ofcom prohibits the offering of voice based 0845 services after a certain date I am far from convinced this will be universal.

I haven't read the new NTNP in detail but judging from the summary headings quoted I feel sure that this is Ofcom's game.
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« Last Edit: Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:00pm by N/A »  
 
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Dave
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #7 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:22pm
 
So, the numbering plan will be something like follows:
  • 01 Geographical
  • 02 Geographical
  • 03 Non-geographical NTS charged at geographical rates
  • 04 Unallocated
  • 05 VoIP services
  • 06 Personal numbering
  • 07 Mobile and pagers
  • 08 Freephone and low premium services
  • 09 Premium services

This is based on what I've read here, so if anyone knows different, speak up!

With the above plan, it leaves 04 free for future use. However, what about geographical expansion? I thought that 03 was reserved for this purpose, and bearing in mind that when 02 numbers were introduced it was felt that the likes of Coventry required a 3 digit code with an 8 digit local number rather than a 4 digit code with 7 digit local number.

So, within 02x format, there are still five free prefixes which could be used as 3+8 or 4+7, but why prevent further expansion to 03 when it was previously set aside?
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #8 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:31pm
 
Dave wrote on Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:22pm:
This is based on what I've read here, so if anyone knows different, speak up!


Well according to Ofcom's consultation both 04 and 05 are to be kept free for future use.  Except of course that 05 is in fact already in use for both Freephone and Voip services.  Trust Ofcom to not know what it is talking about! Roll Eyes

Ofcom is to allow 07 PNS scammers to continue unfettered as long as they change numbers to one starting 06.  Oh well bang goes the idea that a Personal Number was one you could keep for life!  Wink Grin

See www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/numberingreview/numberingplan/

or

www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/numberingreview/numbering.pdf for the full 158 page version. Shocked
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #9 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:46pm
 
Dave wrote on Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:22pm:
So, the numbering plan will be something like follows:

This is based on what I've read here, so if anyone knows different, speak up!

With the above plan, it leaves 04 free for future use. However, what about geographical expansion? I thought that 03 was reserved for this purpose, and bearing in mind that when 02 numbers were introduced it was felt that the likes of Coventry required a 3 digit code with an 8 digit local number rather than a 4 digit code with 7 digit local number.

So, within 02x format, there are still five free prefixes which could be used as 3+8 or 4+7, but why prevent further expansion to 03 when it was previously set aside?

It doesn't make much sense whichever way you look at it ...

There is no city in UK that needs 100 million phone numbers, and few that need 1 million - though in fact there are not that many within each code as most are reserved or unallocated and none begin with 0, 1 or 9. Round here the city starts with 8 and the surrounding villages with 7; I have a Sipgate/Magrathea number starting in 6, and there are some other providers with 2 allocated but I've never seen one.

So there is a huge amount of redundancy - do we really need more exchanges or more numbers per exchange? I do wonder why we didn't get something like France where a regional 1 to 4 was added a while back ....... ummm, except they still have one digit fewer than us for the same population

You're probably right - they could easily use 04 for this new allocation and leave 03 spare
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #10 - Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:57pm
 
andy9 wrote on Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:46pm:
You're probably right - they could easily use 04 for this new allocation and leave 03 spare


I think Ofcom's reason for using 03 is because it enhances the perception that these new 03 numbers are part of a continuous sequence of numbers charged at standard uk call rates between 01 and 03.  Although how Ofcom manage to justify both Freephone 08 and chargeable revenue share numbers on 08 is anyone's guess, especially when 04 is free for use for this purpose.  And anyhow 03 for geographically priced non geographics was my suggestion to Ofcom and judging from how many telecoms industry ideas Ofcom have previously fallen for hook, line and sinker it seems that Ofcom employees have relatively few ideas of their own on such matters.

As to keeping 03 free for further geographic phone numbers it seems unlikely that we will run out of 02 prefixed exchange codes before the end of the whole PSTN phone number based system and its complete replacement with voip phone names some time within the next 5 to 15 years.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #11 - Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:05am
 
For Ofcom's thoughts on Voip services you may want to also look at the consultation specifically on Voip services that they published yesterday.  You will no doubt be pleased to hear that
"Ofcom is also updating its guidance to encourage VoIP providers to offer access to 999 emergency services"


So if I have a heart attack at my friend's house and they only have a Voip phone and their telecoms provider has not been encouraged by Ofcom it looks like I may wind up dead Shocked

I wonder how many of us would have access to 999/112 on our landlines or especially our mobiles if those providers had only been encouraged to provide access to the emegency services? Roll Eyes

See www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2006/02/nr20060222
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« Last Edit: Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:06am by N/A »  
 
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #12 - Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:57am
 
As I put in my consultation response, if they want to change the numbering system, OFCOM and the Telecoms industry must test it properly with consumers:

Quote:
A note for the future - How OFCOM could do its job better

OFCOM and the telecoms industry, by its frequent use of the jargon “granularity” appears intent on creating new pricing and numbering relationships, outside the bands we consumers all understand, (0800/0500 Free, 01/02 Local, 01/02 National, 07 Mobile, 09 Extortion) If so, it must:

a.      introduce brand new number ranges for such new pricing ranges which are in line with the National Telephone Numbering Plan (although amusingly 0898 might be a good place to start – most people are still rightly wary of that one!)

b.      ensure delivery of clear and accurate pricing range information to consumers

c.      provide robust and statistically valid proof that pricing ranges are accurately understood, across all consumer groups, within 6 months

d.      correct the pricing to match the perception, if there is a discrepancy, immediately after the 6 month investigation period.

e.      if the research shows there is no single clear perception of the price, then calls to the new range must become free calls, also immediately after the 6 month investigation period, to remove commercial incentives to exploit confusion.

This framework motivates the telecoms industry to put its money where its mouth is, thus proving to the consumer that OFCOM takes its consumer protection regulatory duties seriously.


Yes I know -  the words "or at least acknowledges them" should have been appended to the last sentence!
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What's the point of 0845? Local rate my ar$e. Usually MORE than Inverness to Penzance on normal nos. Occasionally the same, never less!&&&&OFCOM - A Truly Great Regulator, if you're out to gouge consumers
 
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andy9
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #13 - Feb 24th, 2006 at 1:11am
 
Quote:
it seems that Ofcom employees have relatively few ideas of their own on such matters.


Er, yes, I read their incomplete advice on roaming charges and sent in a query whether they'd like some help or suggestions for additions ...
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« Last Edit: Feb 24th, 2006 at 2:55pm by Dave »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Ofcom review of UK Telephone Numbering Plan
Reply #14 - Feb 24th, 2006 at 1:37am
 
andy9 wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 1:11am:
Er, yes, I read their incomplete advice on roaming charges and sent in a query whether they'd like some help or suggestions for additions ...


Most of the ideas which they present as being their own in fact come from their old colleagues in the telecoms companies.
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