Britain is running out of phone numbers

Local calls using area codes seen as a better alternative to adding another digit

England and Scotland are running out of phone numbers as anyone who makes a local call from landlines in five cities must now also include the area code to get through.

Callers in Aberdeen, Bradford, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Milton Keynes now have to include the five digit prefix because so many new numbers have been issued as millions of families have switched from BT to other companies such as Sky and Virgin leaving a shortage in some regions.

Ofcom is now forcing the regions to dial the area code in full and anyone who forgets will hear an automated error message reminding them to dial the number in full.

The regulator said it was a better option than adding an extra digit to phone numbers in the affected cities and that without the change the five areas would run out of telephone numbers sometime between February 2015 and September 2016.

It said geographic telephone numbers “are an increasingly scarce resource”.

The cost of making the calls will not change and there will not be any disruption to services, according to Ofcom.

The regulator carried out a similar pilot scheme in 2012 around the Bournemouth area in preparation for yesterday’s/Wednesday’s change.

Residents in Oxford, Slough and Stoke-on-Trent could soon join the affected areas as Ofcom looks at expanding the scheme to other at-risk localities.

It is monitoring several areas which could run out of numbers after 2018.

A spokesman for Ofcom said: “Asking landline callers to use the code when dialling local numbers is intended to safeguard the future supply of new landline numbers and avoid the need for more disruptive measures, such as changing existing phone numbers. The supply of new landline numbers also ensures that consumers and businesses continue to enjoy the widest choice of telecoms providers.”

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