Phone numbers to be 'portable' by next year: Code changes herald 'explosion of new services', watchdog predicts

PERSONAL telephone numbers for life with members of a household choosing their own ringing tone were heralded yesterday by the telecommunications watchdog, Oftel. The proposals form part of a plan to increase the available telephone numbers in the United Kingdom from 1 billion today to 9 billion.

Arthur Orbell, the technical director of Oftel, said that within a few years specially developed telephones would be able to distinguish between incoming signals on a telephone line and translate them so that the telephone makes the correct ringing tone for the person being called. 'The phones could shout for you,' he said.

The proposals for new numbering and the services they could make way for are outlined in a consultative paper issued by Oftel. They build on the National Code Change, due in 1995, which will prefix a '1' to every existing telephone number. Thus central London numbers will begin 0171 and the code for Derby would be 01332 instead of 0332.

Under Oftel's proposals the expanded system will be exploited to create extra sets of numbers for new services by swapping the initial '1' with another digit. All personal lifetime numbers would begin '02' rather than '01' and all mobile numbers would begin '03'. Services with special tariffs such as premium rate would begin '08'.

Don Cruickshank, the director general of Oftel, said: 'We want a stable and understandable numbering system to take us into the 21st century. Who knows where technology will lead, so we need a flexible system with enough numbers to cope.'

Mr Cruickshank said that one company had already applied for a licence to offer personal telephone numbers and others were interested. Computer databases would be fed with information on the whereabouts of people at a given time and software would track down their position on the network when someone calls their number.

Mr Cruickshank said that in spite of an expected explosion in new services, the standard number system would not be changed once the new '1' prefix is added in 1995. The expansion is to add new possibilities rather than to force change on people who did not want it, he stressed.

As a first move, Oftel hopes that by next year existing telephone numbers could be swapped between services so that people changing from BT to another service or vice versa can keep their number. BT's major rival, Mercury, and new telephone operators such as cable television companies have been lobbying for this 'portability' for some time.

Mr Cruickshank said: 'There is no doubt that these changes are essential for UK customers if they are to benefit from competition in the industry. It is crucial that these issues are debated as widely as possible.'

Oftel wants views on the consultative document within two months. Mr Cruickshank said that he will then press on with definite plans.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'