Why then are we again strapped for numbers? There are two reasons. When liberalisation was first introduced BT claimed that its exchanges were unable to discriminate on the entire code portion of the number and that therefore Mercury would have to be given separate exchange codes. This practice has continued and applies now not only to Mercury but to every cable company and to every mobile network. Every telephone exchange in the country is able to perform the necessary discrimination and there is no need to require people to change their number when they change their network.
The second reason is the desire of Oftel to retain the geographic significance of the area code despite the fact that this is already being attenuated. However, if we were to insist on the same number regardless of the network the geographic significance could be retained for some considerable time.
We are misusing our numbers, a scarce and precious national resource, for inadequate reasons and then compounding the error by selling "personal numbers", numbers that do follow the subscriber from network to network as a social facility when it is in truth a right.