Ofcom introduces UK-wide 03 numbers

13 February 2007

Ofcom today published details on how certain aspects of its plan for UK telephone numbering will be implemented, including the introduction of new UK-wide 03 numbers during 2007.

Under the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom is responsible for managing the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan. Telephone numbers are essential to UK households and businesses, and Ofcom must ensure the most effective use of this important national resource. In July 2006 Ofcom set out its general approach for the future in a statement which followed full public consultation.

UK-wide 03 numbers

03 numbers are being introduced as an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers like 0870. Calls to 03 numbers will cost the same as calls to geographic numbers (starting 01 or 02), and be included as part of any inclusive call minutes or discount schemes in the same way as geographic calls.

Revenue sharing - where the dialled party can receive a share of what the consumer pays to make a call - will not be permitted on calls to 03 numbers.

Ofcom intends these requirements to apply to calls from all types of line, including mobiles and payphones, and is seeking to confirm this by a change to General Condition 17, on which there will now be a short consultation.

Organisations using 03 numbers will offer consumers a single national point of contact without involving additional charges for the service, over and above the cost of calls to geographic numbers.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards said: "Consumers will be able to dial 03 numbers with confidence about the cost of their call. We expect public services and many others to view 03 numbers as a real alternative to higher cost 08 numbers."

Ofcom will start allocating 03 numbers to communication providers during March 2007 and today sets out how these numbers will be made available to promote early adoption of 03. For example:

  • Numbers starting 030 will be designated for use only by public bodies and not-for-profit services;
  • Some 03 numbers are reserved so that service providers on existing 08 numbers can transfer to 03 by simply changing the '8' digit in the number to a '3';
  • Memorable numbers such as those starting with '0300' and '0333' will be made available. Ofcom will manage the allocation process for such numbers to ensure that they are distributed fairly between the communications providers who apply.

Blocks of numbers are allocated to communication providers, who will in turn allocate numbers to their customers. This process will start in March 2007, which means that the first 03 numbers should appear in circulation by the end of the year.

070 personal numbers

Ofcom is also taking specific action to prevent scams on 070 'personal numbers', which are often confused with mobile numbers. Ofcom will end 070 personal numbering allocations from the end of 2007.

In July 2006 Ofcom set out its decision to introduce a pre-call announcement of call charges for any 070 calls above a certain price. This requirement will apply if an 070 call costs more than 20 pence (per minute or per call). Ofcom intends this requirement to apply to calls from all lines and is seeking to confirm this by a change to General Condition 17, on which there will now be a short consultation.

The deadline for responses to Ofcom's proposals for amending General Condition 17 is 14 March 2007 - see Related Items for the full document.