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Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, today set out plans to safeguard the future supply of landline numbers in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.
The places that use the 01202 dialling code are one of a small number of areas in the UK where telephone numbers are in short supply.
Measures have to be introduced if homes and businesses in the Bournemouth area are to continue to enjoy the widest choice of telecoms providers.
Ofcom expects residents and businesses to need to dial the whole phone number, including the 01202 code, even when dialling another Bournemouth number from summer 2012 at the earliest.
This move will avoid the need to change existing phone numbers; Ofcom's consumer research shows it to be the least disruptive option for homes and businesses.
Over the next year, Ofcom will work with telecoms providers on a marketing campaign to inform the local Bournemouth communities well in advance of the need to use the code.
How it works
At the moment, when making a local call it is not necessary to use the area code.
But this prevents Ofcom from allocating local numbers beginning with a 0 or 1 – such as 01202 075 362 or 01273 118 903.
This is because if a local resident dialled 075 362 or 118 903, for example, omitting the 01202 code, the network would think they were dialling a mobile number (075) or directory enquiries number (118) rather than a local Bournemouth number.
However, using the code for local calls enables Ofcom to introduce many more numbers without this confusion.
Currently, Ofcom allocates 01 and 02 telephone numbers to around 300 communications providers across the UK free of charge in large blocks.
These companies then use the numbers to provide services to homes, businesses and other organisations.
The number of telecoms providers has increased significantly over the last six years, leading to more competition and cheaper landline bills for millions of homes and businesses.
But it has also led to increased pressure on the supply of phone numbers as well as some communications providers holding a significant quantity of unused numbers.
Ofcom has today unveiled a number of measures to tackle this problem, including increasing the supply of numbers in certain areas like Bournemouth.
According to Ofcom's predictions, Bournemouth will be the first area in the UK to have to dial the area code.
Ofcom expects that similar changes may also be required in Brighton and Hove (01273), Aberdeen (01224), Milton Keynes (01908), Bradford (01274) and Cambridge (01223) by 2016.