The independent London newspaper

Options for businesses as traditional London phone numbers run out

18 August, 2019


The days of buying a traditional London phone number for a business based in the capital are… well, numbered. That’s the message sent out by a recent Ofcom press release, which revealed that the telecoms regulator is introducing 10 million new London phone numbers as existing ones run out.

As the UK capital continues to grow, with new homes and offices regularly sprouting up within its borders, demand is putting pressure on the supply of London numbers. However, opting for one of the new ‘0204’ numbers being rolled out by Ofcom isn’t the only option for local businesses.

How is Ofcom addressing the number shortage?

If you are old enough, the story of London exhausting its run of phone numbers might strike you as strangely familiar. Indeed, whereas London today has a single area code, ‘020’, it used to have two: ‘071’ for inner London and ‘081’ for outer London, as TelecomTV recalls.

Those codes were introduced in 1990 and doubled the tally of London’s available numbers to 16 million. However, in 2005, London was restored to just one area code, and the ‘0203’ range was added. The new ‘0204’ range will add to the 30 million numbers currently allocated for London.

If your London business needs a number, what should you do?

If you would like to obtain a number with a London area code, you could struggle to find one to your liking, as fewer than a million geographic London numbers are still available. However, from 1 October, Ofcom will start releasing blocks of ‘0204’ numbers to telecoms companies.

The regulator anticipates these companies beginning to allocate these digits to customers from this December. However, keep in mind that your business doesn’t necessarily need to choose a geographic number. explains that “adopting a non-geographic phone number for your business is key to presenting your venture as professional and trustworthy.”

A number of this type will not be assigned to a particular location – and, for this reason, won’t include an area code such as ‘020’. Therefore, when shown in marketing for your business, the number won’t reveal your company’s location – a particular boon if you are London-based but want to reach out to customers further afield who might usually favour locally-based companies.

If you do go down the non-geographic route, which number you choose can depend on your company’s objectives. For example, freephone numbers are wholly free to landline and mobile callers, but your company would need to foot the bill for all incoming calls. Meanwhile, 03 and 0345 numbers cost callers more – but, beneficially, could filter out enquiries that are less than genuine.

Tie various telephone channels into a single system

This is possible when you opt for a unified system like Horizon, an example of cloud telephony by Gamma. This solution can enhance interoperability between your company’s mobile phones and fixed telephones, perhaps incentivising you to reduce the number of different phone numbers your business is advertising in the first place. In this way, cost savings can be made.



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