Ofcom today announced new rules for telecoms providers meaning they will have to pay for each phone number allocated to them as of next year.
Currently the likes of BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk can request blocks of 1,000 numbers from the regulator at no charge to hand out to their customers.
However, with the number of combinations running out, Ofcom wants the providers to think about being more efficient with their allocations. The more they use, the less are left available for new competitors to enter the market and the less can be used to expand existing services.
A pilot scheme will launch across 30 area codes next April to charge 10p per year for every line the companies are assigned per year – both existing numbers and new allocations. Smaller blocks of numbers will also be made available so operators can request 100 rather than 1,000 combinations for its customers.
“Telephone numbers are a vital national resource which most of us rely on every day… but the supply of numbers in any area code is finite,” said Stuart McIntosh, competition group director at Ofcom.
“Charging phone providers is one of several measures Ofcom is introducing to safeguard the supply of numbers to homes and businesses for years to come.”
The pilot will run for two years before Ofcom reviews its results and decides whether to make it a permanent fixture.
We contacted both BT and Virgin Media for their responses to the new regulation, but neither had returned our request at the time of publication.
Earlier this year, the regulator announced some phone users will have to dial area codes when making a call within the same zone, enabling Ofcom to add new numbers beginning with ‘0’ or ‘1’ within the same coverage area.
The first town to try the new scheme will be Bournemouth, with the extra number allocation coming into force from November. Again, Ofcom will review the results of the pilot before deciding whether to roll it out across the UK.