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02 Phone numbers

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Are you ready for the 02 phone number changes to be introduced by Oftel on 1 June 1999? A survey shows that most businesses are not. Area codes and local dialling codes will change in some areas as part of a broader reorganisation of the coding system. These are the changes in summary.

Areas affected and their new area codes are:

London (0171 and 0181 areas) - 020

Portsmouth - 023

Southampton - also 023

Coventry - 024

Northern Ireland - 028

Cardiff - 029.

These area codes will be followed by eight-digit local numbers, made up by adding to existing five-, six-, or seven-digit numbers. For example, the AJ phone number of 0171 505 6700 will become 020 7505 6700.

As well as reprinting stationery and changing cad drawing labels, practices may need to check telephone equipment. It could affect, for example, call logging, stored numbers, alternative pbx network routing, 01 'fixes' from 1995, call barring and isdn, where numbers will change from 000 to 00.

There will be extended phasing in. Broadly speaking, old area codes with old local numbers, or new area codes with new local numbers, can be used in parallel from 1.6.99 until autumn 2000. But before that, for dialling local calls only, the new eight-digit numbers will have to be used from 22.4.2000.

The changes are part of a broader renumbering to increase code capacity to cope with the growth in telecomms traffic. The whole system will be:

00 - international, isdn

01 - most existing area codes

02 - the new area codes

03 - future area codes

04/05/06 - future uses

07 - mobiles, pagers, personal numbers

08 - freephone and special rate

09 - premium rate services.

For help, you can call The Big Number freephone helpline on 0808 22 4 2000. There is also a Big Number internet site at www.numberchange.org. Look under 'media' (journalists are always offered the simplest explanations), 'Business' to check the full range of technical problems possible with phone equipment, and 'WHAT?' for details of the code changes.

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