London gets 10 million more phone numbers with '0204' launch

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Ofcom is making a further 10 million landline numbers available in London through the introduction of the ‘0204’ area code.

The capital is currently served by 0207 and 0208, both introduced in 2000, and 0203, which was launched in 2005. However there are just one million numbers left and the regulator believes supply will be exhausted within 12 months.

Applications for the new numbers will be accepted from October 1 and will be in circulation from December.

Ofcom phone numbers

“We’re seeing growing need for 020 numbers, as London expands and new homes and offices are built,” explained Liz Greenberg, Head of Numbering at Ofcom. “These 10 million new numbers will allow us to meet demand and help keep the capital connected.”

Although use is declining due to the popularity of mobile phone calls, over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Skype, as well as other forms of communication such as social media, 44 billion minutes of calls are made every year on a landline phone.

Meanwhile, the majority of broadband connections are powered by a landline that requires a phone number. Eventually, however, Ofcom could retire geographical area codes as other forms of communication become popular.

These codes came into effect in the 1950s are were originally formed composed of ‘01’ followed by two digits determined by the location and another digit. For example, Aberdeen is ‘01224’ because ‘AB’ is ‘22’ on an alphanumeric keypad.

London initially had the 01 code until 1990 when it was replaced by ‘071’ for inner London and ‘081’ for outer London. In 1994 all UK area codes received an ‘01’ prefix to make it clear that the number was a landline, resulting in ‘0171’ and ‘0181’. An overhaul to the system in 2000 saw the ‘020’ prefix replace all existing phone numbers in London.

Ofcom says that since the majority of phone users in the UK don’t manually enter numbers on their device, it’s possible the geographical area code has lost its significance. Younger users like the idea of a number for life but older people are strongly against the eradication of local codes because it gives them reassurance about local businesses.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.