Non-geographic telephone numbers in the United Kingdom

Non-geographic telephone numbers in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, non-geographic numbers (NGNs) are telephone numbers available for private sale which, rather than being assigned to a particular telephone line or circuit, provide callers with a contact number which gives no indication as to the geographical location of the line being called. The owner of the number can retarget the NGN to any other telephone number including mobile, international and even other NGNs at any time therefore enabling them to take their calls on the move or at various locations at different times or simultaneously. NGNs which cost more than 50p (UK) to call are classed as premium rate numbers and usually begin '09'.



Prefix Cost info Typical usage
03xx Geographic call rate 03 numbers must (by law) cost the same as landline calls for all operators (including inclusion in any 'free minutes').

These have been assigned by Ofcom to replace old 084x and 087x services which are not considered appropriate for revenue share. 030 numbers are for use by Government, Councils, public services, non-profit organisations, and charities. 033 numbers are for use by any organisation. 034 and 037 numbers are for organisations wishing to migrate from the equivalent 084 and 087 number ranges.

0500 Free from landline
Varies from mobile
These are older Mercury (now Cable & Wireless) freephone numbers, and are being deprecated in favour of 0800 or 0808 numbers.
055, 056 The rates of calling these numbers are generally unknown, although they are charged by BT at around 5p/min. These numbers are generally used by companies that use a VoIP telephony service.
070 Varies These are premium rate numbers known as 'follow-me' or 'personal' numbers; formally, Personal Numbering Service (PNS). They are considered to be controversial as they can be confused for mobile numbers, and therefore the cost of calls to them may not be apparent to callers until they receive their bills. Ofcom is looking at moving this range to the 06x range to avoid such confusion.[1]
076xx Varies These are pager or vodafone landline numbers. They are two types:

Fixed call cost pagers (CPP - calling party pays) where the subscriber pays a fixed rate for their service and thus the caller pays a premium fixed rate (some operators charge a fixed rate plus a rate per minute). Subscription pagers which are cheaper to call and charged at 'regional' rates (their landline equivalents no longer exist). These usually cost slightly more than an equivalent landline call. These can also be vodafone landline calls, which are charged at local rate.

074, 075, 07624, 077, 078, 079 Varies These are mobile phone numbers. While the exact price to call these from landlines is not generally known, people[who?] understand that they will have to pay a slight premium to call these numbers. Calls to Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man mobile telephone numbers may cost more than calls to standard UK mobiles.
080x Free from landline
Varies from mobile
These are freephone numbers that are free to call from a landline. However, they may be charged at a premium rate if phoned from a mobile.
0842, 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872, 0873 Varies – from 0.49p/min (0845) up to 10p/min (0871) from a BT landline.

Some 0845 and 0870 calls may be inclusive depending on calling plan, so aren't charged to call.

Companies, other entities, government departments.
09xx Premium rate (varies) These numbers are premium rate and have many uses - competition lines, chat lines, technical support helplines and order lines.

History of numbers

0845 prefix

0845 numbers replaced the previous range of 0345 numbers operated by BT and 0645 numbers provided by Cable and Wireless. The older 0345 and 0645 numbers were converted to 0845 numbers as part of the Big Number Change. Until 2004, 0845 numbers were charged at the same rate as a call within the caller's local call area, and were accordingly described as local rate numbers, or using the BT brand name "Lo-call". With few companies now charging domestic customers different rates for local and long-distance calls, 0845 numbers can no longer reliably be assumed to cost the same as a 'local' phone call and can in some cases cost more. Some fixed line telephone companies have started to include 0845 numbers in bundled call allowances.

0870 prefix

The 0870 code was originally introduced as 0990, the code formerly used for Ascot, when it was subsumed into 0344 (Bracknell). 0990 numbers were originally six-digit, and when 0870 was brought in to replace 0990, the six-digit numbers were prefixed with a 5 to make 0870 5xx xxxx. Mercury Communications (now Cable & Wireless) had a similar scheme, with its numbers beginning with 0541. Like 0990, they were also renumbered into the 0870 scheme, with the numbers becoming 0870 1xx xxxx. Other operators (such as Vodafone) also had national rate codes and were renumbered in a similar way.

Revenue sharing

When calling 0844 and 0871 numbers, part of the cost of the call is paid to the recipient; this is known as “revenue sharing”.

When originally introduced in 1996, calls to 0845 and 0870 number from BT lines were charged at the same rate as local and national calls respectively. Since that time the telecommunications market in the UK has changed substantially, with BT facing competition from new entrants into the market such as the Post Office and Talk Talk and increasing usage of mobile phones. As a result of this, and the introduction of monthly price plans which include calls to national numbers but not 0845, 0870 or other non-geographic numbers, it is sometimes considerably more expensive to call a non-geographic number than standard national 01 or 02 numbers. 0871/0872/0873 numbers may only be used with a warning about the cost of calling them. The usage of these numbers is regulated by Phonepay Plus.

Handling of NGN calls

In the simplest case, the NGN is translated into a regular geographic number. This number is then routed by the exchange in the normal way.

Other routing features include routing by time of day, location of caller, day of week, capacity, etc. For example, calls might be routed to a UK call centre during its hours of operation, but to a call centre in India at other times of day. This would avoid callers having to ring back when the UK call centre was open.

03 prefix information

03 numbers are non-geographic telephone numbers that were announced by UK communications regulator, Ofcom, in February 2007, with allocation starting in March 2007.[2][3] They are formally known as UK-wide numbers and have been introduced as an alternative to 08 numbers, such as 087x and 084x numbers.[2][4]

Call costs

Unlike 08 numbers, 03 numbers cost the same to call as geographic landline numbers (starting 01 and 02), even from a mobile phone.[2] They are also included as part of inclusive call minutes and discount schemes from all major mobile phone and landline operators.[2]

The practice of revenue sharing (where the dialled party receives a share of the cost of the call) is not permitted with 03 numbers (unlike 08 numbers).[2]

Cost comparisons

Number range Mobile call cost[5][6][7]
03 Inclusive or at geographic rate
0800 10-25p/min
0844 20-55p/min
0845 20-30p/min
0870 20-29p/min
0871 35-50p/min

Note 0842, 0843, 0872 and 0873 are now also 'Reserved for Future Use' in the UK telephone number plan.

Number ranges

There are a range of numbers available for use by specific people or organisations:[8]

  • 030 numbers (0300 - 0309) - specifically designated for public bodies and not-for-profit organisations.
  • 033 numbers (0330 - 0339) - available for any person, business or organisation.
  • 03 migration numbers (034x, 037x) - only available for migration from an existing 08 number or range (084x and 087x).



In December 2006, Lord Norman Warner sent a letter to all Primary Care Trust Chief Executives drawing attention to the Central Office of Information guidance on telephone numbering, which suggested that healthcare providers consider adopting an 03 telephone number so that people "do not have to pay over the odds to contact their local services".[9][10]

Since then, there has been much discussion in the media about the use of 0844 numbers in the healthcare sector, mainly due to the costs incurred by people who have to dial these numbers as the primary form of contact with their local healthcare services.[11][12][13][14]

Former Health Secretary Alan Johnson has also publicly advocated the use of 03 numbers.[15]

Public sector

On 14 October 2008, the Metropolitan Police Service launched its new 0300 non-emergency telephone number: 0300 123 1212.[16] The force joins Durham, Essex, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Tayside, West Midlands,[17][18] West Mercia,and Surrey constabularies who also now use 03 numbers.

0845 prefix information


0845 numbers are typically used by the service departments of businesses and public sector organisations.

For example, suppose a large retail chain has stores throughout the country. It advertises a single phone number (0845). Customers across the country call this one number, but the call could be answered at their local store, according to the origin of the call.[citation needed]

Another use of 0845 is for call-financed services. The owner of the 0845 number in some cases receives income from calls received, with which they can partly or wholly finance their service, or even make a profit. Some dial-up ISPs receive their income in this way, with no need for separate billing of customers.

Charges paid by the caller for 0845 calls are set by each phone company individually. Charges can vary greatly, especially when the call originates from a UK mobile, payphone or a non-UK number. They can often be prohibitively expensive when called from payphones and mobiles because discounts and bundled minutes seldom apply.

Call costs

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)

  • The cost of calling an 0845 number is sometimes less than for a geographic 01 or 02 number. However, as 0845 is not generally included in call plans offering inclusive calls (BT is an exception), the 0845 call often ends up costing more.
  • Prices include VAT.
Operator Connection Charge Daytime / per min Evening / per min Weekend / per min Date checked
BT [19] 3.864p 0.978p 0.978p June 2009 * [20]
SkypeOut[21] 3.3p 9.2p 9.2p 9.2p 04 May 2011
Virgin Media[22] 11p 10p 10p 10p 10 May 2010
Vonage[23] 4p 4p 2p 1p 30 Aug 2010

From UK mobiles

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans generally do not apply to 0845 numbers, which are charged separately.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
BT 20p[24] 30 December 2007
3 35p[25] 04 May 2011
O2 20-25p[26] 10 May 2010
Orange 40p[27] 12 April 2010
TalkTalk 35p[28] 30 December 2007
Tesco 20p[29] 30 December 2007
T-Mobile 40p[30] 26 March 2009
Virgin Mobile 41p[31] 21 July 2010
Vodafone 0844 0845 25p[32] / 20p[33] 30 July 2010
Vodafone 0870 25p[32] / 20p[33] 30 July 2010
Vodafone 0871 35p[32] / 25p[33] 30 July 2010

0870 prefix information

Call costs

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)

  • The cost of calling an 0870 number is usually higher than calling a geographic 01 or 02 number. 0870 is not generally included in call plans offering "free national calls". BT however do allow free calls to 0870 numbers at the same times as customers get inclusive calls under their calling plan.
  • Prices include VAT.
Operator Connect Charge Day per min Eve per min Weekend per min Date checked
BT[19] 5.88p/Free 1.47p/Free 5.88p/1.47p/Free 18 Feb 2009 *
SkypeOut[21] 3.3p 12.7p 12.7p 12.7p 04 May 2011
Virgin Media[22] Free Free Free Free 26 Sep 2011
Vonage[23] 2p 1p 1p 20 Aug 2010

- *Depending on calling plan.

From UK mobiles

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans generally do not apply to 0870 numbers, which are charged separately.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
BT tba[24] 30 December 2007
3 35p[25] 04 May 2011
O2 20-25p[26] 10 May 2010
Orange 40p[27] 12 April 2010
TalkTalk 35p[28] 30 December 2007
Tesco 20p[29] 30 December 2007
T-Mobile 40p[30] 7 January 2011
Virgin Mobile 41p[31] 21 July 2010
Vodafone 25p /20p[34] 30 July 2010


Ofcom originally announced that from February 2008, revenue sharing on the 0870 number range would no longer be allowed, but that a new range of non-geographic numbers would be made available to service providers in the 03 numbers range, known as UK-wide numbers, for organisations that require a national presence, but do not wish to charge premiums to consumers to contact them. Ofcom would permit the higher charges for 0870 numbers to continue provided that there was an announcement before the call (Pre-Call Announcement, or PCA). However, since that announcement Ofcom has changed its decision, because of Health and Safety implications[35] and more importantly due to strong lobbying and pressure from the Telecoms industry, who stood to lose significant revenue from the change. Ofcom has now postponed any changes to the 0870 number range, apparently because they now intend to move 0870 numbers to the same regime as 0871 (PhonepayPlus) as Premium numbers with call queuing permitted[citation needed]. Originally Ofcom had announced that call tariffs for 0870 were going to be the same as for geographic numbers, unless there was a PCA, but now this will not be so for the foreseeable future. The call tariffs and call discounts for 03 numbers will be the same for geographic (01 or 02) numbers. The new 03 numbers code was chosen because it is numerically adjacent to the 01 and 02 numbers.[36]

It remains to be seen which organisations will move to the new 03 numbers and how many will move to 0844, 0845 or 0871 numbers, as some have already done, to continue to receive premiums with call queuing permitted. Any such move is likely to be delayed until Ofcom have announced their decision on 0870 numbers.

On 30 April 2010, Ofcom announced a new, wide-ranging review of all non-geographic call services.[37]

Calling from abroad

When calling from outside the UK, many operators, such as AT&T,[38] CommuniTel,[39] and SkypeOut[21]charge the call as a "Premium Rate Service" or "Mobile call". This means that a call to a non-geographic number from outside the UK is usually significantly more expensive than a call to a UK geographic number plus a non-geographic call within the UK. The extra charge is paid to the UK partner by the non-UK operator and recouped from the caller.

With many pre-paid phonecards, calls to non-geographic numbers are blocked.[40] Either the UK partner does not connect the inbound call or the phonecard provider does not accept the charge levied by the UK operator.

Views on non-geographic numbers


Clients are attracted to these numbers because per minute revenue is generated for them from each call, and call queuing is permitted. Call centres may generate very high revenue from high call volumes. Questions have been asked in the British House of Commons about how much money the UK government is receiving from call queuing on non-geographic numbers.[41]

There is increasing consumer opposition to non-geographic numbers due to this revenue sharing, most of all because consumers are increasingly aware that they are being charged for time spent waiting for their call to be answered. (Even more of the public is aware of the huge costs of 09 Premium rate numbers, where prices have to be clearly indicated, and on which call queuing is specifically prohibited.) There has been increasing media coverage[42][43] which has raised awareness of this.

During debates in the House of Commons, a number of Members of Parliament have criticised the use of 0845 numbers to provide access to government services, such as at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).[44] It is objected that taxpayers are already financing government services via taxation, and in the specific case of DWP that many callers are benefit claimants without much money. The DWP is in the process of migrating from 0845 numbers to 0800 or 03 numbers.[45] In addition the Department of Health is currently undertaking a public consultation on banning 084 numbers in NHS services.[46]

Some consumers have tried to avoid calling non-geographic numbers by instead calling a non-advertised geographic number.[47][48] Local-rate alternatives to non-geographic numbers can often be found through extensive online searches.


An organisation may prefer a non-geographic number over a geographic number for several reasons.

  • Communication. The organisation can advertise a single national phone number rather than having different numbers for different regions or times of day. Materials showing the number can be used across the country. Changes to these numbers are rarer than changes in a range of geographic numbers[dubious ].
  • Revenue. The charge paid by the caller finances the forwarding of the call to the appropriate destination. Additionally, if sufficient volume is attained, the organisation receives a share of the call charge. Thus a charge is made to the customer, who may not be aware of it.
    • Call volumes and/or revenue would decrease if the true costs were known to callers, so strategies have been developed to hide them.
      • Misleading descriptions such as "Local Rate" "Lo-call" and "National Rate" are sometimes used, which falsely imply that call costs are the same as local/national calls to 01 or 02 numbers.
      • Numerical association can be applied: 0843 and 0844 numbers look similar to 0845, and most people would assume that they cost no more than 0845 ("local rate") numbers, which is not the case. (Similarly for 0871, 0872, and 0873 numbers, compared to the better known 0870 code.)
  • Routing. The operator can provide tools for managing large volumes of incoming calls. Calls can be routed to call centres in different parts of the country depending on e.g. the origin of the call, the available capacity or the time of day. The caller is less likely to encounter a busy signal and have to re-dial.

Some people and businesses support the use of non-geographic numbers because they believe they are cheaper to call (from all networks). For example, 0500 and 080x numbers are sometimes free for the caller, but the receiver has to pay for the call, and for some callers is much more expensive. The new 03 numbers range is usually the same cost as landline calls, although an intermediate rate maybe charged where the caller is on a tariff that still has local and national rates.

These numbers are most useful in connection with enhanced routing call handling services, and also to enable the same number to be kept if a business's geographical location changes. This can also be achieved using normal geographic numbers, but the initial cost of equipment and ongoing service costs to do this can be higher, and no revenue is returned (unlike 084x and 087x numbers).


  1. ^ Personal Numbering - Guidance on the acceptable use of 070 numbers
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ofcom introduces UK-wide 03 numbers". Ofcom. 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  3. ^ "New 03 number for phones proposed". BBC. 2007-02-23. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  4. ^ What are 03 numbers?
  5. ^ "Other Call Charges". Vodafone. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  6. ^ "Pay as you go price guide". Orange. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  7. ^ "Special Numbers". Telefónica Europe. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  8. ^ "Form S3 (UK-wide application - numbers starting '03')". Ofcom. Archived from the original on September 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  9. ^ Norman Warner (2006-12-19). Use of non-geographical (084) telephone numbers to contact NHS services. Department of Health. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  10. ^ "Practices encouraged to use new 03 numbers". E-Health Insider Primary Care. 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  11. ^ David Rose (2007-07-23). "Why it will cost more to phone your GP". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  12. ^ David Rose (2008-05-16). "Hospitals make money on patient phone calls". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  13. ^ James Tozer (2008-03-08). "Patients charged up to 40p a minute to call family doctors". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  14. ^ Gavin O'Connor (2008-07-13). "The great GP phone rip-off". Wales On Sunday. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  15. ^ "Johnson steps up pressure on 0844 numbers". E-Health Insider Primary Care. 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  16. ^ News & Appeals - Metropolitan Police Service
  17. ^ West Midlands Police Authority - Contact Us
  18. ^ Coventry Telegraph - News - Coventry News - West Midlands Police change phone number
  19. ^ a b BT Price list (pdf)
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c SkypeOut Price list
  22. ^ a b Virgin Media Price list
  23. ^ a b Vonage Price list
  24. ^ a b BT Mobile Price list
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^ a b O2 Price list
  27. ^ a b Orange Price list (pdf)
  28. ^ a b TalkTalk Price list
  29. ^ a b Tesco Mobile price list
  30. ^ a b T-Mobile price plan
  31. ^ a b Virgin Mobile Price list
  32. ^ a b c Vodafone PAYG price list
  33. ^ a b c Vodafone pay monthly price list
  34. ^ Vodafone price list
  35. ^ "Health and Safety implications". Ofcom. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  36. ^ "Telephone Numbering - Safeguarding the future of numbers". Ofcom. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  37. ^ "Review of non geographic calls services - Call for Inputs". Ofcom. 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  38. ^ AT&T price list
  39. ^ CommuniTel price list
  40. ^ Terms and conditions, Alpha Telecom
  41. ^ House of Commons publication.
  42. ^ Levene, Tony (2005-03-26). "Calls that are a big earner". London: The Guardian.,13283,1445767,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  43. ^ "Your number's up, webmaster tells the 0870 rip-off firms". The Daily Mail. 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  44. ^ "House of Commons debates, Jobcentre Plus (Telecoms Charges)". 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  45. ^ "Telephony in DWP and its agencies: Call costs and equality of customer access". Social Security Advisory Committee, Occasional Paper No. 3. 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-12-29.  (pdf)
  46. ^
  47. ^ " - This site lists many well-known companies, and their equivalent geographic numbers. Alternatives listed for 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 numbers.". Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  48. ^ Tony Levene (2005-03-26). "Calls that are a big earner". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 

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