Non-geographical telephone numbers in the UK

Non-geographical telephone numbers in the UK

In the United Kingdom, non-geographical 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'.


0870 prefix information

Call costs

From UK landlines

* The cost of calling an 0870 number is usually higher than calling a geographic 01 or 02 number. 0870 is not included in call plans offering "free national calls".

* Prices include VAT.

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.


Ofcom originally announced that from February 2008, revenue sharing on the 0870 number range would no longer be allowed, and that a new range of non-geographic numbers will be made available to service providers in the 03 numbers range, known as "UK-wide numbers", for those organisations who require a national presence, but who do not wish to charge premiums to consumers for contacting them. Ofcom also were going to permit the higher rate of charge for 0870 numbers to continue provided that there was a Public Announcement before the Call (PAC). However, since that announcement Ofcom has changed its decision, because of Health and Safety implications [cite web|publisher=Ofcom|title=Health and Safety implications|url=|accessdate=2008-01-18|date=2007-11-14] and now postponed any changes with regard to 0870 number range. It seems this may be because they now intend to move 0870 numbers under the regulation of PhonepayPlus as with 0871, to continue as Premium numbers with call queuing permittedFact|date=August 2008. Originally Ofcom had announced that call tariffs for 0870 were going to change to being the same as for geographic numbers, unless there was a PAC, but now for the foreseeable future this will not be so. The call tariffs and call discounts for 03 numbers will be the same as if the consumer was calling a geographic (01 or 02) number, The new 03 numbers range is also intentionally numerically next to the existing geographic number ranges. [cite web|publisher=Ofcom|title=Telephone Numbering - Safeguarding the future of numbers|url=|accessdate=2007-12-29|date=2006-07-27]

It remains to be seen which organisations will move to the new 03 numbers range and how many will migrate to the 0844, 0845 or 0871 number ranges, as some have already been doing, to continue receiving Premiums with call queuing permitted. Any migration will now be delayed until Ofcom have announced their new decision for the 0870 number range.

Calling from abroad

When calling from outside the UK, many operators charge the call as a "Premium Rate Service" or "Mobile call" (sic). Examples: AT&T [ [ AT&T price list] ] , CommuniTel [ [ CommuniTel price list] ] ,
SkypeOut. The result in most cases is that the cost of calling a non-geographic number from outside the UK is significantly more than the cost of calling a UK geographical number (e.g. +44 20 for London) plus the cost of an non-geographic call within the UK. The increased charge is levied by the UK partner onto the non-UK operator and passed directly to the caller.

With many pre-paid phonecards, calls to non-geographic numbers are blocked. [ [ Terms and conditions] , Alpha Telecom] 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-geographical numbers


An attraction of these numbers to clients is that in owning these numbers is that call queuing is permitted whilst per minute revenue is being generated, which can allow call centres particularly to generate very large amounts of revenue with high call volumes. Questions have been asked in the UK House of Commons concerning the amount of revenue which the UK government is generating from using call queuing on non-geographic numbers [ House of Commons publication.] .

There is increasing consumer opposition to non-geographic numbers due to the per minute revenue sharing, most of all because call queuing is permitted whilst charging and thus revenue generation continues. This is because the public have become increasingly aware of the per minute revenue sharing with non-geographic numbers. (The public is clearly aware of the situation with overt 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 [cite web|publisher="The Guardian"|title=Calls that are a big earner|url=,13283,1445767,00.html|accessdate=2007-12-29|date=2005-03-26] [cite web|publisher="The Daily Mail"|title=Your number's up, webmaster tells the 0870 rip-off firms|url=|accessdate=2007-12-29|date=2006-10-05] 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) [ cite news | url= | title=House of Commons debates, Jobcentre Plus (Telecoms Charges) | date=2007-10-08 | accessdate=2007-12-29 ] . The criticism is in the general case that taxpayers are already financing government services via taxation, and in the specific case of DWP that callers might be for example benefit claimaints with limited financial means. The DWP is in the process of migrating from 0845 numbers to 0800 or 03 numbers. [ cite news | url= | title=Telephony in DWP and its agencies: Call costs and equality of customer access | publisher=Social Security Advisory Committee, Occasional Paper No. 3 |date=2007-07-04 | accessdate=2007-12-29 (pdf)]

Some consumers have sought ways of avoiding calling non-geographic numbers by instead calling a non-advertised geographic number. [cite web|| - This site lists many well-known companies, and their equivalent geographical numbers. Alternatives listed for 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 numbers.|url=|accessdate=2007-12-29] [ cite news | url= | title=Calls that are a big earner | author=Tony Levene | publisher=The Guardian | date=2005-03-26 | accessdate=2008-08-25 ] Promotion of geographical equivalent numbers on the internet has a negative impact on revenue - unintended consequences of this are illustrated at


An organisation may prefer an non-geographic number over a geographical numbers for several reasons.
*Publications. It enables the organisation to publish a convenient, single number (e.g. on stationery, vehicles, advertisements) rather than, say, a list for different cities, or different numbers for in hours and out of hours. Materials showing the number can be reused across the country. Changes to the these number are rarer than changes in a range of geographical numbers.
*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.
*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 a number of factors such as 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 can be cheap to call. For example, 0500 and 080x numbers are free to call for the caller, but the receiver has to pay for the call. The new 03 numbers range is also the same cost as landline calls.

These numbers are most useful and beneficial when used for enhanced routing call handling services, and also so that the same number can be kept if a business moves office or have to alter the destination number. This can be achieved through normal geographic numbers too, but the initial cost of equipment and ongoing service costs to do this can be higher, and no revenue is returned (unlike with 084x and 087x numbers).


External websites

* [ Ofcom]
* [ PhonepayPlus]

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