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UK Telephone Numbers and area codes

The telephone service in the United Kingdom was originally provided by private companies and local councils. But by 1913 nearly all of them had been taken over by the Post Office. Post Office Telecommunications was reorganised in the 1980s as British Telecommunications (British Telecom, or BT).

Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) was introduced in 1958 and this allowed a caller to bypass the local exchange operator and call another telephone directly. Uniform exchange codes were allocated for every exchange in the country as STD was rolled out. These exchange codes were originally based on two letters of the place name of the exchange, the letters becoming numbers according to their allocation on the telephone dial ('O', however, became a zero). For example Aylesbury was given the STD code 0296, where the letter A can be found on the number 2 of the dial and the letter Y on the number 9. Many current Telephone Area Codes still contain these original 2 numbers.

Telephone numbers in the UK public network usually consist of 10, or occasionally 9, digits. The number is prefixed with a 0 when dialled from within the UK or with "+44" when dialled from abroad. The first few digits define the type of number - see this list of prefixes. There are several exceptions to this format including Helplines and Directory Enquiries numbers.

Some definitions:

  • Access Charge - paid by the caller and retained by the caller's telephone provider to cover their costs; from 26 June 2015 every provider must set and declare this as a single per-minute rate per tariff covering all 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 and 118 numbers, before that date it varied according to the number called and was hidden within the overall advertised call price.
  • Call Handling Fee - the charge levied by a non-geographic number provider when they handle an incoming call and route it onwards to the call recipient's telephone apparatus; for 03, 080, 111 and 116 calls this fee is paid by the call recipient; for 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 and 118 calls the money to pay this fee is usually extracted from all or part of the Service Charge that was paid by the caller.
  • Call Origination Fee - this per-minute fee is paid by the call recipient wherever an 080, 111 or 116 number is used and it compensates the caller's telephone provider for the fact that the caller is not paying for the call; the fee levied for 080 numbers will be substantially increased on 26 June 2015 when these calls become free from all mobile phones.
  • Free Call - this is where the caller pays nothing for the call; it includes calls to 080 Freephone numbers, the emergency services, operator services, NHS 111 and various helplines beginning 116.
  • Geographic Area Code - a telephone number identifying a particular geographic area (see this list of telephone codes).
  • Geographic Number - a telephone number, where part of its digit structure contains a geographic area code.
  • Geographic Rate - the per-minute rate paid by the caller to their telephone provider when calling an 01 or 02 geographic number or an 03 non-geographic number outside the allowances of any inclusive call plan; the actual rate varies by provider and by tariff.
  • Inclusive Call - a call made within an allowance or bundle of calls, usually to an 01, 02 or 03 number (or additionally to another mobile number if calling from a mobile telephone); the caller is charged a monthly package fee and there is usually a per-call time limit or a per-month usage limit.
  • Landline Telephone - fixed telephone apparatus connected to the telephone network by wires and assigned a geographic telephone number.
  • Local Call - a call made from one geographic number to another within a limited geographic area.
  • Local Number - a geographic number excluding the geographic area code.
  • Local Rate - most telephone providers stopped charging a distinct rate for local calls in or by 2003. Calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers are charged at "geographic rate" irrespective of distance. Nowadays, most calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers are made as part of an inclusive allowance whether calling from a landline or from a mobile telephone.
  • Mobile Number - a telephone number that is used to identify apparatus capable of being used while in motion.
  • Mobile Rate - the per-minute rate paid by the caller to their telephone provider when calling any standard 07 mobile telephone number outside the allowances of any inclusive call plan; the actual rate varies by provider and by tariff.
  • Mobile Telephone - portable telephone apparatus connected to the telephone network by radio signals and assigned a mobile telephone number.
  • National Call - a call made from one geographic number to another that is not a local call.
  • Non-Geographic Number - any public telephone network number other than a geographic number (see Prefixes and Special Numbers).
  • Personal Number - a telephone number which allows a subscriber to receive calls at almost any telephone number.
  • Revenue Share Payment - money paid out to the call recipient by their non-geographic number provider; this is the remainder of the Service Charge left over after the costs incurred by the provider in handling an incoming 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 or 118 call and routing it onwards to the call recipient's telephone apparatus have been covered.
  • Service Charge - the per-minute or per-call rate paid by the caller to their telephone provider and which is passed on in full to the call recipient's non-geographic number provider; it applies when calling 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 and 118 numbers and varies according to the initial six digits of the number called.
  • Termination Fee (or Rate) - the fee paid to the call recipient's telephone provider when they receive an incoming call and deliver it to the call recipient's telephone apparatus. For landline providers, the rate is much less than 0.1p/min. For mobile providers, the rate originally used to be much more than 5p/min but will be much less than 1p/min by mid-2015. The Mobile Termination Rate has been gradually reduced in multiple steps under a plan designed by Ofcom after they intervened in the mobile calls market in 2009. In the case of calls to geographic and mobile numbers, the fee is paid by the caller's telephone provider. In the case of calls to non-geographic numbers that are then forwarded to a standard landline or mobile telephone, the fee is paid by the call recipient's non-geographic telephone number provider.
  • Unbundled Tariff - the charging structure applied when calling 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 and 118 numbers; this is where the call cost is split into an Access Charge and a Service Charge, with each component separately declared by the respective party that benefits from the revenue.

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