WITH more and more people using smartphones to make calls, landline area codes could soon become a distant memory.
In fact, Brits spend half as much time on the landline – but use ten times more mobile data – compared to just six years ago, new research has revealed.
In 2012, the UK spent a total of 103 billion minutes on landline calls, but in 2017, the same figure had fallen to just 54 billion minutes, according to communications regulator Ofcom.
Over the same period, mobile call minutes increased from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion, while the average person’s monthly mobile data use also soared from 0.2GB to 1.9GB.
Meanwhile, changes in technology could change how phone numbers are used even more as it becomes more common for calls to be made over broadband, rather than traditional telephone lines.
Broadband-based call technology doesn’t need area codes to tell it where to send a call, meaning area codes could soon lose their meaning.
Ofcom says it has already begun looking at how UK landline telephone numbers could be managed more effectively, including the potential to use blockchain technology, which is a kind of computer code used to record transactions.
This could make it quicker and easier for landline customers to switch providers while keeping their number, and potentially also reduce nuisance calls.
How did area codes come about?
DUE to increased demand for numbers, the numbering system has changed several times over the years.
There are 1.3 billion landline phone numbers in the UK, of which 400 million are currently allocated to telecoms operators.
Ofcom allocates phone numbers, and keeps an eye on how they’re used.
When area codes were first created in the 1950s, they had particular significance on a telephone dial.
Numbers corresponded to two-letter identifiers, such as AB (22) for Aberdeen. So today, Aberdeen’s area code is ‘01224’ (01AB4).
Liz Greenberg, head of numbering at Ofcom, said: “Some of us can remember a time when we stored phone numbers in our head, rather than our mobile.
“But the way we use and feel about telephone numbers is changing.
“In the future, as more calls are made over broadband, dialling codes won’t need to be fixed to a particular part of the country.
“So the question is – could area codes become a thing of the past?”
A majority of people in the UK only have a landline phone because of their broadband connection, while millions of people don’t even know their own telephone number, a study has showed.
Meanwhile, mobile network EE is letting customers use the same phone number across different devices through a “smart number” scheme.
Landline phone owners should also watch out for scammers who’ve fleeced Brits of nearly £8,000 by posing as BT engineers over the phone.
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