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Ofcom UK to Take Back Phone Numbers from Defunct Providers

Monday, Sep 25th, 2023 (11:31 am) - Score 7,992

The UK telecoms and media regulator, Ofcom, has today proposed to “take back” a sizeable amount of phone numbers from a long list of broadband and communication providers that are no longer trading (i.e. those that have been dissolved, gone into liquidation or closed).

At present the regulator allocates phone numbers to telecoms companies in blocks of 10,000, for them to distribute to their customers. “To make sure the best use is made of this finite national resource, we occasionally take back numbering ranges from companies that are no longer trading,” said Ofcom.

As part of this, the regulator has published a LONG LIST of communications providers that are now either dissolved or in liquidation (the list also includes a few sole trader businesses). Ofcom typically allows a period of time, after announcing these withdrawals, to make sure the numbers are not in use by other consumers or communications providers.

Suffice to say, they’re now seeking feedback from any affected party regarding current use of these numbers. Representations may be submitted no later than Friday 10th November 2023. We suspect this may be of particular interest to any providers that have acquired numbers from a third-party source or via mergers and acquisitions, as such providers may want to double-check that all of their ranges are secure.

We intend to make the numbers allocated to these companies available for alternative uses,” said Ofcom in a brief statement. A quick look at the list suggests that the regulator is playing catch-up with history and going back quite a few years.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    Perhaps Ofcom should wake up, and charge a nominal registration fee for blocks of numbers, as internet registries do for interent domains. If the fee isn’t paid, give the defaulters one month to pay and if it isn’t paid then the numbers become available again. That would seem a lot more sensible than just handing the numbers out free of charge and in perpetuity.

    1. Avatar photo Sue Davies says:

      They introduced charging for number blocks in 2013, in the areas with the most pressing capacity problems. Caused a lot of extra admin and they’ve been a bit coy about whether it’s actually had any impact…

  2. Avatar photo GreenLantern22 says:

    Isn’t this a minefield? What happens with numbers from those blocks that were ported to other telecom providers?

    1. Avatar photo Martin - Aquiss says:

      Covered at the bottom of Page 20 it would appear.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Only covered if there’s somebody to read the document, and who KNOWS that a given number is in one of the blocks proposed for re-assignment, but how certain is that?

    3. Avatar photo Martin says:

      One issue with number porting, is that it does rely on the original range holder to forward the calls on.

      I think in many cases this gets taken in by say BT when an operator goes bust, but not sure if this happens for the smaller one man band operations.

      Would be good to switch to a model where an independent entity is responsible for looking up the operator from the number, rather than relying on redirects

    4. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      @Martin – you’re obviously not old enough to remember Ionica going bust 25 years ago, and how anyone who’d got a number from them (rather than porting it in) lost their number once the administrators turned the switch off (which wasn’t very long). So, nope, number ranges (at least when allocated to a “real” Telco) don’t – and can’t – just be “taken in” by A Random Other Operator.
      I’m pretty sure things haven’t changed in that regard, but open to correction!

    5. Avatar photo Martin says:

      I don’t remember Ionica, that would have been while I was still at school.

      I’m sure I had heard of ranges being taken over to save peoples numbers, but can’t find any examples, I must have gotten mixed up with something else

  3. Avatar photo Norman says:

    Problem is that phone numbers have been dual purposed for 2FA. There’s always the risk that an old number is still attached to an account somewhere and the phone number won’t be usable by the new recipient. It’s more of a problem for mobiles than landlines but it still is a risk. Then there are old databases and directories with references to the old numbers as well.

  4. Avatar photo plunet says:

    Quite a long list of communication companies that didn’t survive.

    I wonder whether Yodafone Ltd’s demise was due to failing to find the Force or cease and desist messages from another large telco’s solicitors.

  5. Avatar photo The Facts says:

    Some number blocks allocated are 1000 numbers.

  6. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Surely the way to prevent subscribers from losing their numbers is for every telco to scan their customer database to check that none of the numbers in the block about to be taken back by Ofcom is still live?

Comments are closed

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