Non-geographic phone numbers are those which begin with a prefix that isn’t associated with any particular location. For example, in the UK, phone numbers beginning 03 or 08 are non-geographic numbers, while numbers beginning 01 or 02 are geographic. In fact, in the UK, any phone number that doesn’t begin with either 01 or 02 is generally regarded as a non-geographic number.
Non Geographic numbers include the following:
- 118 numbers – these are known as “directory enquiries” numbers and are the most expensive and heavily regulated range of numbers in the UK, provided by Ofcom for British businesses to use under strict regulation by Ofcom’s premium rate phone number regulation squad called PhonepayPlus. Calls to numbers beginning with 118 in the UK range from as little as 50p per minute to right through to several pounds per minute.
- 09 numbers – these are the second most expensive and second most heavily regulated batch of numbers provided by Ofcom to be utilised by British businesses. These numbers typically cost over £1 per minute to call, and are reserved for services such as “psychic” horoscope readings and adult chatlines. These numbers are also used by some travel companies for expensive booking hotlines, and by some technology companies for expensive, self-funding technical support helplines.
- 08 numbers – these are varied.
- 0871 & 0872 numbers are the third most expensive and heavily regulated batch of numbers issued by Ofcom. Since reforms on 1st July 2015, these numbers typically cost 13p per minute (plus the variable access charge set by the caller’s own phone company). 0870 numbers used to be of the same sort, but the “Say No To 0870” campaign drove the popularity of these numbers into the ground.
- 0843 & 0844 numbers are the fourth most expensive and heavily regulated batch of numbers issued by Ofcom. Since 1st July 2015, calls to 0843 numbers usually cost 7p per minute (plus access charge), and much the same as with higher rate numbers, the majority of your call cost is paid to the company you’re calling (as rebate per minute).
- 0845 numbers are popular too, but they’re not rebate-giving, so they’re a little cheaper for the caller.
- 0800 & 0808 numbers – these are known as “freephone” numbers because cost nothing for the caller to call from a landline, or mobile (since 1st July 2015), but they may be costly if called from a payphone or if dialling from overseas. Being freephone numbers, the cost of each call is automatically reverse-charged within the confines of an agreement between the company that occupies the number and their telecoms service provider. This basically means the company you’re calling has such strong sales or customer service that they are happy to foot the bill themselves. The 0500 numbers range also exists as freephone numbers, but these are being phased out in favour of the more popular 080 freephone numbers.
- 999 (the emergency services number), 101 (the police’s non-emergency number) and 111 (the NHS non-emergency medical advice number) are all non-geographic numbers too. Note that 999 and 111 are freephone numbers but 101 is charged at a fixed fee of 15p per call for all callers.
- 07 numbers are non-geographic in that they’re not allocated to any particular geographic areas. They are generally reserved for mobile phones; however the odd mobile company (EE) still promotes the odd 07 number as a customer service contact number, using it in the same way that a company would typically use a non-geographic service – they have a unique ability to do this in a cost-efficient manner due to them being in joint control of the mobile 07 number range because they’re a mobile company.
Geographic numbers are those which correspond to a particular geographical location. They are all 01 & 02 numbers. Popular examples include:
- 020 numbers – these numbers are allocated to Greater London, so if you call an 020 number you can usually expect it to be answered by someone sitting in a London based office – but this isn’t always true, because even 01 & 02 numbers can be routed through networks like non-geographic numbers are.
- 0121 numbers – these are allocated to the Greater Birmingham area.
- 0161 numbers – these are allocated to the Greater Manchester area.
Advantages of NGNs
✔ Often easy to remember. Companies often choose to promote non-geographic numbers because they’re memorable – especially if they’re renting a silver, gold or platinum number.
✔ Less likely to change unexpectedly. One of the main reasons a business will publish an NGN in their marketing material is its easy ability to re-route calls to a new destination – this comes in handy if the company moves office – usually a geographic number is attached to a particular building or telephone network, and although there are steps companies can take to take their geographic number with them when retaining the same phone company, it’s generally easier and thus more expected to keep a number when moving offices if it’s a non-geographic number. For this reason, NGNs are good numbers to store in a phonebooks, contact lists and databases.
Disadvantages of NGNs
✖ Audio quality is reduced, due to extra network routing. Calls to non-geographic numbers tend to have poorer sound quality than calls to geographic numbers. Calls to geographic numbers are usually clearer because they usually point directly to their destination without being routed through an additional layer of telecoms services.
✖ Calls take a little longer to get through to their destination and get picked up. Calls to non-geographic numbers take a little longer to be answered than calls directly to geographic numbers, due to extended routing. This call pickup delay can be as short as a fraction of a second, or as long as several seconds, depending on the telecoms provider that governs the non-geographic number. This results in a higher rate of calls being dropped by the caller due to impatience.
Call charges and phone numbers by GOV.UK – this is a convenient reference table, packed with comprehensive details on the range of possible call costs for each type of number whether calling from mobile or landline.
Call Costs Guide by Ofcom – this is tool maintained with up-to-date call cost regulation data and links to relevant pages on telephone service provider websites, thus allowing you to see the entire range of possible costs for dialling any type of number from any of the major UK phone networks.
Cost of Calling – Guide to Call Costs – another overview of the different types of numbers and the typical costs of calling them, with links to phone companies’ pricing pages for reference.