UK onto final 40m mobile phone numbers as digits run out

UK mobile phone numbers are on the verge of running out as the mobile phone industry looks at ways to increase the amount of numbers available with the current recycling process criticised for being too complex and lengthily.

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Data from Unique Sims shows that the final two prefix ranges [07200-99 and 07300-99] are set to be launched in the coming months that will mean the remaining 40 million numbers being allocated and no clear indication as to where the industry will go next.

There are already some 700 million numbers that have been allocated to mobile phone operators and the appetite to recycle old numbers means that new numbers are added to the increasingly large number in existence.

“Mobile operators are under increasing pressure by Ofcom to utilise in-house allocations of prefix ranges but from the network’s perspective the current processes involved to complete the cycle of issuing is very lengthy,” stated the release from Unique Sims. “One solution would be to better manage the existing distributed numbers, and those in circulation, on internal databases. Various methods are currently used but these differ across mobile operators as it is ultimately their choice how they wish to manage these allocated prefix ranges.”

There are various options being floated as to how the shortage can be addressed from adding new prefix ranges that begin 06XXX and 05XXX to adding a digit to the end of some phone numbers to create 12 digit numbers for the first time. Other observers speculate that the future will see phones that don’t require a SIM card and user IDs will replace the traditional mobile phone number.

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Many consumers still choose to keep the same number and upgrade an outdated device with figures showing that the average UK consumers spends £77 per upgrade and up to £2,688 over their lifetime, which makes the upgrade market worth £2 billion a year to the UK mobile phone industry alone.