Because not all 0191s are alike
Ofcom is currently consulting on a variety of fairly minor telephone numbering issues. Interestingly, this includes specific proposals on how the last remaining batches of numbers in the 0191 area code are to be used.
Back when what was then the 091 code was created in the early to mid 1980s, there was a clear and recognisable pattern to the issuing of local numbers:
- 2xx xxxx was for Newcastle and North Tyneside
- 3xx xxxx was for Durham
- 4xx xxxx was for Gateshead and South Tyneside
- 5xx xxxx was for Sunderland
The distinction has become a little blurred in recent years as demand to the north of the Tyne has outstripped that to the south, forcing numbers beginning with 4 to spread north of the Tyne as well. Indeed, Ofcom now officially refers to all numbers beginning 2, 4 and 6 as simply ‘Tyneside’ rather than anything more specific.
Yet, Ofcom still distinguishes Sunderland and Durham from Tyneside and evidently believes that the public do so too as they plan to split up the remaining capacity in a similar fashion:
- 7xx xxxx will be for Tyneside
- 8xx xxxx will be for Sunderland
- 9xx xxxx will be for Durham.
It’s an interesting move as such local recognition comes at the price of using the small amount of remaining capacity less efficiently. It means, for example, that an operator that needs only a handful of numbers in each area would need three blocks of 10,000 numbers instead of just one – a sure fire way of eating up capacity quickly. Still, it’s nice to see Ofcom trying to maintain number recognition they believe people value.