Frequently asked questions


Can I convert my existing mobile phone to a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go service?

Generally yes, but your handset may be "locked" to a particular service provider and they may refuse, or make a charge, to unlock it. You also need to check that the new provider's operating frequency band is the same as the proposed service - many new handsets are dual-band. Some so-called "SIM only" contracts operate in a "grey" area of the market - contacts and user comments can be found in telecoms newsgroups.

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Can I get a particular number for a new or existing line?

Yes - as long as no one else has had it allocated to them, it doesn’t contravene the numbering conventions and it is technically feasible. So-called "golden numbers", which correspond to letters on the keypad and spell particular words or which are memorable because of the number pattern, may be available through your existing telco or an agent. These memorable numbers may be bought for permanent use or leased for a term; for example during an advertising campaign.

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Can I keep my mobile number if I change service providers?

Yes - with some reservations. Mobile network operators are required to provide number portability on request from another operator, but they may make a charge for this - particularly if your existing contract has not yet expired.

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How can I compare different telcos prices?

Very difficult to do accurately, because of the complex discounting structure operated by some telcos and the varying usage patterns of subscribers. The automated comparisons found on the Internet depend upon the telcos' making comprehensive, up-to-date information available in a format which can be integrated into the same database. Independent consultants can analyse your usage and make a tailored report, but the cost of the report has to be balanced against any likely savings. Beware - some consultants may not be independent, and some may offer to carry out the report for a share of the savings but want to tie you into a long term agreement which may not be appropriate - always read the small print before signing anything.

external links:
  • Call for Less
  • Uswitch
    Ofcom approved comparison site for residential consumers but will come up with companies who also offer competitive small business solutions
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How can I identify a particular STD or other code?

Numbers are allocated as follows:

01 - geographic area codes
02 - geographic area codes
03 - reserved for future geographic area codes
04 - reserved for future use
05 - reserved for corporate numbering
06 - reserved for future use
07 - "find me anywhere" services - personal numbes, pagers and mobile
08 - special services up to national call rate
09 - premium rate services, and reserved for multimedia

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I am not satisfied with my telephone company's response to my complaint, what can I do?

If you have exhausted the telephone company's complaints procedure and have given them a resonable opportunity to put things right but you are still not satisfied, then you can take your complaint to Ofcom (previously Oftel) and use thei Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) service provided by CISAS or Ombudsman Services (previously otelo).

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I can't get ADSL. Is there an alternative?

If ADSL is not yet available in your area or you are too far from the exchange, a broadband connection may be offered by your local cable company. Terrestrial wireless or satellite may be alternatives.

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I'm not happy with the service provided by my telecoms supplier. What can I do?

Many equipment operators, installers and maintainers have signed up to the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) code of conduct. If you feel your listed supplier has not complied with the code, contact the TIA who will investigate your complaint.

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We are moving our business location. Can we take our fixed line numbers with us?

There are technical limitations on fixed line number portability but Ofcom are encouraging as much flexibility as possible. Generally with a landline you can only move within the same exchange area but VoIP and hybrid fixed-mobile services are bringing more options. You can have an existing number forwarded to a new number, working at the same time as the new number until your contacts have got used to using it. You can also have a recorded message which gives the new number while the caller is being redirected and continues after the redirection service has been discontinued. If you start in temporary premises and know you will be relocating some time in the future then you could use a non-geographic number.

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What can I do about junk fax messages?

It is unlawful to send direct marketing faxes to individuals including 'sole traders' and (except in Scotland) partnerships unless the sender has received prior consent. Companies can register their fax numbers not to receive unsolicited faxes. You should:
1. contact the company faxing directly stating that you do not wish to receive any further faxes
2. contact the Fax Preference Service (FPS) on 0845 070 0702 or through their website.
There is a 28 day grace period to allow companies time to update their records. If you continue to receive junk faxes outside this period, keep a copy of the fax(es) and complete the FPS' complaint form.

The Fax Preference Service is run by the Direct Marketing Association. Regulations relating to unsolicited faxes are enforced by the Data Protection Commissioner.

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What can I do about unwanted telephone sales calls?

Individuals, including 'sole traders' and (except in Scotland) 'partnerships' can opt out of receiving unsolicited telesales calls via the Telephone Preference Service. To register your request not to receive telemarketing calls you should:

1 contact any company making such calls directly stating that you do not wish to receive any further calls
2 contact the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) on 0845 070 0707 and give your telephone number. There is a 28 day grace period to allow companies time to update their records.

The Telephone Preference Service is run by the Direct Marketing Association. Regulations relating to unsolicited sales calls are enforced by the Data Protection Commissioner.

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What does it cost to call a mobile phone?

That depends on whether the person you are calling has a standard agreement or a personal number, where the service provider charges calls at a higher rate.

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  • The price of calls from BT lines
    including mobiles and specialist services - unfortunately you have to look-up the pricing code as well "To identify the specific number ranges appropriate to charge bands other than Local or National, please see Section 2 Parts , 11, 12, 13, 14, & 16" at the bottom of the page.
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What is the convention for presenting phone numbers on business stationery?

Considerable benefit can be obtained from consistent forms of number presentation. Recommended formats for ten-digit numbers are:

01AB CDE XXXX - 01 range with seven-digit local dialling
01ABC DEX XXX - 01 range with six-digit local dialling
02A BCDE XXXX - 02 range with eight-digit local dialling
0SABC DEX XXX - general use without local dialling

If appropriate the national dialling codes may have brackets inserted preceding the local numbers:

(0SAB) CDE XXXX, (0SA) BCDE XXXX and (0SABC) DEX XXX The International code for the UK can be included with a '+' sign in front indicating that the caller has to also predial the local country's international access exchange i.e. +44 (0)SAB CDE XXXX

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What's this about dialling a prefix before the number, to be billed by a different telco?

This can be done by manually dialling a prefix number or by installing a "box" which adds the prefix number automatically, a process known as Least Cost Routing (LCR). BT are required by Oftel (now Ofcom) to make their network available to other operators to provide this service - but BT are the only ones so required. Cable & Wireless, the cable companies and others don't have to enable it. Whether you save money depends on discount levels and usage, and needs to be carefully calculated. You must also ensure that you will get an acceptable level of back-up service should anything go wrong - businesses rely on their phones more than residential customers, so you need an appropriate level of service. See also carrier pre-selection (CPS).

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Why do some telcos charge more for a non-geographic number than they do for its geographic equivalent?

Where more than one telephone company carries a call, the company you chose to carry the call has control over the retail price of the call. There is no requirement on operators other than BT to offer prices that are consistent across different call types, so for example there is no compulsion to charge 0845 calls at the same level as local calls.

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Why does my mobile company charge me for freephone numbers - shouldn't they be free?

The costs of making and receiving calls over mobile networks is higher than those for calls made over fixed networks, due to the greater technical complexity of mobile networks. As a result some mobile operators charge more for calls to other operators' services than the published retail price.

There is no requirement on operators other than BT to offer freephone calls at no cost to the caller, although in practice most do so unless it is to a number which is designed to route calls at lower charges.

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