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New technology could mean the end of area codes

New technology could mean the end of area codes

Changes in technology could be set to "revolutionise" how people in the UK make phone calls, with geographic area codes set to become a thing of the past as more people make calls via their broadband connection instead of traditional lines.

This is according to new research carried out by Ofcom, which looked at how attitudes towards the telephone are changing in the UK. 

It revealed that while the total number of calls made has halved over the last five years, from 103 billion minutes of landline calls in 2012 to just 54 billion in 2017, a generational gap is emerging, with older people in particular still keen to pick up the phone.

Indeed, while younger people favour text messaging services such as WhatsApp - with one 18-year-old respondent to the survey describing using the phone as "a bit daunting" - older generations say they gain a better understanding by speaking to a person.

Liz Greenberg, Head of Numbering at Ofcom, said: "The way we use and feel about telephone numbers is changing. In the future, as more calls are made over broadband, dialling codes won't need to be fixed to a particular part of the country. So the question is – could area codes become a thing of the past?"

Indeed, the telecoms regulator found many younger people are not even aware of the geographical significance of area codes, and may often associate them with nuisance callers or call centres.

These individuals were also more positive about the idea of retaining a single number that will be theirs for life, which they can take with them no matter where in the country they move.

By contrast, Ofcom noted older people are "strongly opposed" to the idea of losing geographic area codes.

One reason for this is that they are more likely to recognise area codes and put trust in them, with these numbers considered especially useful and reassuring when searching for local businesses, as well as when making and receiving calls. One 67-year-old survey respondent stated: "It's helpful to know where things are."

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