Many telephone companies charge the same prices for calls to all geographic (those beginning 01 and 02) and pseudo-geographic numbers (03). However, that didn't always used to be the case, and some companies still distinguish between "local" and other numbers. This page discusses the meaning of "local" and related terms, at least how they were applied by BT. Much of this page uses the present tense, because the concepts still exist even though they have no practical use.
In my work over the years, I discovered that a lot of people didn't really understand how the phone calls they made were charged. For example, many people believed that a phone call was more expensive if they dialled a number beginning 0. While it is true that all long-distance calls do begin with 0, so do many local calls.
(For those unclear about this concept, it is possible to omit the dialling code if it is the same as your own and begins 01 or 02. So if your phone number begins 020, then you can dial 7222 1234 rather than 020 7222 1234. Furthermore, there used to be a series of "local codes". Thus from 0223 (now 01223) numbers, it was possible to dial 92 instead of 0638 and 93 instead of 0954. Contrary to some people's belief, it made no difference to the cost whether you used the full code or the local code.
This material has been compiled from various sources. It is correct to the best of my knowledge, but I take no responsibility for any use made of it. This page is not sponsored, supported, or otherwise connected with BT other than through use of publically available BT material.
Some other telephone companies use the same method of charging as BT, or a variation thereon. Others do not. You should contact your telephone company for specific details of how they charge for calls. Furthermore, this material only applies to calls between geographic numbers, and not mobile or personal numbers or other services. For an example of the range of non-geographical numbers, and the different rates that apply, see the Kingston Communications tariff.
I would like to know of any errors in the information presented. The best form of evidence is an extract from a telephone bill. Nearly as good is an extract from the local telephone directory, though these have been known to contain mistakes. In both cases, please email me a scanned-in image or a pointer to an image. I do not consider statements made by BT operators to be evidence; I have far too many examples of when they have given wrong, or even nonsense, answers.
The BT charging system has three types of call: local, regional, and national. Local calls are generally cheaper than regional ones, which in turn are cheaper (or sometimes the same price as) national ones. Of course, the cost of a call also varies according to the time of day and the day of the week.
On 1999-10-01 BT made the regional and national rates the same for all calls, and on 2000-12-20 they formally abolished the distinction.
BT divide the United Kingdom into 637 "charge groups", each with a name and a reference number. In theory, each group covers a particular area, and (it is claimed) the boundaries between the groups are regularly adjusted. However, it is not actually necessary to know the boundaries, as it is always possible to tell which charge group a phone belongs to by the first 4, 5, or 6 digits of its number.
Some charge groups cover a single dialling code while others cover more than one, and some dialling codes are split into several groups. For example:
All calls between numbers in the same charge group are local calls. However, the converse is not true. If two charge groups touch each other, then a call between them is also local. The catch, of course, is determining which charge groups do touch. It ought to be simple to decide, but there are a number of problems. Firstly, BT do not publish maps of charge group boundaries, claiming that there are tens or hundreds of changes each month. Then there are a number of marginal cases. If two charge groups are on the opposite side of a bay or river estuary, there is no easy way to tell if they "touch" or not. Furthermore, sometimes four, rather than three, groups appear to be about to meet at the same place. Sometimes all four are local to each other, and sometimes there is one pair which are not. And finally, there are a number of explicit special cases where calls are made local in order to bind a community together.
While local calls are defined in terms of charge group boundaries, regional and national calls are not. Instead, each charge group is given a location known as its charging point. If two charge groups are not local to each other, it is necessary to determine the distance between their charging points. If this is under 56.4km, calls between them are regional; otherwise they are national. Naturally, BT do not publicise the actual locations of the charging points.
Finally, the Republic of Ireland adds yet another special case. Calls from Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) to the Republic are charged at a special "Irish" rate. But calls from Northern Ireland are charged on the same basis as calls within the UK - a charge group in Northern Ireland may be a local call, a regional call, or a national call to a given charge group in the Republic. In particular, there are cross-border local calls.
For more information about the charge group a number is in, and what groups it is local to, find the first few digits in the following list.
0110 0111 0112 0113 0114 0115 0116 0117 0118 0119
0120 0121 0122 0123 0124 0125 0126 0127 0128 0129
0130 0131 0132 0133 0134 0135 0136 0137 0138 0139
0140 0141 0142 0143 0144 0145 0146 0147 0148 0149
0150 0151 0152 0153 0154 0155 0156 0157 0158 0159
0160 0161 0162 0163 0164 0165 0166 0167 0168 0169
0170 0171 0172 0173 0174 0175 0176 0177 0178 0179
0180 0181 0182 0183 0184 0185 0186 0187 0188 0189
0190 0191 0192 0193 0194 0195 0196 0197 0198 0199
020 021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029
03 04 05 06 07 08 09
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