|United Kingdom area code for London|
|International calling||+44 20|
|Active since||1 June 1999[notes 1]|
|Previous code(s)||0171, 0181|
|Earlier code(s)||071, 081; 01|
|Number format||020 xxxx xxxx|
|Approximate coverage of 020 code (red), compared to Greater London boundary (black)|
|Area served||Bushey Heath
|List of United Kingdom codes|
020 is the national dialling code for London in the United Kingdom. The area it serves, which includes most of Greater London and some adjacent areas, was first allocated the STD code 01 in 1959. After a sequence of changes in the 1990s, culminating with the Big Number Change, the current 020 code became active on 1 June 1999.[notes 1] All subscriber numbers within the area code consist of eight digits and it has capacity for approaching 100 million telephone numbers. The code is used at 170 telephone exchanges as part of the largest linked numbering scheme in the United Kingdom. In common with all other British area codes the initial '0' is a trunk prefix that is not required when dialling London from abroad.
London telephone area
Before the introduction of national dialling codes, the area now served by 020 operated as a large multiple telephone exchange system known as the London telephone area. The first exchange in this area, Central, was opened in the City of London on 1 March 1902. The director telephone system was developed so that subscribers in London could call each other as part of a linked numbering scheme regardless of whether they were on a manual or automatic local exchange.
In 1927, Holborn, the first Director automatic exchange in London, was cutover at midnight on Saturday 12 November. As it was a largely business exchange, most subscribers did not use the new system until Monday 14 November. The changeover was successful, although there were some delays as the subscribers were not familiar with dialling. Bishopgate and Sloane exchanges were to follow in six weeks, followed by Western and Monument exchanges. As the London area contained 80 exchanges, complete conversion would take many years.
By 1934, the London telephone area consisted of all 147 exchanges within 12.5 miles (20.1 km) of Oxford Circus. By 1950, the London director system had 75 exchanges within a 5 miles (8.0 km) radius of Oxford Circus and a further 65 in the 5–10 miles (8–16 km) belt. In Greater London (in other words, within 20 miles (32 km) of Oxford Circus), there were a total of 237 exchanges. In 1958, a new exchange was opened at London Heathrow Airport.
From 1922, the first three digits of a seven-digit subscriber number – in other words, the local exchange codes – were represented with letters by way of a mnemonic. Each three-character code corresponded to an exchange within the London telephone area. The subscriber numbers were written, for example, as "ABBey 1234" and "WIMbledon 1234" or "ABB 1234" and "WIM 1234". By 1965, there were 350 local exchanges in London and the number of permutations that could be used for exchange names had been exhausted. With the change to all-figure dialling in 1966, the system of mnemonics was withdrawn and the three-digit local exchange codes of many subscribers were altered. The old codes continued to work in parallel with new codes until January 1970, when the "ANN: All-figure Numbers Now" advertising campaign prompted callers to use only the new codes. The transition to all-figure dialling allowed the codes to be grouped into eight sectors; all exchanges within 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of the centre of London formed the Central sector and the other sectors radiated from it.
|Sector||Local exchange code prefixes|
|Central||21–28, 32, 35, 37, 38, 40, 43, 48, 49, 58, 60, 62, 62, 63, 70, 72, 73, 79, 82, 83, 92, 93|
|East||47, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 59, 98|
|South||64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 76, 77|
|South East||29, 30, 31, 46, 69, 85|
|South West||33, 39, 54, 78, 87, 94, 97|
|North||34, 36, 44, 80, 88|
|North West||20, 42, 45, 86, 90, 95, 96|
|West||56, 57, 74, 75, 84, 89, 99|
The first three digits of a subscriber number continued to indicate the exchange to which the number belonged; for example, "222 1234" was in Westminster (Central Sector) and "946 1234" in Wimbledon (South West Sector).[notes 2] More than one local exchange code was usually overlaid for each area, so all Wimbledon numbers did not necessarily begin "946". Subscriber numbers changed to eight digits in 2000 when an additional 7 or 8 was added to each local exchange code (for example, "7222 1234" in Westminster and "8946 1234" in Wimbledon).
|Example telephone number|
|1959–1966||STD codes introduced||01-ABB 1234|
|1966–1990||All-figure dialling||01-222 1234|
|1990–1995||Area code split||071-222 1234|
|2000–present||Big Number Change||020 7222 1234|
The STD code 01 was assigned to the London telephone area on 6 April 1959 as part of preparations for subscriber trunk dialling. For the next thirty years, "01" became synonymous with the capital. Until May 1990, the 01 code covered the same area as the current 020 code and had capacity for fewer than 10 million telephone numbers.
In May 1990, the 01 code was abandoned and the area divided between 071 – which covered exchanges in the Central sector – and 081, which covered all other sectors. Exceptionally, two exchanges in the East sector[notes 3] covering the London Docklands redevelopment area were assigned the 071 code. The anticipation that the code associated with central districts would be more prestigious than the other associated with the outer suburbs was used as a plot device in the Essex-based TV comedy series Birds of a Feather. At the time of the split, there were five local exchange codes assigned to Mercury Communications[notes 4] and numbers in these ranges could be assigned to either code. This area code split doubled the potential capacity. In 1995, on "PhONEday", the codes changed again, to 0171 and 0181.
The split into two area codes only lasted a decade. As part of the Big Number Change on 22 April 2000, the 0171 and 0181 codes were replaced with 020, following a period of dual-running that began on 1 June 1999. The change also affected subscriber numbers which gained an extra digit. "0171-xxx xxxx" numbers changed to "(020) 7xxx xxxx", while "0181-xxx xxxx" numbers became "(020) 8xxx xxxx". As a result of this history, there is now a widespread misconception that 0207 and 0208 are the dialling codes for parts of London.
The reunification under a single code created capacity for approaching 100 million telephone numbers and, starting in 2005, subscriber numbers beginning with the digit "3" were issued alongside those beginning "7" and "8".
The London telephone area operated as a single group for charging purposes in which all calls were priced at local rate. Additionally, as was usual, calls to and from the adjacent charge groups were charged as local.[notes 5]
The code serves a roughly circular area with a radius of 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the centre of London. The Greater London boundary varies from 17 kilometres (11 mi) to 32 kilometres (20 mi) from the centre and consequently some outer districts are covered by adjacent codes and in some places the 020 code extends beyond the Greater London boundary. The code covers an area larger than the London post town where letters addressed to "LONDON" are delivered.
The City of London and at least some part of all 32 London boroughs are within the 020 area code. There are six exchanges outside Greater London that use the 020 code.[notes 6] Communities outside Greater London that are within the code are Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Loughton and Sewardstone in Essex; Borehamwood, Bushey, Carpenders Park, Elstree and South Oxhey in Hertfordshire; and Ewell, Molesey, Thames Ditton and Whyteleafe in Surrey.
There are eighteen exchanges within Greater London that do not use the 020 code.[notes 7] The six boroughs that have significant areas within other codes are Bexley, partly within the Dartford (01322) code; Bromley, partly within the Orpington (01689) and Westerham (01959) codes; Croydon, partly within the Orpington (01689) and Redhill (01737) codes; Enfield, partly within the Waltham Cross (01992) code; Havering, mostly within the Romford (01708) code; and Hillingdon, partly within the Uxbridge (01895), Slough (01753) and Watford (01923) codes.
With the introduction of the (020) area code, as part of the Big Number Change, subscriber numbers were changed from 7-digits (xxx xxxx) to 8-digits (xxxx xxxx). This allowed new ranges of numbers to be issued. Under the National Telephone Numbering Plan the code operates with the following sub-ranges:
|0xxx xxxx 1xxx xxxx||national dialling only|
|2xxx xxxx||reserved for future use|
|3xxx xxxx||new local numbers issued after move to 020|
|4xxx xxxx 5xxx xxxx 6xxx xxxx||reserved for future use|
|70xx xxxx 71xx xxxx||new local numbers issued after move to 020|
|72xx xxxx 73xx xxxx 74xx xxxx 75xx xxxx 76xx xxxx 77xx xxxx 78xx xxxx 79xx xxxx||local numbers transferred from 0171|
|80xx xxxx 81xx xxxx||new local numbers issued after move to 020|
|82xx xxxx 83xx xxxx 84xx xxxx 85xx xxxx 86xx xxxx 87xx xxxx 88xx xxxx 89xx xxxx||local numbers transferred from 0181|
|9xxx xxxx||reserved for future use|
In 2006 59% of numbers within the 020 code were allocated to BT. The area code is not subject to number conservation and the regulator Ofcom does not restrict the size of number blocks that are allocated.
- 020 could be used from 1 June 1999 and the previous codes could no longer be used from 22 April 2000.
- The numerical codes for Westminster and Wimbledon did not change when all-figure dialling was introduced because the first two digits of their exchange codes corresponded to the sectors they became part of.
- Albert Dock and Poplar exchanges were not in the Central sector but were included in the 071 code.
- Exchange codes 528, 895, 945, 975 and 982 were assigned to Mercury Communications.
- Calls to London from each of the 01322, 01372, 01689, 01707, 01708, 01727, 01737, 01753, 01784, 01883, 01895, 01923, 01932, 01959 and 01992 area codes were charged at local rate, as were calls from London to each of those area codes.
- Bushey Heath, Elstree, Ewell, Hainault (Chigwell), Loughton and Thames Ditton exchanges are outside Greater London.
- Biggin Hill, Crayford, Downland, Erith, Farnborough, Harefield, Hornchurch, Ingrebourne, Lodge Hill, Northwood, Orpington, Rainham, Romford, Ruislip, Slade Green, Upminster, Uxbridge and West Drayton do not use the 020 code.
- "Events in Telecommunications History: 1902". British Telecommunications PLC. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
- The Times (London), 1927; 14 November p9 & 16 November p9
- Chapuis & Joel (2003). 100 Years of Telephone Switching: Manual and Electromechanical Switching (1878–1960s) Pt. 1. IOS Press.
- "Reduced Charges" (PDF). General Post Office. 1934. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013.
- Telephony: A detailed exposition of the telephone exchange system of the British Post Office by J Atkinson pp373,402 (1950 reprinted 1972, Pitman, London) ISBN 0 273 43181 1.
- "Brevites". Flight and Aircraft Engineer. 6 January 1956. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
- A R Valdar (2008). Understanding telecommunications networks. Institution of Engineering and Technology. pp. 256–8.
- "Selling the network". Connected Earth. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
- A R Valdar (2008). Understanding telecommunications networks. Institution of Engineering and Technology. p. 259.
- "Events in Telecommunications History: 1959". British Telecommunications PLC. Archived from the original on 14 October 2009.
- For example, in the name of the cultural show "01-For London"., broadcast by Thames Television between 1987 and 1990 ("BFI Film & TV Database: 01-For London".).
- Ofcom (6 October 2004). "New Telephone Numbers for London" (PDF). Office of Communication. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011.
- "How to use the new codes" (PDF). British Telecom. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013.
- "Telecom TV advert shown around 1990".
- "London Will Divide Its Telephone Prefix, Fraying Composure". New York Times. 6 May 1990. Archived from the original on 28 August 2010.
- "Brief Encounter". Birds of a Feather. Series 2. Episode 14. 18 October 1990. BBC One.
- Ofcom. "Telephone numbers – the facts and figures | (Boxout) Is it (020) 7 or 0207?". Office of Communication. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009.
- "28 March 2006". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Lords). Archived from the original on 22 April 2006.
- Ofcom (8 April 2010). "Conserving geographic numbers". Statement. Office of Communication. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010.