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Ringing the changes: do telephone numbers matter?


As societal trends away from the landline continue, how is this affecting how we approach telephone conversations?


Liz Greenberg Head of numbering, Ofcom


Britons spend half as much time on the landline – but use 10 times more mobile data – than just six years ago, according to our new research covering the changing attitudes of people to their traditional telephone number. With smartphone ownership increasing,


and landline use continuing to fall, our latest research suggests remembering telephone numbers – or even needing to dial them – is becoming a thing of the past.


Daunting In recent years, the amount of time we spend talking on the landline has nearly halved, while the amount of mobile data we use has increased almost tenfold. In 2012, the UK made a total of 103


billion minutes of landline calls, but in 2017 that fell to just 54 billion. Over the same period, mobile call minutes


have increased steadily from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion, but the average person’s monthly mobile data use has soared from 0.2 gigabytes to 1.9 gigabytes. Reflecting these trends, our study confirms


that younger people prefer to use messaging services, such as WhatsApp, rather than use their telephones to talk. As one 18-year-old from Aberdeen told


us: “Calling someone is a bit daunting. It is much easier and quicker to WhatsApp my friends. “If I have to call a company, I will always try to use webchat if it is available.”


34 By contrast, we found that older people


still prefer to use the telephone to have a conversation. A 68-year-old participant from Belfast


said: “I prefer to speak to a person. You can get a better understanding.” When they do ring friends and family,


people now rely on contact numbers stored in their phones. A 22-year-old from Belfast admitted: “I do


not need to remember numbers.” It is now common to click on a name or


web link on your mobile to call a number, rather than manually dial it.


In the area The study also reveals a big difference between older and younger generations in understanding area codes – for example, knowing that if someone calls you from a number beginning ‘01782’, they are calling from Stoke-on-Trent. Younger people generally do not feel


strongly about whether area codes represent a particular location. In fact, many do not even know that area


codes have geographic significance, often mistaking them for other numbers and associating them with nuisance callers or call centres. Most older people, on the other hand,


recognise what area codes are and trust the codes local to them. They are considered helpful and reassuring when searching for local businesses, and when making and receiving calls.


www.CCRMagazine.com February 2019


Over the same period, mobile call minutes have increased steadily from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion, but the average person’s monthly mobile data use has soared from 0.2 gigabytes to 1.9 gigabytes. Reflecting these trends, our study confirms that younger people prefer to use messaging services, such as WhatsApp, rather than use their telephones to talk


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