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A Little History of London Phone Numbers

Over the years London’s area code has changed multiple times!

Before 1958 callers were connected to their respective callee via a manual telephone exchange operator. Area codes were first introduced in the UK when callers were able to call another telephone number directly. Area codes were originally assigned based on two letters of the respective location’s name and the corresponding numbers on a telephone dial. Initially, it was a short area code and as time went on and number shortages increased, numbers went into five or six figures and the STD code changed to the (0XXX) format.

The very first area codes for the largest cities in the U.K




01 was formerly the area code for London prior to 1990 and then split into 071 and 081 in May 1990 (inner and outer London respectively).  On “PhONEday”, 16 April 1995, the digit “1” was inserted into all UK geographic area codes, inner London’s 071 became 0171 and outer London’s 081 became 0181.

The 020 area code entirely replaced older area codes for London between 1998-2000. This happened following multiple telephone number changes during the 1990s. The initial sub-ranges started with 7 and 8 and they were exhausted as about 30,000 London numbers were being distributed each week with new offices and homes coming up in the city (i.e. (020) 7/8XXX XXX). 0203 was added in 2005 and now it’s on to 0204.


A snapshot of how London numbers evolved over time:



Due to the increasing demand for London numbers, only one block of a (020) number is allocated at a time and will be on a ‘first come first served’ basis. Request for numbers will be considered based on Ofcom’s usual allocation criteria. This involves demonstrating justified demand for more London numbers if already holding allocations of 020 numbers. After 1st October 2020, London gained 10 million more landline phone numbers when Ofcom introduced the new 0204 area code to keep the capital talking.

Want to get your business a 020 London number? Give us a call on 03300881182, email us at or fill in our contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.