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uk.telecom FAQ, Part 2/3 - Telephone services

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Archive-name: uk-telecom/part2
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Last-modified: Time-stamp: <96/06/16 14:53:09 jrg>
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
                 Frequently Asked Questions for uk.telecom

                        Part 2 - Telephone Services

        Compiled/ Posted by James Grinter <>

~See <> for the question index,
and further information about this FAQ.~

These articles attempt to summarise answers to some of the more often
asked questions in the newsgroup uk.telecom.

This second part of the FAQ is about Telephone services, companies, and
products in the UK, and what is available.


Subject: What is uk.telecom ?

It's the uk's own little newsgroup to discuss all sorts of topics
related to telecommunications in Britain, including (but not limited
to) technical matters, pricing, STD codes, equipment, BT vs Mercury,
Select Services (were Network Services, nee Star Services), ISDN
services, modems, etc.  You get the idea..

It was born in August 1991 to cater for the large amount of telecoms
related traffic in uk.misc, as UK specific enquiries in the UseNet
newsgroup comp.dcom.telecom tended to be swamped by the vast number of
other articles.


Subject: Phone numbers

Q: Why do we need another digit in the phone numbers ?

[left in for historical interest and 'told you so's ;-)]

The existing numbering scheme is mixed 8, 9, and 10 digits (in all
cases including the initial "0" - which isn't really part of the
number.  Theoretically, the maximum number of numbers is 900 million,
excluding 00XX codes because by CCITT [now ITU] convention you can't
have the same digit as the first digit of the NDC (National
Destination Code, that's the STD code without the "0") as you have as
national trunk prefix.  01XX has been cleared (solely to make the code
change possible) and this reduces the total number of possible numbers
to 800 million.  Where the numbers are used for geographic areas, and
users are offered the option to dial those numbers without a trunk
code, then 201,000 numbers in each group of 1,000,000 become unusable.
But other number ranges, such as cellnet, freefone, paging services
and premium rate numbers are not limited in this way.  So the real
"supply" of numbers in the UK is about 650 million.  Experience shows
that allowing for the continuing process of number changing, and the
fact that there will always be some numbers that cannot be allocated,
about 60% of the supply can be utilised at any one time.  This means
that the present scheme restricts us to using no more than 400 million
numbers at any one time.  In fact the UK (plus the Channel Islands and
the Isle of Man) is currently using less than 30 million numbers,
which should allow plenty of room for growth.

So why is there a problem? Because the numbering ranges are tied to
fixed locations by a formula that has no place in modern
telecommunications, and which was originally introduced solely to enable
fairly primitive mechanical equipment to route and charge calls
correctly.  As a result there is a serious imbalance in the distribution
of numbers: one code, such as 0393, has only 25 numbers in use - while
another, such as 0532, has over 300,000. 

The proposed extra digit will NOT solve the problem.  Agreed it will
create a lot more codes: but even now there are 56 codes that have no
numbers on them, and that figure (surprisingly enough) is increasing,
not decreasing !

But the extra digit won't provide any more numbers within each of those
geographic areas served by individual codes, and that is where the brunt
of the demand will be.  Currently, growth is caused both by the need for
more lines (particularly for fax) and by new operators taking blocks of
numbers **within** the individual areas.  Future demand will be driven by
existing services such as DDI (Direct Dialling In to PABXs) which is a
heavy consumer of numbers, and by new services such as Teenline, and
Distinctive Ringing. 

The latent demand for DDI has been suppressed in the UK by both the lack
of availability of connections, and by high tariffs imposed by BT.  The
arrival of DASS2 (the ISDN signalling system for digital PABXs) makes
availability considerably easier, and Mercury and BT are now offering
DDI at a much lower tariff. 

As demand grows, the larger cities will overflow their allocations of
numbers and further complete changes will become necessary.  It has
recently been announced that five of those cities (Nottingham, Leeds,
Sheffield, Leicester and Bristol) are to change to seven digit schemes
in 1995: and looking at the list of codes vs numbering density in each
(now, I believe, in the uk.telecom archives) it is clear that further
places, including Brighton, Belfast and Bournemouth, are also likely to
run out of numbers in the next few years. 

London's 071 was not expected to last beyond 2005 at the previous growth
rates; however allowing for the greater demand caused by DDI and new
services, the 071 number range is likely to be exhausted by the end of
this decade.  At that stage the two options will be either to split the
071 area into two codes, or to convert all of London to an eight digit
scheme.  This is not a new phenomenon ...  even before London split into
071 and 081, two other capital cities (Paris and Copenhagen) had each
tried an identical scheme.  Those schemes failed, mainly because of
confusion between "inner" and "outer" zone numbers, and each was
superceded by an eight digit scheme which is reported to have been very

So we don't need an extra digit.  And the extra digit (if we get it) won't
solve any problems.  We do need a complete overhaul of the numbering
system, whether we have the extra digit or not.  As that overhaul will
have to come, it would be far better if we waited - and planned a single
change that would solve all the problems, rather than have a hotchpotch of
further changes.

But - while the extra digit won't achieve anything for the customers, it
will have an interesting effect on BT's sales figures.  As soon as the
extra digit is imposed, all Mercury Smart Boxes, SmartSockets, and
compatible PABX and key systems will stop working unless they have been
modified (at the user's expense) because they will be unable to
recognise the longer codes.  With the reduced differentials between
Mercury's tariffs and BT's "options", some users may find it
uneconomical to pay the charge for the modifications. 

Similarly, payphones supplied before 1992 by BT's competitors will be
unable to charge correctly for calls.  Some will have to be modified, at
a cost, while others, that cannot be modified, will have to be scrapped. 
Some of those payphones are still on sale to unsuspecting members of the
public without any warnings being given as to what is in store. 

Q: So who decided, and what were the choices? 

Ovum Ltd, 1 Mortimer St, London W1., a respected and independent
telecommunications/management consultancy, carried out the investigation
for OFTEL. They were asked to study the first five options below.

'Numbering for Telephony Services into the 21st Century -
 A Consultative Document' July 1989 Oftel. Sample quotes:

There are **many** possible options for a future scheme.. This document
identifies 5 practicable options which span the range of possibilities.

The starting point for any new plan is the current scheme. This
is essentially a nine digit plan. (The leading zero dialled for
trunk calls is a prefix which is not strictly part of the full
telephone number.)  [<== here comes the selective blindness]

- a) Add a leading digit to all numbers which indicates the service
     being used. [Final choice; '1' indicates old numbers]
- b) As a) but numbers are fully portable. [The number does not
     geography or carrier].
- c) Compromise between a) and b). Add a leading digit.. numbers
     portable.. but geographic portability is restricted to
     individual NNG areas [eg within Birmingham].
- d) Add an extra digit to the front of all local DNs.. local PSTN
     DNs increase in length from 6 or 7 digits to 7 or 8.
- e) The only nine digit plan of the five, allows full portability
     of DNs. Users dial the full national number at all times
     omitting the trunk prefix '0' which is redundant.
- f) [Not actually proposed] As for a). Drop trunk prefix '0'.
     Add leading '0' for old numbers, so they look the same.

Q: Who owns this numbering space ?

The numbering space is owned by the nation, and (technically) Oftel is its
custodian.  But in practise Oftel delegates the majority of decisions to BT,
and takes advice from BT (and sometimes other operators) on major issues.
If Oftel owned the numbering space and managed it effectively, Mercury would
have been allocated 0800 and 0345 numbers to issue to their customers, rather
than having to use new codes (0500 and 0645) which are still not recognised
by some BT (and private) payphones.

Q: I've heard someone mention about Mercury's 0500 service, what is it ?

This is Mercury's 'freecall' service introduced at the end of 1992 and
is their equivalent of BT's 0800 service. Similarly Mercury 0645
service, called 'localcall' is the equivalent of BT's 0345 (now
tackily 'Lo-call') service.  0800 89 prefixes normally indicate
that the number is connected to a location outside the UK: overseas
telephone companies 'country direct' services. Some 0500 89 prefixes
are also like this, but mostly those mirroring 0800 numbers.

Q: How can I phone American 1-800 (toll free) numbers from the UK ?

Latest information is that now you can ring a 1-800 number from
any BT line, albeit with the normal international charge being levied.
 American 1-888 codes do not yet appear to be covered by this.

[I forget where this information came from, but someone has tried
it recently, and not had any luck.]
For a list of U.S. companies with U.K. 0800 numbers, call AT&T Direct (see
another answer) and ask for 816-654-6688 collect.  Then ask the person who
answers for extension 7642 (if you're US military, then apparently you
should ask for extension 9661 instead). You should call during US business

Q: How do I dial a number with a mnemonic in it ? 

Here's a letter to number mapping; this is potentially useful because many
1-800 numbers have mnemonics in them.

        Num     UK      USA         1       2       3
        1                          ABC     ---     ---
        2       ABC     ABC        DEF     ABC     ABC
        3       DEF     DEF        GHI     DEF     DEF
        4       GHI     GHI        JKL     GHI     GHI
        5       JKL     JKL        MNO     JKL     JKL
        6       MN      MNO        PQR     MNO     MN
        7       PRS     PRS        STU     PQRS    PRS
        8       TUV     TUV        VWX     TUV     TUV
        9       WXY     WXY        YZ      WXYZ    WXY
        0       OQ      Operator   Oper/+  +       OQZ

There is no 'Z' in either system, and there's no 'Q' in the States.

The other three columns are
 1. Mitsubishi MT-9, Motorola MR1
 2. Motorola 7500, Roamer 300, 500
 3. Nokia GSM2010, Orange.

Q: What are BT Phonebase/ Electronic Yellow Pages/ TeleDirectory and
how do you get access to them?

BT Phonebase allows you to use your modem for directory enquiries.  You
get access to the whole country by name, street, town, even by phonetic
partial match. You get access to up-to-date information, not a phone book
that's maybe a year old. It gives you name, full address including
postcode, and phone number. Phonebase is a seperate system, though it is
supposed to be regularly updated from NIS - the DQ (Directory Enquiries)

It costs nothing to join (phone 0800 919 199 or fax (0114) 244 0157 and
they send out the form).

The modem call is charged at long distance rates [ BTs 'n' rate is
about 15 p/minute but Mercury (business tariff at least) charge about
9 p/minute], and is only 2400 baud. But even so, you can look up
numbers for a fraction the cost of Directory Enquiry calls (37.8p

As for the retrieval system, well, it was written by a bunch of
Americans and BT thought it was perfectly adequate. There was a
front-end access program available, written by BT, though they have
now discontinued support and are planning to change the interface. The
program is available from 
<URL:>, and
someone is trying to obtain the source and details of the proposed new
interface definition.

BT also recently launched an online directory enquiry system for personal
computer users. Called TeleDirectory, the system is 'aimed at customers
who require five or more telephone numbers a day' and costs 12p per
enquiry. It's based upon an MS Windows front end, and comes with a
software at a cost of UKP300 per annum, with discounts on 5 licenses or
more. Ring 0800 200 700 for further information.

Electronic Yellow Pages is quite obviously named. It offers access
from (01734) 505533 (vt100) or 505522 (Videotex). Helpline on (01734)
506506, for more info. Access via a Reverse Charge X25 call is no
longer available. You can now access EYP via a web interface
at <URL:>. 

Q: How can I get UK phone directories on CDROM? 

BT offer 'Phone Disc', basically BT's Phone books on CDROM.  There are
three options available - The annual Phone Disc, updated annually, is
available at 199 UKP, Phone Disc updated quarterly costs 1,600 UKP and
the Network Phone Disc, for very high volume users with multi-server
applications, costs 3,000 UKP per annum.  Contact 0800 526 281 free
for further information.

There is currently no other offering that has residential numbers
included, though there has been mention of a disc including business
numbers. Hurdles to a CDROM including the UK phone directories include
BT's assertion of copyright over the collection (see also regular
discussions in uk.telecom).

Q: What defines a local call area?

The boundaries are all quite complex. The only reference seems to be your
local phone book, which will tell you where you can call for local costs. The
complete list is available from BT on floppy, but costs a fortune!

From BT's 1994 price update (Item Code 964780 (2/94)), it says

>> "Telephone exchanges are grouped together into charge groups to determine
>> call charges for local and national calls. Each charge group has a "charge
>> point". A call made within a charge group is usually a local call. Charges
>> for other calls are generally based on the distance (up to or over 35
>> miles) between the charge points in the originating and called charge
>> groups."

Q: When did the National Code Change take place? 

The National Code Change took place at 1am on 'Phoneday' (16 April
1995). The new codes and numbers were available for use since 1 August
1994. Phoneday is when the old codes and numbers were withdrawn.  Call
0800 010101 (BT) or 0500 04 1995 (Mercury) for more information.

See other regular posts, and information supplied by your telephone
provider for details of number changes.

Q: When did the International access code change happen? 

At the same time as Phoneday, the dialling code for making an
international call changed from 010 to 00.

Q: I want a new line with a particular number, or want to renumber an
existing line to a particular number.

You can (generally) do this as long as the number is not allocated or
reserved for somebody else. You will be told that the number you want is
not on their list, but ask them to call the number allocation people for
your area and get it for you.

It CAN be done. NOTE: If you are requesting a new line tell them before
they start tapping your details that you want to choose a number.

Q: What sort of dialling code is <x>?

(0990 was used for Ascot, Chobham, and Wentworth, until a few years ago.
Ascot moved to 0344 (2, 87) Wentworth to 0344 (84) and Chobham to 0276 (85))

[note: not all of these are in even BT's phone book]

 01399  VodaPage Network        local 
 014260 ?                       Free
 014261                         Free
 014262                         local
 014263                         ff1
 014264                         regional
 014265                         regional
 014266                         ff1
 014267                         Free
 014268                         local 
 014269                         regional
 014591  ?                      regional
 014592                         regional
 014593                         Free
 014594                         regional
 014595                         regional
 014596                         Free
 014598                         regional
 014599                         Free

 0331  Vodata premium rate     p1
 0336  Vodata premium rate     p1 
 0338  Mercury premium rate    p1 
 0345  BT LoCall               local
 0374  VodaFone                M
 03745                         b
 0378  VodaFone                M
 0385  VodaFone (GSM)          M 
 03856 Vodata services         b 
 0402  Cellnet Mobile          M 
 0408  BT Mobile               e     (Personal Assistant) 
 0421  VodaFone                M
 04211                         b
 04560 Orange                  m 
 04561 Orange                  m 
 0468  Vodafone (GSM)          M 
 0500  Mercury                 Free
 05415 ?                       b
 0585  Cellnet                 M
 0589  VodaFone                M
 0640  MCL                     p0 UKP1.50/minute
 0645  Mercury                 L
 0660  Mercury premium rate    p1 
 06966 ?                       p1
 07010 Flextel Personal Numbers d 
 07017 Flextel Personal Numbers d 
 0800  BT FreeCall             Free
 0802  Cellnet GSM             M 
 0831  VodaFone                M
 0836  VodaFone                M
 08360 VodaFone services       b 
 08361 VodaFone services       b 
 08364 VodaFone premium        p1 
 08368 VodaFone Services (vmail)  b 
 08369 VodaFone Services (pabx)   b 
 0839  Mercury premium         p1 
 0850  Cellnet                 M
 0860  Cellnet                 M
 0881  Mercury premium         M  [or should that be p1?]
 0891  BT                      p1
 0894  BT                      s0 35p flat rate
 0897  BT                      p0 UKP1.50/minute
 0898  BT Premium Rate         p1
 0910  BT services               
 091021 ?                      n
 09411 Hutchison Paging        regional
 0956  Mercury One2One         d
 09567 Flextel classic         d 
 0958  Mercury One2One         d 
 09580 Mercury One2One Freecall Free 
 09581 Mercury One2One Localcall local 
 0973  Orange PCS              d
 0976  Orange PCS              d
 09797 Jersey Telecom GMS      h 
 0990  BT                      b  derived services
 09911 MCL                     p0
 09919 MCL                     p0

 ff1  - fixed fee, regardless of duration
 h    - calls to 'new services'
 m, d - mobile phones. 
 n    - information services
 p0, p1, s0 - premium rate services [watch out for p0!]

Q: What codes are free to the caller? 

1471 is currently free of charge.  141, 1474 and 1470 are chargeable
at the same rate as the call being made - there is no charge for using
the 1xx(x) code.  The following codes are also free to the caller,
(except see note below):

 112   = European standard Emergency number 
 131   = Mercury PIN access
 132   = Mercury CLI access
 133   = Mercury calling card (0500 800800)
 139   = Mercury Extended Ingress, currently on test
 144   = BT Chargecard
 145   = BT "Fixed Mobile Convergence"
 150   = BT Residential Customer Services
 151   = BT Residential fault reports
 152   = BT Business Customer Services
 154   = BT Business fault reports
 1571  = Message Retrieval
 1601  = ACC Indirect Access
 1602  = ACC Indirect Access
 1611  = Energis Indirect Access
 1616  = Energis Indirect Access (actually their contact line)
 1620  = Energis direct (CLI) access - includes the initial "0"
 1621  = Energis direct (CLI) access - includes the initial "1"
 1660  = Worldcom Access
 17070 = (replacement for 174/175)
 17094 = Network Based Call Answering Service - Diversion on busy
 17095 = NBCAS - Ring Tone no reply
 17099 = Alternative emergency code
 174   = Faultsman's ring back 
 175   = SALT test
 176   = Customer Pair Localisation Equipment 
 177   = Customer Pair Identification (reads back number)
 195   = Blind customer DQ
 153   = International DQ (**see note**)
 155   = International Operator
 190   = Telemessage
 192   = UK DQ (**see note**)
 198   = Operator (used for revertive calls)

Remembering that these are the codes that BT systems recognise,
beacuse that related to the original question.  Other networks will
recognise other codes, and may not recognise all of these.  Oftel are
working on a list of standard codes, and may require some of these to
be withdrawn when they do not conform to the standard.  This is
especially likely to apply to 3-digit codes, as the standard will
become 4-digit 1XXX codes, with exceptions such as 100, 112 etc.

123 is a local call from anywhere (the old numbers for Timeline,
ending in 8081, were usually but NOT ALWAYS a local call!)

153 and 192 are chargeable at the rate for a call to Directory
Enquiries.  100, 155, 190 and 198 route to a BT operator: the call to
the operator is free, but any call connected by the operator will
usually be chargeable.

Q: How should I correctly write my telephone number?

[quote: "The following is information sent by OFTEL, originally written
by BT. I have tried to reproduce it letter for letter, but the BT text
was right justified and mine isn't! E&OE. Adrian Kennard. Jan95"]


The recommended style of presentation of new telephone numbers is
based on customer reseach.  Brackets are used to identify the
national code - which is omitted when dialling within the same
area.  The use of hyphens is no longer recommended.

Metropolitan Areas (ie those with 7 digit local numbers):

These should be in the "All Figure Format" with the local number
shown as 3+4 digits eg:

          Tel: (0171) 239 1482
               (0117) 927 2272

Non-Metropolitan Areas:

The Local number is shown without any space;

          Tel: (01273) 568010
               (0781 39) 9587

If customers wish to include the Exchange name it should be shown
before the National Dialling Code eg:

          Tel: Brighton (01273) 568010
          Tel: Barlaston (0781 39) 9587
          Tel: Bristol (0117) 927 2272

NON GEOGRAPHIC CODES (Mobiles, Paging, Linkline etc)
In all cases it is necessary to dial the full national number. In
these cases brackets are not used.

          eg  0800 526174,  0891 234876


The international convention is to show the country code (for the
UK = 44) and number prefixed by "+". The "+" indicates that callers
should dial the appropriate International access code according the
country from which they are calling.  International calls omit the
inland prefix "0" thus the Brighton example would be shown as
    International  +44 1273 586010

Together these would be shown as:

               Telephone:Brighton (01273) 586010
                 International: +44 1273  586010

NB For Fax lines the same conventions apply but using "fax" in
place of "Tel".

Q: What is a "DE block"? 

The digits of a national code or phone number are referred to by
letters according to where they are in the number.  After the initial
zero (which of course is NOT part of the nationally significant
number) the digits are given successive letters in sequence - but
excluding the initial "1" if it is present.

 For example, in 0171 634 8961, letters are allocated as follows:
                   AB CDE FGH

 In the case of the Reading numbers 
 such as 0734 413131, the letters are allocated in the same way:
          ABC DEFGH

so that (in that case) the DE digits are the first two after either
the 0734 or 01734, as appropriate.  In the days before digital
switches, this was the point at which BT (in nearly all cases) did its
final route selection to the exchange or UAX serving the required
number range.  The significance today is that the Oftel numbering unit
only allocates numbers to licensed operators in blocks of 10,000:
i.e. all the numbers with the same DE digits are allocated to the same
licensed operator. When you run out of DE digits for a particular area
(i.e. national destination code), you have de facto run out of

It was originally suggested to Oftel that numbers should instead be
allocated in multiple blocks of 1000, as this would provide greater
flexibility.  Sadly they did not adopt this suggestion: if they had
done so, Reading might not be in the predicament it is in today.


Subject: Oftel

Q: Who or what are OFTEL? How do I contact them?

OFTEL is the Office of Telecommunications, created by the act that set the
way for British Telecommunications to be privatised.

   Office of Telecommunications (Oftel)
   50 Ludgate Hill

    Tel: (0171) 634 8700 (Switchboard)
         (0171) 634 8888 (Advice unit)       Fax: (0171) 634 8943
         (0171) 634 8754 (Publications)

Oftel's library may be contacted on (0171) 634 8764/5 during office hours
(9am-5pm). If you quote them the BABT approvals number from any piece of
equipment, they can look up the relevant approval document and give you
details of the company that applied for the license, and companies that
can service the equipment without invalidating the approval.

Q: Do OFTEL set any of BT's charges?

No charges are set by Oftel.  BT sets ALL its charges, and publishes them
in their "Price List" (of which Oftel get a file copy).  If Oftel believe
any of BT's charging policies are in breach of the license conditions (or
any other regulatory requirement) they will of course point this out.

Oftel do put a price cap of RPI - 7.5% on a 'basket' of services and
limits on some individual services.

Q: How do I get a copy of 'Oftel News'?

Just ring Oftel and ask.  (0171) 634 8700


Subject: ICSTIS

Q: Who or what are ICSTIS? How do I contact them?

The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of
Telephone Information Services.

    [Note address change {*}]
      177, High Holborn,
      Telephone (0171) 240 5511    Fax (0171) 379 4611
      Complaint line is  0800 500 212.

Their leaflet describes them as "an independent watchdog which supervises
premium rate telephone information and entertainment services".


Subject: Mercury Communications Ltd

Q: Can you use a Mercury 131 account from any phone? {*}

The Mercury 2300 residential service is intended for use from a single
phone number, and it may be against their terms of business to break
this guideline.  However, in practice you will find that a 131 PIN
will work from any phone on the same exchange.  So if you happen to
have a separate fax line, or you want to use your account on a
neighbour's phone, it will probably work.  Look upon the inability to
use it outside your local exchange as a security feature.  And look
after your "blue button" phone - if nicked or "borrowed" it can be
used to run up large bills on your account!

If you want to make calls from further afield, consider a Mercury
Calling Card instead.

Q: What is the Mercury beep, and can I get rid of it ? 

The answer beep can annoy customers if it occurs once the person has
started speaking.  In some areas, it is immediate on answer and therefore
no problem.  It **can** be removed for specific accounts on request: 
just ring up Mercury customer services and ask.

The beep triggers call logging/charging equipment, such as hotel
switchboards and payphones, and although it is currently applied to all
indirect calls via Mercury (except where the customer has requested its
removal), Mercury are planning to withdraw it from all those customers
that do not specifically require it.

Q: What do I get on Mercury's itemised bill using cost centres? 

- A statement giving total bill, together with giro credit slip,
- A sheet listing all cost centres used, together with time and 
  money totals,
- A sheet for **each** cost centre used detailing **each** call made, 
  listing exchange name (not code) and number dialed, time+duration, 
  and cost.

Q: Is it possible to access Mercury 131 from a BT Payphone?

If the phone is rented by a customer from BT, the answer is yes, **provided**
that (a) it is in a Mercury Access Area, and (b) the customer has not asked
BT to bar access to Mercury from that phone.  If however the phone has been
provided by BT for "public" use (i.e. nobody is paying rental on the phone,
and all the takings go to BT) then, in nearly all cases BT will have barred
Mercury access.  If there are any cases where Mercury access has not been
barred, it will be simply because someone has forgotten to do it!

Q: How can I dial 9 digit numbers quickly- the system waits a while for
the 10th digit?

For Mercury 131, try using a #. This apparently doesn't work for 132,
because for that service the BT exchange stores all the digits and
dispatches them to Mercury in one go.

Q: What is the Mercury 132 service? {*}

Instead of having a PIN (as with the 131 service), Mercury uses your
Calling Line Identity (CLI) to identify you.  The dialling code to
access the service is 132.  The differences from 131 are

- You don't need a special "blue button" phone - any tone-dialling phone
  will do
- Calls are set up faster, as there is no PIN dialogue
- It is not available from all exchanges
- It is not possible to use it from just any exchange line

You still have the cost centre facility at no extra charge, as per
Mercury 131.

Q: Can I tell if Mercury 131/132 service is available in my area? {*}

Ring Mercury Customer Services on 0500 500 194, and ask them.  Or, if
you would rather play with Mercury's computers, dial 0500 132 131 and
follow the automated prompts.

Q: Can I use 132 service from multiple exchange lines? {*}

For a domestic subscriber, it is possible to register a two exchange
lines (ie two phone numbers) to a single 132 account, but only if you
subscribe to the Smartcall tariff scheme.  Mercury's rule-of-thumb says
that Smartcall will save you money if your bill is typically over 30
pounds per month (but check it yourself - we make no guarantees here!).

If you have more than two domestic phone lines, you need more than one

The situation is different for business subscribers - contact Mercury
Business Customer Enquiries on 0500 700 101.

Q: How do I get Mercury's price list? 

The Mercury Communications Ltd. Price List (or Tariff Schedule
as they call it) comes from:

   Marketing Publications Manager
   Mercury Communications Ltd
   New Mercury House
   26 Red Lion Square

   Voice: (0171) 528 2000 (main switchboard)
   Fax:   (0171) 528 2377 (direct to Marketing Pubs dept I think)

In case anyone wants to know what it looks like (so they can check
they're being sent the real thing) it's an A4 ring binder about an
inch thick, there are several sections inside each separated by a
snazzy plastic divider with a graphic symbol designed to represent
the contents.


Subject: British Telecommuncations plc (BT)

Q: Why is there no 0345 access to PSS Dialplus ?

[Two answers to this one:]

There are probably two main reasons why this is not done.

1) 0345 services (and 0800, 0898, 0891) were designed to give country-wide
access at the appropriate charge rate to a specific number in a specific
area of the country.  There **is** also a method of directing calls
originating in a specific area to a regional number - eg - 0345 123456
dialled in Brighton would route to a number somewhere in South East
England, and the same number dialled in Scotland would route to a number
in, say, Glasgow (cf. BT's experts service - ~Advanced LinkLine~).  In both
cases the renter of the 0345 number pays for the trunk call part of the
charge.  The PSS service has PADs all over the UK, ie dozens of them, so
that PSS traffic is not tying up trunk circuits.  That would negate the
whole point of the service!.  The complexity of determining the 0345
routing to all these local PADs is probably not worth it. 

2) The services are currently carried on an overlay network with its own
exchanges.  By their nature, most of these services are short holding
time calls (despite the incidence of children spending long hours on
chat-lines & pop music feeds), and the network is dimensioned for this. 
It is certainly not designed to carry relatively long holding time
traffic to PADs!

Perhaps, in the future Intelligent Network Databases will allow this
sort of universal number access to lots of local nodes using the
existing local network, but that's not imminent as far as I know. 

[However, another explanation has been proffered - Ed.]

This question was asked, some years ago, at a `Character Terminal
Implementors Group' meeting (a UK group which inputs to CCITT [now
ITU] on the X.3, X.28 and X.29 recommendations, now defunct).

The representatives from BT Network Services said that since BT was
split up into different commercial divisions, BT Network Services would
have to pay the full going rate for an 0345 (or 0800) number.  That
charge would obviously have to get passed on to the PAD user, and on
average it would be higher than that of the phone calls made by the PAD
user since the majority of them could make a local call. 

That's not a full answer, as there are bound to be savings in reducing
the number of locations where PAD lines are located (be they real, or
out-of-area lines to a PAD somewhere else), but it seemed as though BT
Network Services were well aware of the possibility, and would take
decisions on cost grounds.  A factor which is obviously difficult to
quantify is the value of having a single number which PAD users can
call.  One slight technical hitch is that an NUI is not necessarily
known at all PAD centres. 

Q: What **are** these Network Services/ Select Services that people
keep mentioning? Are they a BT version of teletext or something? Do
you have to pay for them?

[Culled from information provided by (Pravir K
Chawdhry), (Clive Feather) and (Kevin

Select (formerly Network) Services are available on BT's digital
exchanges (System X and System Y) and are usually available on the
payment of a quarterly rental, though some are available solely on the
payment of a per usage charge.

[PLEASE NOTE: This is just a summary, for a full list and charges please
see the seperate posting "BT Network Services information"

Set up features:

 5 ==           Retry When Not Busy (when busy tone heard) (System Y)
 *21*number#    Call Diversion (all calls)
 *261#          Call Barring (incoming)
 *34bar#        Call Barring (outgoing)
 *40*number#    Call Charge Advice (System X)
 *40*number     Call Charge Advice (System Y)
 *411#          Call Charge Advice on all calls
 *43#           Call Waiting
 *51*code*number#  Code Calling
 *55*time#      Reminder Call
 *56*time*programme#  Reminder Programme (System X)
 *61*number#    Call Diversion (no reply)
 *61*number*wait# ==  Call Diversion (no reply) (Extra System Y facility)
 *67*number#    Call Diversion (on busy)

Code Calling calls:

 ** 0           Repeat Last Call (excluding Code Calling calls)
 ** code        Code Calling call

Status checks on settings:

 *#001#         Check which services are active (System X)
 *#21#          Call Diversion (all calls)
 *#261#         Call Barring (incoming)
 *#34#          Call Barring (outgoing)
 *#411#         Call Charge Advice on all calls
 *#43#          Call Waiting
 *#51*code#     Code Calling
 *#55#          Reminder Call
 *#56#          Regular Programme (System X)
 *#61#          Call Diversion (no reply)
 *#67#          Call Diversion (on busy)

Cancel features:

 #21#           Call Diversion (all calls)
 #261#          Call Barring (incoming) (System X)
 #261*keyword#  Call Barring (incoming) [System Y]
 #34bar*keyword# Call Barring (outgoing)
 #37# ==        Retry When Not Busy [System Y]
 #411#          Call Charge Advice on all calls
 #43#           Call Waiting
 #51*code#      Code Calling
 #55#           Reminder Call
 #56*time*programme#  Reminder Programme (System X)
 #56#           Reminder Programme (System X)
 #61#           Call Diversion (no reply)
 #67#           Call Diversion (on busy)

Q: When I use call waiting, and press R to get the dialling tone so that I
can get to the new caller, nothing happens i.e.  no dialling tone.

You may have switched your phones to tone dialling but there should be a
separate switch to change the type of recall from Earth Loop to Timed
Break (which is essential to use Call Waiting fully).  Sometimes there is
only one switch, three position (LD/MFE/MFT) in which case you want MFT.
Some MF phones do NOT have the Timed Break (MFT) option - in which case
you would need a new phone to make full use of the service.

Q: How do I order BT's full price list ?

>>  The BT price list I ordered finally turned up... it wasn't what I
>>  expected - it's a thin leaflet with basically little more information
>>  than the residential price guide you get with your bill.

Then it simply isn't the **price list**.  It may be what BT try to fob you
off with when you ask for a copy of the price list.  Now ring them back
and insist on the REAL THING ! (BT reference is TRF/BTP/A100 et seq.)

The person responsible for co-ordinating the price list is Damien
O'Reilly.  You can write to him at: PP 4029, 2-12 Gresham Street, London
EC2V 7AG, or else fax your request through on (0171) 356 7340.

Q: How do I get a BT 'Midnight line'? 

Be sure to phone 152, not 150, and be persistent that such things exist!
BT product number A12342. Connection is UKP499.50 +VAT; Rental is
UKP358.80 +VAT per quarter (at 10/12/1993), on top of the 'normal' BT

Between Midnight and 6am the charges for all calls or parts of calls
in local, regional and national charge bands are suppressed. All other
calls are charged at the normal rates appropriate at the time.
Premium Calls are barred as normal.  All other times normal metering.

Since the charging is suppressed at the pricing computer, not at the
exchange, the free calls will show normal charging on real time advice
facilities (Select Services Charge Advice, Meter Pulse Facility and ISDN
Call Charge Indication).

Break even point was formally approx. someone making a 110 units of
calls a night, 5 days a week 52 weeks of the year.  Since BT no longer
charges in units the break even point is slightly altered, but one
must account for the minimum charge.  The break even is also affected
by any discount options on the line (which reduce the price that would
have been paid for the calls were it not a Midnight Line).

Q: Are calls made on Midnight lines **outside** the Midnight-6am free period
charged at normal dialled rates?

Certainly they are. If they are directly dialled, that is !

Q: Can I get a fully itemised bill from BT ? 

Yes, with the proviso that you are on a System X or Y exchange,
fully-itemised billing from BT is now available.  There is no charge
for the service.  You can choose between all calls, 2-, 5- and 10-unit
itemisation, or no itemisation.  TXE4(RD) exchanges can also now offer
this service.

Delivery of itemisation records on floppy disk is being trialled, and has
been so for some time. The size of the trial is to be increased.  A
single-sheet paper bill is also sent, for legal reasons (including VAT). A
charge is made for the analysis software, which runs under MS Windows.

Another suggestion to accomplish itemisation of any call on a bill, which
already includes 10 units and over itemisation, has been proffered: Dial
0800 500 005, press 'recall' (**not** redial) and dial the number. Any
number will apparently work, though recorded information lines (you could
also try 0800 556677) obviously won't annoy a real person. This will
only work if you have 3-way calling.

Q: How can I get ISDN?

Some BT exchanges offer ISDN (to find out whether **your** exchange
can offer it, you need to talk to BT sales), and it works out rather
more expensive by way of line rental than does an ordinary line, but
call rates (apart from special offers) are the same.  At least some
other carriers also offer ISDN - try asking those that are to be found
in your area (for example, I believe Cambridge Cable do).  Note that
an ISDN connection to Mercury via 131 (even if Mercury have ISDN
capability) is probably a no-hoper.  Mercury now do ISDN access via
132.  It needs to be signed for seperately from the normal Mercury

Q: What are the costs of ISDN connection and calls? 

For ISDN2 (Basic Rate Access), the connection charge is UKP400 and the
quarterly rental is UKP84.  Call charges are the same as the normal PSTN
for national calls, but there are differences upon international routes.

Q: What does an 0990 number offer you, and what is its cost? 

   Setup Charge: UKP100
   Rental      : UKP 50
               : UKP300 (for 'Number Choice') {*}
   (ex VAT.)

The number can be delivered to any BT line, or cable line (as I
was told by a BT spokesperson - so take that as being unreliable!).

From the info sheet:

>>"The charges callers pay are aligned to BT's National Long Distance
>>charges. This means that a three minute daytime call will cost 30p,
>>dropping to 20p on weekday evenings and to 10p at weekens. (These
>>prices include VAT.)
>>Calles from overseas will pay the standard international direct
>>dial charges from their country to the UK.
>>Businesses are not charged for the receipt of basic Nationalcall
>>0990 calls."


Subject: Caller ID/ Caller Identification (CLI/CLID)

Q: Is Caller ID available in the UK ?  

Yes. A detailed discussion paper covering most of the issues,
including an appendix by the Data Protection Registrar and the results
of a survey of public attitudes, was published as follows

   Consultative document : calling line identification / issued by the
      Director General of Telecommunications. September 1993. 20 pages.

(contact Oftel for this)

from the April 1994 BABT Newsletter 

>> The draft SITS [Special Investigation & Test Schedule - ie. Specification]
>> BABT/TC/128, which has been available for comment, will not be ratified by
>> the BABT Technical Committee until OFTEL have resolved the position 
>> regarding competition between public network operators (PTOs).

Other operator's networks are likely to offer similar services in the future
at which time Caller ID will almost certainly be passed between networks.

For BT, to use Caller Display you need a special telephone or display
unit which show, and then store, the numbers of incoming callers.  Call
Return simply stores the number of your last incoming caller, and will
work with any phone.  You can dial 1471 to get a reading of the last
number that attempted to ring (free).

There are a range of free options for preventing their identity
going forward on outgoing calls and blocking incoming anonymous calls. 
The simplest of these is the '141' service which blocks caller id
going forward on a per-call basis. You can also have all calls blocked
and then release per-call with '1470'.

For more information on Caller Display and Call Return call 0800 801471.

[See the archive for some technical information upon BT's CLI or try and
find British Telecommunications Engineering, Volume 12, part 3- October

Q: What PSTN phones support Caller ID? 

BT has one PSTN phone- the Relate 1000, that supports Caller ID. 

Early releases of this phone suffered from a problem where the unit's
processor would 'hang', causing the Caller ID display to miss incoming
calls until the handset is picked up. To fix this problem, ask BT to
supply a phone with a serial number ending "B22" (or, presumably,
later versions).

Reports say that even the latest phones miss the occaisional call, but
doesn't crash. Various ideas for the missing calls, including noisy
lines between Exchange and handset, have been suggested.

Q: What ISDN phones support Caller ID, decoding and displaying it?

DP2000 From BT - is an ISDN phone with analogue jack and RS-232 38K port
It does CLI, MSN, stores last 10 CLI so you can return your calls and it
looks OK. (Caller ID to ISDN costs UKP3.40 per quarter).

Q: I've seen a couple of ads in Exchange & Mart for Caller ID devices...
anyone know if these really work ?

No. They are EITHER boxes made to the USA standard (which was not
adopted in the UK) or boxes that ask callers to input their number in
MF tones, and then display what is input.

Q: Can I route a call to different devices depending upon the CLI?

Yes, at least one such device exists and has been discussed:

Lineplex CS200 Call Router 

 Uses the CLI service to switch calls based on the caller's telephone number
 Stores 60 telephone numbers that can be directed to one or other of two ports
 Totally silent operation
 Can be interfaced to PC to upload CLI information
 Supplied with software to display and store phone line
 Overnight e-mail
 Priority call routing
 Call seperation
 Rejection of unwanted calls

From Lineplex Ltd, Fairmile House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey GU23 6AN
Tel 01483 211858; Fax 01483 211632. Price is UKP135 + VAT


Subject: Call barring

Q: Will BT provide a line with all outgoing calls disabled except to

As it happens they will, if you subscribe to network services (Call
Barring).  They used to try blocking Mercury 131 as well, when a
caller used Call Barring, but that nice Mr Oftel had a word with them
about it...

Q: Is it possible to bar reverse charge calls on a line that allows
incoming calls?

For payphone lines, BT add a (very annoying) tone for the first minute of
incoming calls, to indicate to the operator that this line is not to
accept reverse harge calls.

I am not sure of the details, but am fairly certain this is an option you
can ask for, just tell them you have a private payphone on the line.  You
may have to pay for it, possibly combined with meter pulsing.

Q: What are the newly announced plans for barring 0898 Adult Entertainment
premium-rate numbers? 

Phoning one of these numbers now requires use of a PIN (personal
identification number) from your telephone, and they will only provide
you with such a number if you **ask** for one.  This number is
required for 0898 Premium rate numbers, {*} and also for Voda's 0338
number range.

Subject: Engaged lines

Q: If someone's number is permanently engaged, what can you do? 

Phone the operator. They can forward you to the operator local to that
phone who is able to tell you if the receiver hasn't been replaced
properly, by listening into the line. Lines that are off hook for more
than a certain period can sometimes return a 'number unobtainable'
tone when dialled.

Q: What can BT do about a phone off the hook?

BT used to use a 'howler', but this is belived to have been
discontinued several years ago because of the risk of ear damage if
someone picked up an extension phone once the "graduated howler" had
reached full volume. [My TXE4 exchange "parked the call" after 20
seconds and went quiet after 1 minute.]

BT can request that you do not leave your telephone off the hook.  If you
continue to leave the phone in this manner then apparently you are
blocking a line at the exchange.

BT have withdrawn their service from several people who, after being
warned, have continued to leave their telephones off the hook.


Subject: Automatic announcements

Q: What are the meanings of the various automatic announcements?

[anyone want to offer some to add to this list?]

'The Number you have dialled is not accepting calls at present.'

- The called party had Incoming Call Barring (*261#) set, costs
UKP7 per quarter.

'Please hold the line while we try to connect you. The number you are
calling, knows you are waiting.'

- Called party has call waiting. {*} This message is now interspersed
with a Ring Tone.

'Sorry, your call is not being answered, please try later.'

- Call waiting set, but they rejected the waiting call or ignored the
five-second bleep. Recall (wait for dial tone) 0 turns off the bleep to
reject the incoming call. Your caller is told that the call cannot be
connected. If you reject a waiting call, no more calls will be offered
until your number is free.

'Please hold the line, calls to this number are being diverted'

- Called party has call diversion set (you may only get this
announcement for call diversion on no reply).

'Sorry, the number you have called is not available'

- Number is temporarily out of service.

'Sorry, the service requested is not available from this line'

- You haven't rented the Network Service you're trying to use.

'The number you have dialled has not been recognised, please check and
try again' 

- Number does not exist.

'Sorry, you have dialled an invalid service code, please replace the
handset and consult your instructions' 

- You misdialled a network service code.

'This number is not accepting calls at present, please try later'

- When calling an I/C barred number from System X to System X.

Q: What are those 'Doh dah dee' tones? 

The "Doh dah dee" is usually known as "Special Information Tone" or SIT.
   Frequency        Cadence
    950+-50Hz      330+-70ms     0 to 30ms between tones
   1400+-50Hz      330+-70ms
   1800+-50Hz      330+-70ms
                  1000+-250ms pause


Subject: Chargecards

Q: I want to get a BT Chargecard, the problem seemed to be that you need
to be a current customer (have a phone) to be able to get one.  Is this
so?  If it is why is it so? 

It is now possible to bill directly to most major credit cards,
ie. you don't personally require a residential line to apply for a
card.  BT Chargecard can be reached on 0800 345 144

Q: Why can't I direct dial with my BT chargecard on Cellnet ?

Apparently BT have not yet put the infrastructure in for direct-dial from
any Cellnet phone, though operator calls are possible.  Funny thing is,
you can't make even operator calls from Vodafone phones, even though you
can supposedly make them from any country in the world with a BT

Q: What itemisation do I get with a BT Chargecard?

On your bill, you are told what number you called and how much it cost,
but not where it was made from.

Q: What service do you get with the Mercury Calling Card?

3 levels of service.
- Premier = world wide
- UK = uk only
- 3 call  = 3 nominated numbers only.

Access is via any phone line on a 0500 number (phone on 0500 100 505 for
more info). There is a surcharge for operator connected calls, but if you
had to do this because the BT phone wasn't capable of DTMF, there is no

If you have a Mercury account you can have the Calling Card bill
integrated with that. If you don't, or you choose not to, you can still
have a card and be sent a seperate bill. The bill includes full itemisation
of both called and calling number. The Mercury card is cheaper than BT's
for UK calls.

 Mercury's calling card number cannot be directly called from an Orange 
phone. To use it, you must dial the Orange operator and ask them to 
connect you. There is a fee levied for this.

Q: What service do you get with BT's Chargecard

- Quickcall - only one number can be dialled using the card.
- All numbers in the UK.
- All numbers worldwide.


Subject: Other Telephone services

Q: What is AT&T Direct? 

AT&T Direct is a way to contact the AT&T operator in the USA without
having to ring any operator in the UK (or whichever country you happen
to be in).  It offers a means of calling, (normally) without the use
coins, without going through the operator, avoiding high hotel
surcharges when travelling. Calls can be placed to the US from 130
countries, and between more than 75 countries. AT&T place advers
listing access numbers in international editions of most newspapers.

You can contact AT&T in the UK, on 0800 064 0001 or via AT&T direct itself on
0500 89 7801.  You would need an account with AT&T to use it to call the USA.
It **may** be cheaper than dialling via BT but don't bank on this. Other phone
companies in the US, such as Sprint on 0800 890 222, offer similar services.

They have also announced an arrangement with Mercury for 0500 89 0011.
calls to the US placed through this number should cost ~slightly less~.

[Someone else proffered this information - Ed.]

When I last compared rates between AT&T, Sprint, MCI, BT & Mercury (I have
accounts with all five...don't ask why).  Mercury seemed to be about the
cheapest, but had the poorest quality connections.  The real killer with
all US carriers is the 1st minute charges.  I think it costs over $3 for
the first minute.  It's not too bad averaged out over a long call, but if
you get an answering machine on the other end you are stuffed.  With
Mercury if I get an answering machine it costs 10-20p for the call.

I know MCI has a scheme that will allow UK residents to have MCI cards, I
don't know about Sprint and AT&T.

Here are the UK numbers for

   MCI:    0800 89 0222
   Sprint: 0800 89 0877

   Interglobe : 0500 581413
   WorldPlus  : 0500 110110
   WorldDirect: 0800 181153
   TRT        : 0800 890456
   Longshore  : 0800 892340

Most will allow calling cards to be set up to credit cards for UK
residents, or allow billing direct to credit cards if you have a
telephone PIN set up on your card.

Q: What is Flextel? 

Flextel (0701 0701 701) - which uses part of the 0956 (Mercury One2One)
number range - is a personal numbering service.  It is NOT a Mercury
product.  Flextel like to call it a **flexible** numbering
service. Since 7 June 1995, Flextel have also been using 0701 codes.

Basically you buy a Flextel number and just tell Flextel where you want
calls that number to be connected.  They then connect them.  If you want
the destination changed, you simply tell Flextel what you want it changed
to. In a little while you also will be able to update the destination by
DTMF input.

Standard service subscribers have nothing to pay apart from the annual
charge.  There is no monthly bill, no hiddden cost.  The caller pays for
the whole of the call.  For calls from BT a small translation fee is
charged to the caller.  This fee is significantly less than 1 penny per
minute over normal trunk cheap rate.  Peak rate rises to just over 2p/min.
For call from some other operators. there is now an additional fee.  The
small fee is sufficient to onward route calls to all normal UK numbers.
(Connection charge UKP141, Annual service charge UKP28.20 both incl. of
VAT). See <URL:> for their info.

Q: What ways are there of calling the US cheaper than BT or Mercury?

Swiftcall (0171) 488 2001 have service to North America, a few Asian
countries, Australia, and Israel. You subscribe by calling them and
quoting your VISA or Access details. They debit your credit card by
UKP23.50 (UKP20 + VAT) and set up an account with that value. Call
charges, at the moment [16 Mar 94], are as follows

 UK-USA/Canada   Normal Rate (Mon 09.00 - Fri 21.00)     24p/min
 UK-USA/Canada   Cheap Rate  (Fri 21.00 - Mon 09.00)     20p/min

(remember to add on the cost of the 0171 call to their UK switch & VAT)

Once your account is set up you dial an access number, enter your 9-digit
PIN and then you're given American Dial Tone (provided by Sprint - 'phone
+1 700 555 4141 on the US dialtone to hear). There are no minimum usage
surcharges. When you have used your paid for units you can 'phone them up
and purchase more. You can write them a letter giving specific
authorisation if you are concerned.

[Comparison at October, 1993: Sources - Swiftcall/
BT column includes Option 15; BT Prices at 15 May 1994]

 Destination     Swiftcall    BT    BT PremierLine       Mercury
 Australia          67p      58.2p     6  49.4p           61.9p
 Canada/USA         34p      46.6p     4  39.6p           38.4p
 Hong Kong          65p      81.1p     8  69.0p           77.4p
 India             100p     141.0p    12 119.8p          101.7p
 Israel            100p     108.1p     9  91.9p           96.5p
 Japan             100p     126.5p    11 107.6p           98.6p

 To call           Use
 Australia         BT or Mercury
 Canada/USA        Swiftcall
 Hong Kong         Swiftcall
 India             Swiftcall or Mercury
 Israel            Mercury or BT
 Japan             Mercury or Swiftcall

[BT reduced prices to Australia from Feburary 94]

Telepassport by Mastercall (01933) 401552 offer up to 70% discounts on US
calls. For a fixed one-off fee of UKP25, the user gets a New York
phone number which, after dialling and hanging up, calls back the UK
number with a US dialling tone. The UK user can then make calls or faxes
anywhere in the US at 50 cents perminute any time of the day.

Telepassport is run by the editor of the Telecom Digest, Pat Townson
(<>). For further information, send the following email

    Subject: (will be ignored)
    reply ~user@email.address~
    info telepassport

Business Communications Management (BCM) offer a service which gives you a
US dialtone. Rates from the UK to the US or US to UK are $0.29/minute, 24
hours a day, seven days a week, based on a 30-second minumum, six-second
increment billing, $25/month minimum usage and a $50 sign-up fee.

This is charged to your credit card (Master card/ Visa/ AmEx/
Diners). Email <> for an ascii version of their brochure
and price list.

Dial International Telecom Limited (0181) 490 5000 offer a service similar
to Swiftcall, you use your credit card to charge an account, and then can
talk until the credit runs out. 

Uk -> US rates:
    Daytime rate:    20p/min
    cheap rate:      17p/min
 (where cheap/daytime are as BT define them)

No connection/sign up fee, minimum pre-payment UKP25 at set up, payable by
cheque, credit card or travellers cheques.  London PoP.

They also run a callback system, when you dial an 0181 number from abroad,
and the company call you back and give you a UK dial tone....  (charged at
the same rates as if you direct dialled from the UK to the country). Number
they callback is preprogrammed, but user changeable.

Special offer at the moment. For calling the states, if you set up with a 
pre-payment of UKP100 you get the first 1/2 Hr free...

 First Telecom plc (0171) 572 7700 (<>) offer
'Globally Speaking' [prices at 11 Mar 1996]

                                    Globally      Weekend
                 BT      BT         Speaking      Special
 Country     Standard  Economy  Standard Economy   Offer
 USA            33.60   32.20      14p     14p      10p
 Other destinations at <URL:>

Weekends are Friday 8pm to Monday 8am. They bill in 15 seconds
increments, take no setup fee, and initial minimum purchase is UKP10
(UKP11.75 incl. VAT). If prepaying UKP100 they offer 2% discount, if
prepaying UKP200 they give 3% discount. They take credit cards, and
you can give them authorisation to charge when your account is running
'low'. It is also possible to call US 800 numbers at the above

Q: Who are ACC?

  ACC Long Distance UK Ltd
  414 Chiswick High Road
  W4 5TF

  Telephone: (0181) 995 3144
  Fax:       (0181) 995 8230

There is no membership fee, signup fee or monthly fee's on the ACCess
1601 service.

Calls are charged to the nearest second and with a minimum charge of 3
seconds. International calls are billed to the nearest six second

Billing is monthly and includes a fully itemised statement. Bills can
be paid on account, via Direct Debit or via a Visa or Mastercard
credit card.  Check if you wish to use Visa Delta debit card or

ACCess 1601 Residential service available on DIGITAL exchanges:
 [at November 1994, supplied by]

                                 Standard    Economy    Weekend

 National Calls over 56.4km        6.20       3.70       2.50

 National Calls up to 56.4km       5.50       2.60       2.25

 Local Calls, See Note             5.85       5.85       5.85

 Calls to PCN's                   11.15       7.15    As Economy

 Calls to Mobile Phones           37.00      27.00    As Economy

 Calls to Premium Rate Services   39.00      33.20    As Economy

 NOTE: ACCess 1601 service is not designed for your local calls.
       However if used, local calls will be charged as stated.


Subject: Facsimile/ FAX machines

Q: Where can I get a FAX switch from?

HCS Global.... They have London and Scottish outlets. They make an
excellent product that can do voice, Modem & Fax... cost is about
UKP120-150. Cheap models can be obtained for a good deal less. RJB
Communications (01932) 253 131 has been reported as a cheaper source for
these Faxlink devices.

The Lineshare 5000 switch from Lineplex (01483) 211 632, its UKP195 +VAT
but very versatile. There are four outputs Phone, TAM, FAX & modem. All
the timings can be set, and also can be set to be different depending on
whether the switch is set to "IN" or "OUT". It can also recognise that you
are "OUT" and changeover to that mode - ditto it can recognise that you
are "IN". You can set time windows for IN and OUT, and any of the four
outputs can be selected by the caller (old models support just pulse
dialling, newer ones two DTMF digits).

Q: What is the legal status of messages transmitted via Facsimile? 

In the last few years, a law was passed making documents sent by Fax as
legally valid as the original (but I'd still check with your lawyer).


Subject: Radio Pagers

Q: What are recommended pager companies in the UK?

For many people choice is limited by coverage. 

Richard Cox (<>) writes

>>From my experience (including an independent user trial of the five main
>>paging companies, in which I participated), I would **definitely** say that
>>Hutchison provide the best service.

>>Bottom of the list, by a wide margin, was Mercury ... and second to bottom
>>was Vodapage.  I used to use Vodapage - but not now I have tried


Subject: Cellular Mobile phones

Q: I was recently offered a "free" Cellphone with a product I
bought. While I accept that it may be a condition of accepting the "free"
phone that you also subscribe to their airtime, is it actually ~illegal~
not to purchase an agreement with the phone?

When you buy a phone from Dixons, say, rather than from a dealer (who gets
a golden hello of 100 quid + from the air time provider) you don't have to
sign up with anyone.  All you get is a info pack for Call Connections
(with Cellnet).  The phone in this case is pre-registered with Cellnet,
but that shouldn't prevent you from signing up with Vodafone.

However, in your case, the supplier of your "free" phone is expecting a
nice big kick-back when you sign up, and is unlikely to give you the phone
without an airtime agreement.  Usually this type of disreputable dealer
will rip you off for rental and call charges, to recover the subsidy of
the "free" phone.  When the dealer says its illegal, what he really means
is that its unprofitable for him!

Also, beware of gotchas such as the following
- peak time 0700-2300 including Saturdays (ie. all calls are at peak rate)
- 90 days minimum notice after 12 months min contract = 15 months min contract
- itemised billing 3-4 quid/month    
- call charges > Cellnet/vodafone reccommended prices
- compulsory (and very expensive) insurance & maintenance contracts

Q: Will calls from PSTN lines to mobile phones, in other countries, work?
What premium will I pay above the normal charges?

Yes it will work. It costs the same as phoning a normal number in that
country. One daft thing about the current charges is that it can cost less
to phone a Eircell mobile phone in the Irish Republic from the UK than it
costs to phone the car parked outside your window (if you would want to!).

Q: Will inbound access to UK mobiles work?

You can call any UK mobile phone from overseas.

Q: Where can I get details of Cellnet, Vodafone, One2One and Orange coverage?

One of the two mobile phone magazines available ("What Cellular
Phone"?)  has coverage maps for Vodafone TACS, Vodafone GSM, Cellnet
TACS and One2One in the back pages. You can also get Carphone
Warehouse's (0800 424 800) colour catalogue, which includes the

Orange have info on 0800 286 286.  There are some coverage maps made
available for Orange at

Q: Why do analogue cellphones have a 'soft' serial number, enabling alteration?

It is a problem with the cellphone manufacturers, NOT the TACS/ETACS
specification which states that the ESN should be hard coded within the
phone.  However this causes huge problems when the phone goes for
servicing or gets broken etc. so many put the ESN in EPROM, EEROM, PROM
etc. therefore cloning becomes very easy.

With GSM or PCN (which is based upon the GSM spec, but at a higher
frequency) the ESN's are stored in a different way. You also have two
'ESN' per phone, one for the phone itself and one for the SmartCard with
the user details. Both have to be validated.

Interestingly, authentication of a mobile subscriber for use in a TACS
network is available. The method that is defined in Issue 4 of the
TACS specification has been implemented my all the major vendors of
mobile equipment.

The network side of the implementation is already in place in the UK,
Italy, China and the UAE. The system is cheap to introduce into the
mobile phone and is also very secure. But operators like Vodafone
and Cellnet have not promoted the use of TACS authentication.

Q: What do Cellnet Callback and Vodafone Messenger offer?
Who do I ring for help?

Both offer storage of messages whilst your phone is switched off or
unavailable (eg the network is busy or you don't have a signal), in fact
the voicemail software is written by the same company.

For Messenger help, ring the Messenger help line on 0836 823823. They will
set up an account with a PIN so that only you can access your
messages. They'll also tell you how to set up the divert etc.

To activate the Messenger's recall box, dial 121 and ask the operator to
activate the facility. However, if you do not use the recall service for
more than 30 days, then you will have to re-call 121 and ask them to
switch it back on again.

Q: What prompts the Cellnet callback or Vodafone Messenger systems to
call back?

1. The network was busy when there was an incoming call, but it now has
spare capacity, or the switch/ cell site you were using had no capacity to
pass the call.

2. You were in a no service area, but now you are available again.

Each cellphone is required to register itself when it is turned on, or has
moved into an area of coverage from no coverage. They also reregister
every now and again just to ensure the network hasn't forgotten about

When an outgoing call is made - this performs a registration.

The network can also 'page' the phone, both for incoming calls and to send
you callback messages. The paging can also occur to get the phone to

Both networks have the facilities to try and help you with regards to
coverage in your area, etc. Ring the operators from the cellphone.

Q: Who are the 'People's phone'?

People's Phone is a service of Cellular Communications Corp., a Vodafone
and Cellnet service provider.

People's Phone claim to offer a "better" deal for cellular phone users.
They have a generally reasonable air-time contract, with various
guarantees as to no increases etc., and attempt to be down-to-earth and
trustworthy. Their marketing is targetted at (1) people who don't
understand the wide variety of services and contracts in the cellular
industry and (2) people who've had their fingers burned with other

Of particular note is their "Quota" system. You agree (in advance) a limit
to your call charges each month. When you reach that limit, the network
inhibits further outgoing calls until the beginning of the next billing
period. Incoming calls still work. You can change this Quota at any time.

Some other features of their system
- No charge for unconnected calls
- No charge for a call answered by a Vodafone recorded message; however, if
  your call is to a number on a different network (e.g. Cellnet or BT) then
  it will be chargeable.
- No charge for any call lasting less than four seconds
- In the event of a dropped call, if you dial 100 immediately afterwards the
  operator will reconnect the call with the first minute of the reconnected
  call free of charge.

Q: How can I check the status of a GSM or PCN phone's divert and 
call waiting? 

The *# codes are specified in the GSM standard and thus apply to all
GSM and PCN phones.

 F1 -> menu -> determine divert status

 *#21# to check number for "All Calls Divert"
 *#67# to check number for "On Busy Divert"
 *#61# to check number for "On No Reply Divert"
 *#62# to check number for "Divert if unreachable (off or out of range)

 *#43# to check call waiting status. 

 To set divert:
 ** 21*number#
 ** 67          On Busy Divert
 ** 61          On No Reply Divert

Q: What facilities are present in GSM and PCN handsets (like Orange and
One2One) to counter 'phone thieves?

The new breed of GSM/PCN mobile phones use a Smartcard or SIM. This
makes it possible to use any valid card in your phone. It also means
that the phone number will change depending on the card. Both the
mobile and SIM are validated before a call is set up. Therefore if the
mobile is reported stolen it won't work even with a valid card.
GSM and PCN both make use of encryption.

[Robin Fairburns writes:]

>>The security applies to the air path between the mobile and the base
>>station ... and it's not as strong as they would like you to believe
>>-- someone with the sorts of resources that GCHQ has can crack it in
>>some modest number of minutes.  If you think about it for a moment or
>>two, you'll realise that the only way you could have an encrypted path
>>right the way to the receiving telephone would be if that had
>>decryption capability.  On the whole, I would prefer a mobile that let
>>me call anyone to one that was "in principle" totally secure.

>>It'll deter the casual idiot with his mobiles scanner, however.
>>Legally speaking, the landline can only be tapped in course of
>>engineering work (information gained from which should not be allowed
>>to propagate), or subject to a warrant signed by the home secretary.

>>Of course

>>- a) if you believe that you'll believe anything, and
>>- b) if you trust _him_, you probably don't care about the government
>>     having free access to any calls you make.

Q: What are the functions possible with Hutchison's Voice messaging

After you've keyed in your PIN etc.

Message retrieval:

 2      delete last msg
 3      play messages most recent first
 4      play messages oldest first
 5      replay last msg heard
 6      play all msgs
 7      play time and date information
 9      forward msg (enter mailbox number followed by #)

Extended forwarding:

 13     to enter extended forwarding
        2       confirm msg to be forwarded
        7       to prepend a comment
        9       to append a comment
        5       to listen to complete message with comments
        6 followed by # to actually send the message
        10      to return to normal message retrieval mode.

Q: What are the phone numbers for the GSM network SMS 'message centres'. 

 MT = Mobile Terminated SMS
 MO = Mobile Originated SMS
 Text = text-based input
 TAP = Telocator Alphanumeric Protocol (a paging standard)

Inter-network codes:
 Incoming: Mobiles from this network can be sent messages from external
 SCsOutgoing: The SC on this network can send messages to mobiles
 connected to other networks
 RemoteSC: Mobiles on this network can send MO messages to SCs on
 other networks
 UK-in: Network can receive SMS messages from UK OLO SCs
 UK-out: SC can send SMS messages to UK OLO subscribers

DTMF access to MT:
 Vodafone 0385 490490

Modem access to MT:
 Vodafone 0385 499499, Text, 7E1, 2400
 Cellnet 0860 980480, TAP, 8N1, 14400
 Orange 0973 100602, Text, ?, ?
 One2One ?, TAP, ?, ? (on test)

 Orange ?
 One2One ?
 Cellnet Incoming, Outgoing, RemoteSC
 Vodafone RemoteSC

MO to MT:
 Vodafone +44 385 016 005
 Orange +44 973 100 973 
 Cellnet (on test), ?
 One2One ?

MO to elsewhere:
 Vodafone Paknet
 Orange ?
 Cellnet ?
 One2One ?


Subject: Phone Call charges

Q: Why are some numbers charged for when they don't exist?

Seeing as how charging starts upon b-answer it's unlikely, unless they
consider the through-connection of the voice message telling you that the
number is non-existant as the b-answer. If so, I agree that this is wrong.

CCITT [now ITU] E.231 recommends that no charge should be made for
calls which terminate on services for suspended, cancelled or
transferred subscribers.  However, there is also E.124, which is
entitled "Discouragement of frivolous international calling to
unassigned or vacant numbers answered by recorded announcements
without charge".  This recommends that the provisions of E.231 may be
suspended if it is determined that calls to specific out of service
numbers are "predominantly frivolous."

This situation often occurs with the Cellular networks. As things stand
right now, only calls that are answered get charged.  Calls that get engaged
or ring tones ~ONLY~ are not charged.

Exception: calls that route to a mobile network (or to a direct-dialling-in
PABX) and THEN divert to an external number, are charged from the moment the
diversion takes place, even if the diverted leg of the call fails to connect
(for whatever reason).

But, in the context, answered can mean "answered by the mobile network on
behalf of the called party".  Of course we all know that phrase is a con,
but BT insisted on the Cellular networks agreeing to do this, before they
would allow them to interconnect with the BT network. Mercury followed suit!

A cellular network answers calls on behalf of the called party (and plays
that annoying announcement) when either: (a) it can't get a response from
the called telephone (even if this is solely due to congestion in its own
network) or (b) the telephone is rung for 45 seconds without a reply.

Q: What are the costs of running 0345 and 0800 number services?

(pence per minute approx.  These are the costs to the holder of the line.)
                     Peak       Standard      Off-Peak
 0345                 13          10             7
 (+cost to caller      4.4         3.2           1)
 0800                 16          12             9

Try also contacting British Airways Speedwing who are reselling their bulk
purchased time for these services on to other potential users.  They are
offering between 17-20% discounts depending on usage.  The sevice is
called SpeedLine and sounds curious only in so much as the only thing you
seem to get from SpeedLine is an order/service. BT do everything else
including billing you.

Call Speedwing on (0181) 564 1000; Peter Jones is on (0181) 564 1489.

[info given by Alan Jay -, 14 feb 94]

Q: What are the current phone-call costs? 

[See seperate postings, <URL:>, or contact
your telephone provider]

Q: What is an 'average' 'phone bill for the US, as a comparison?


>>The average bill with "Unlimited local calling" in Pacific Bell territory
>>is $13-14 per month. Of course Long Distance increases that.  I have some
>>lines that are used for local calls only - two modem lines - They are busy
>>about 16 hours per day each. I pay $13 and change per month for each line
>>The average U.S. residential line is used 20 minutes per day.

Q: So how do the Americans price their 'phone calls then?
(and other myths)


>> Also note that 'local' in the US often means 'own exchange', whereas for
>> BT is is charging-group related, which usually means all the exchanges in
>> your local area.

In the U.S., most phone companies have several "tarrifs" or rates. For
example in Pacific Bell Southern California. You can get "measured
service" which means local calls are charged at $0.10 per min. Or
variations of the above, say so many free local calls, and any above that
number are measured.

You can also get "unlimited local calling". For a fixed fee, you get all
the local calls you want. The "local calling area" is usually a 8 -16 mile
radius. Unlimited local calls for residential use costs me about $14.00
per month. Long distance calls are extra.

So unless "own exchange" is a rural one with dispersed subscribers local
calling areas encompass up to hundreds of exchanges as is the case in the
Los Angeles area.

[For comparison,
$14.00 is about UKP9, or about UKP27 per quarter, against BT's quarterly
rental of UKP25 (or very close, at 17/04/1995, + VAT). ]

Q: What happens with the cost of calls which last over two or more charge

In a GPO Strowger exchange this situation was handled by splitting a unit
into 10 part-units. At changeover, therefore, you'd be over/undercharged
by no more than 10%.

With a crossbar, the "undercharge" was specified by PO/BT as an
exchange facility (on the basis that a call must never be
overcharged). The difference between Strowger and later systems was
that timing of the subsequent periods proceeded in units of 10/10ths
of nominal time whereas Strowger always gave 11/10ths on subsequent
units (and between 10 and 11/10ths on initial).

This was emulated by digital exchanges. Some old crossbar exchanges
would charge the call at the original rate. With universal per-second
charging, this is no longer the case.


Subject: Other Telecoms info

Q: Where can I get an old style BT phone box from ?

A couple of people suggested looking in small ad's in Sunday newspapers,
Private Eye or Exchange and Mart.  One or two people suggested contacting
BT directly, but nobody claimed to have tries this or gave any suggestions
as to which bit of BT to try.  Mark Whidby ( remembers
seeing a company with a yard full of 'phone boxes near Staleybridge.

(Samples from Exchange and Mart.)

One company in Essex (01277 899 495, Michael Smith) does them in off-street
condition for UKP350+delivery+VAT or reconditioned at around

Another company (0161 767 9259) does them for UKP375+delivery (off-street)
or UKP1250+delivery reconditioned.  They said that there was no VAT
(presumably they're a smaller company who aren't VAT registered?).

They told me that customers usually found it cheaper to buy them
reconditioned than to resort to DIY.  Reconditioning includes stripping,
filling and repainting the cast iron frame, replacing glass (including the
`Telephone' signs), guilding the crowns and refurbishing the doors 
Customers who did their own refurbishment usually did it for pleasure or
sentimental value rather than to save money.

Delivery would cost UKP125 (from their Birmingham depot to me in Essex),
or I could collect if I happened to have a lorry and a fork-lift.

Suggestions for uses were showers, drinks cabinets, fish tanks, to grow
plants in, to house a telephone, ...

Q: So tell me some more about these old phone boxes 

The original K2 boxes (the ones with 6x3 almost-square panes in three of
the foor walls) had teak doors.  There aren't many of these left.  What
most people think of as a "red telephone box" is the K6 (with 8x3 very
unsquare panes in three of the foor walls); they have metal doors, as do
the later K8s.

Some K2s and K6s are old enough to qualify for Listed Building status.
There are 216 listed K2s (213 of these in London!), and 996 listed K6s.

[Source: the excellent book "Telphone boxes" by Gavin Stamp,
Chatto & Windus, 1989.]

[end of uk.telecom FAQ part 2/3]

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