“Thought it was a scam”: a small addition, a big change for Brisbane phone numbers


Growing cities put pressure on infrastructure, which is evident in traffic jams, sky-high skylines and shrinking backyards – but there’s another less visible pressure point: phone numbers.

Brisbane is running out of landline numbers starting with the digit 3.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton told ABC Radio Brisbane the solution to the numbers crisis was simple – add a new number.

This is what the Australian Communications and Media Authority did in 2014 – in this case a 2 – and the numbers that reflect this change are now increasingly common.

But it may come as a surprise that one of these new numbers appears on a phone screen, with geographic information insisting that it is from within Brisbane.

This is what happened to Josh, who thought “it was a scam”.

“So I didn’t answer the phone, I did a little Google search to find the number and it was actually a clothing store that I had ordered clothes from,” he said. declared.

A brief history of telephone numbers

Brisbane’s first female telephone operators began working in June 1899.(Provided: State Library of Queensland)

Communications Alliance Numbering Task Force Chairman Alexander Osborne said the trick of adding new numbers and letters to meet the needs of more customers is old.

He started working in directory services in 1973, when telecom operators switched from alphanumeric phone numbers to an eight-digit numbering system, including the state area code.

“For example, your number might start with AE, then a four-digit number, and then it was replaced with all the numbers,†he said.

“And then in 1994 we started moving to eight-digit numbers, ten if you include the area code.

“I still remember my mother’s number in Sydney was 536 952, where she lived, we added 91 at the beginning, in different places around Sydney there would have been different numbers.”

In contrast, the first phone numbers in Brisbane were straightforward: 1-36. It was the exact number of phones.

The Brisbane Courier explained the modern wonder of the telephone exchange in an article from October 1880 – the year it was launched.

“In this room, all the telephone wires from the east, west, north and south are led and placed in relation to a beautifully ingenious device technically known as a ‘switch board'”, s’ is enthusiastic the reporter.

Landline use on the decline

A person hangs up a landline
Landline phone use has halved since 2015.(Gemma Howell: ABC News)

That was over 140 years ago, and Mr Stanton said landline use has declined by around 50% since 2015 and around 60% of Australians only use cellphones for voice calls.

So how is it possible to run out of numbers?

“The actual number of landlines is declining much more slowly, by about 1% per year,” Mr. Stanton said.

“And I think what you see, for example, is that there are a lot of people who have an NBN connection that has a landline attached to it, but they never use it because they are only mobile.

“But nonetheless, the numbers are still catching up because of the services doing next to nothing.

Where did this phone call come from?

Mr Stanton said being given a new era landline number was “a bit of a lottery”.

“It depends where you are, if you were in a growing area… like Ipswich, you’re probably more likely to end up with a number that starts with two,†he said.

“It will also depend on your service provider, how many numbers they still have available and whether they have run out of numbers starting with three.”


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