How much does it cost to call an 056 number in the UK?

Here's a little telephony mystery for you - can you find out how much your phone provider charges for 056 calls?

(Skip the background and jump to the survey)


Way back in the mists of time - 2004 - Ofcom decreed that "Voice over Broadband" was going to be the next big thing. VoB (which is like VoIP, but specifically tied to a broadband line) would receive the prefix 056.

In that document, they suggested a price cap of 5 pence per minute - considerably lower than other services - in order to stimulate the market. It was big news at the time:

Old BBC News website. Net calls get their own area code Blue police lamp, BBC Fixed phone firms must give access to emergency numbers In the UK, the telephone area code for cyberspace will be 056.  Government regulator Ofcom has picked the prefix for customers who sign up to make calls via the internet. Users can also opt for geographic numbers.  The decision on numbers comes as Ofcom reveals how it plans to regulate services that use the net rather than the old fashioned telephone network.

Nowadays, 056 numbers are known as Location Independent Electronic Communications Services. If you sign up for a VoIP / SIP service you can probably get one for free. But no one knows how much they cost to call.

Ofcom say that 056 numbers are prohibited from revenue sharing, so they should be cheaper to call than, say, 070 numbers.

Mind you, they also say:

Take-up of 055 and 056 remains low and the numbers are rarely seen

Ofcom's National Numbering Plan doesn't set any "Applicable tariff principles and maximum prices" for the range. Their "Call costs guide" doesn't even list 05 as a valid code.

This has led to a slightly strange situation where costs to call 056 numbers are really hard to find.

GiffGaff are the only company I could find which make it easy to see the costs - 8p/minute. And they're not included in bundles.

EE charge 40p/minute on PAYG. There's no info on contract prices.

O2 list all 05 numbers as 55p/minute.

Three rather vaguely say they're 10.2p to 15.3p/minute. But, again, nothing on contract.

BT list it as a "g21" call which is 36p/minute.

Vodafone's advisors thought it cost 65p connection charges and 55p/min. Then said premium rate. But were unable to point me to a published price guide.

In the end, I spoke to Vodafone, EE, and Three - none of them could confirm how much an 056 number costs to call!

I also tried finding the costs out from a bunch of MVNOs, none of them published the prices, nor could their customer service reps tell me. This is almost certainly in breach of term C2 of Ofcom's General Conditions.

Except Smarty - who say that they're out of bundle 12.9p/minute.

I emailed Ofcom who, in fairness, replied back quickly:

I should clarify that the cost for calls to 056 numbers are charged at a non-standard rate, so we cannot advise about the cost. However, we would expect providers to be able to tell you what they would charge for calls to certain number ranges.
If you are unhappy with the information given to you by your provider about the call costs, I recommend taking the steps outlined within their complaint’s procedure.

A Crowdsourced Experiment!

Would you care to take part in an experiment? I'd like you to give me a call on:

+44 560 34 789 34

It should play one minute of music and automatically hang up. If you could please tell me how much it costs to call, what network you're on, and whether you're contract or PAYG. It might be the case that 056 is counted as one of your inclusive minutes - that would also be useful information.

Stick your network and costs in the comments section please, or fill in this form:


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3 thoughts on “How much does it cost to call an 056 number in the UK?”

  1. says:

    I love how you dive deep on the details on stuff like this. When you write blogs like this one I know it’s going to be thorough and fact-based. Fascinating.

  2. says:

    Well I have called you from both my mobile and my landline. Will try to remember to get back to this when EE tell me how much they've charged me. (This is secretly all just a giant social engineering effort to get the song stuck in people's heads, isn't it? 😛)


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