Area codes are given to landline numbers in the UK, and they help the recipient of the call determine where the caller is calling from.

Of course, they weren’t always a thing – they’re a fairly new phenomenon. In fact, they only span back a few decades. However, some area codes in the UK are slightly special in that they don’t work the same way as 95% of the UK's area codes.

0203 falls into that category, but why? What does it mean, and why is it different? Let’s find out.

An 0203 area code represents the London area, meaning that the person is calling from the capital city. Any area code that starts with a 020 prefix represents the London area – both inner and outer.

0203 phone numbers are some of the most sought-after phone numbers in the UK due to the credibility of being based in London and its affordability. But what part of London does it represent?

0203 numbers do not relate to any specific area or location in London. It is a prefix that can be used by any area in the city, including both inner and outer London. To understand why let’s look at the history of area codes.

The 0203 prefix was first introduced in 2005 to meet the rising demand for London landline numbers. They were fixed to any household or business in London that required a landline, regardless of location.

Therefore, it’s a common myth that different 020 numbers serve different districts and areas within the capital. For instance, it’s thought that 0207 means the person is calling from inner London, and 0208 means the person is calling from outer London. While this was once the case, it doesn’t hold true nowadays.

Back in the 90s, before landlines became common in the UK, 0207 was commonly reserved for London residents in the inner city and 0208 for the outer areas. However, as landline demand increased over the next decade and 0207 and 0208 numbers ran out, London area code prefixes lost their location tag. The government gave 020X area codes to anyone in London that needed one.

Fast forward to 2022, this means that you can’t tell exactly where the caller is calling from, only that they are calling from London. Therefore, compared to other cities where area codes depend on the first four digits, for London numbers, you only need to look at the first three digits of the phone number – 020.

That's why so many London-based businesses only advertise their area code as 020. The remaining eight digits are considered as the rest of the landline number

020 telephone numbers are incredibly popular because they represent a London local number. London is the economic capital of the UK and is still home to many businesses that bring in billions of pounds in revenue each year.

Just by association, a London phone number gives off the impression that your business must be doing well if you’re operating out of the capital. This adds more prestige and credibility to your business which is why 020 numbers are must more popular than numbers in other areas of the UK.

Also, London numbers are recognised all over the country. The average person may not know the area code for Reading, Nottingham, or Bristol, but they will almost certainly recognise the 020 area code.

This means that if you call a client or customer with a 020 business number, they may be more inclined to take the call instead of ignoring it.

However, it should be noted that a London number doesn’t necessarily mean the caller is based in London. These days, anyone can purchase a virtual number which allows callers to make it seem like they’re based in the capital city.

This means that the caller could be sat somewhere in the North of the UK, but it looks like they’re based in London due to calling via a virtual number with an 020 area code.

Due to the fact that 0207 is often misconstrued as being the area code for inner London, it’s a highly sought-after area code. This adds further prestige and demand, which can be a helpful bonus for your business, but it also makes it quite expensive compared to the 0203 number.

Conversely, the 0203 area code still gives you that London status but without the premium price tag of 0207. As such, 0203 can be a much more affordable alternative for your business, which can be particularly relevant if you’re a startup or a small, growing business.

However, there is a downside that needs to be considered. Due to its availability, some phishing scams have been done using 0203 phone numbers. The appearance of a London number gives scammers some credibility which has been used to target unassuming residents in the past.

However, this is becoming less and less of an issue these days. Plus, high-profile, legitimate businesses and organisations use the 0203 number. This includes the Bank of England, BBC, Ministry of Justice, Guardian newspaper, Transport for London, etc. This means that, nowadays, 0203 is much more accepted as a professional phone number.

The 0203 area code represents the London area, but it does not relate to a specific location in the city. This is what makes all 020 area codes different from those in the rest of the UK.

This is because in the mid-2000s, when the demand for London landline numbers was booming, it became far easier to simply assign any 020 number to whoever needed it instead of assigning a specific area as well.