Friday, 5 March 2010

Telcos oppose 11-digit numbers

All mobile firms, with the exception of Reliance Communications and the Tata Teleservices, have asked telecom regulator Trai to continue with the existing system of 10-digit mobile number format and have opposed the proposal to move towards 11-digit mobile numbers.

Responding to the Trai’s consultation process on this issue, most mobile firms have suggested that digits between ‘2’ and ‘9’ be opened up for mobile telephony so that the current 10-digit format be retained as against the current policy where levels ‘9’ and sublevels of ‘8’ and ‘7’ are only used for mobile numbers.

Over 90% of the mobile numbers begin with ‘9’ as this level has been completely opened up for mobile telephony. Off late, the Department of Telecom has also opened up sublevels in ‘8’ and ‘7’ for mobile telephony, which has resulted in cellular phone numbers beginning with this digit.

Most operators have taken the stance that currently many levels -- 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 -- were reserved for fixed line services and these levels are highly underutilised . “For the past few years there has been a constant decline in the number of fixed line subscribers in India.

In such a case, it is unfair to keep six billion numbers reserved for fixed line subscribers, whereas the actual number is even below 40 million. This is a clear wastage of the precious numbering resource,” the Cellular Operators Association of India, the body representing all GSM operators said.

“Considering the relative size of the subscriber bases in the mobile and fixed sectors and the exponential growth of mobile subscriptions, it is worthwhile to free up the fixed line numbering resources and re-allocate some levels to mobile services.

In view of this, we believe that there should be reorganisation of existing fixed line numbering scheme to get at least 3 levels vacated from the existing levels and allocated for mobile services. This would give provisioning for many more millions of subscribers within the existing ‘10’ digit numbering scheme, which would be in consumer interest,” the COAI added.

Freeing up one level will provide about a billion new mobile numbers. On the other hand, Reliance Communications and Tatas are of the view that while the 10-digit numbers can be used for the next three years, for long term, from 1st April, 2013, the country must move ‘towards the implementation of 11 digit numbering scheme so as to address the exponential growth needs of the sector and the unforeseen requirement resulting out of future technologies and services’.

Both these telcos have also pointed out that since fixed line services are in continuous decline mode, it would be not be appropriate to change the numbers of customers.