11-digit mobile numbers soon


India will usher in the 11-digit mobile phone number era as early as next year, with the rough base limit of 450 million subscribers for ten digit numbers expected to get breached by then.

In 2003, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had envisaged in its National Numbering Plan (NNP) that ten-digit mobile numbers would continue in India for the next 30 years. How wrong it was!

Now, in all likelihood, India will usher in the 11-digit mobile phone number era as early as next year, with the rough base limit of 450 million subscribers for ten digit numbers expected to get breached by then.

The only two other countries to use 11-digit numbers are China, whose subscriber base of 624.16 million (as in January) is far ahead of India, and the UK, which uses it apparently for technical reasons as its subscriber base is much lower.

The third-placed United States had a base of 276.1 million as in January, followed by Russia at 181.5 million, Brazil at 145 million, Indonesia at 117 million, Germany at 106 million, Japan at 104.83 million, Italy at 92.8 million and Pakistan at 90.52 million.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) figures, India’s total wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & WLL(F)) base stood at 375.74 million at the end of February 2009.

Additional subscriptions

A total of 13.44 million wireless subscribers were added during of February as against 15.41 million during January.

To keep pace with this furious growth, DoT has suggested introduction of an additional prefix of “9” to all mobile numbers, making them 11-digit ones. DoT’s Telecom Engineering Centre is (TEC) working on the modalities of the changeover, it is understood.

Senior DoT sources said that TEC recommendation for the new numbering plan had already been forwarded to the government for a final decision.

“The change will be in the software only and it will not take more than a month to upgrade the system,” the sources said.

Time frame

Meanwhile, telecom industry sources claimed that India would be able to add another 250 million mobile subscribers without having to move to the 11-digit regime.

The TEC has recommended a time frame of six to nine months for the conversion which will apply to all GSM and CDMA numbers, existing and new.

“The decision for the changeover has been taken keeping in view the tremendous growth the sector has been witnessing,” a senior DoT official said.

Interestingly, the 2003 NNP of DoT had said: “When subscriber base in an SDCA (short distance charging area, or a circle in common parlance) expands beyond four crore, changeover from 10-digit to 11-digit may be required.

However, this scenario is not envisaged almost for another 30 years.”

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