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11-digit mobile nos in 9 months

Tuesday, 15 April 2008 - 3:43am IST

By the middle of next year, one will have to dial 11 digits, instead of the current 10, to connect to mobile phone users across the country

‘9’ to be prefixed to all existing numbers

NEW DELHI: By the middle of next year, one will have to dial 11 digits, instead of the current 10, to connect to mobile phone users across the country. And, `99’ will be the first two digits in every mobile number, in the 11-digit regime.

There won’t be any change in fixed line phone numbers. The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), which is the technical arm of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has finalised the report on national numbering plan, sources in the government told DNA Money. It is learnt that TEC submitted the national numbering plan report to DoT last week.

TEC has recommended a timeframe of six to nine months, for converting the existing 10-digit mobile numbers to the 11-digit format. The shift to 11-digit number will apply to all mobile users-GSM (global systems for mobile communications) and CDMA (code division multiple access), old and new subscribers.

According to the latest recommendation of TEC, the new telecom operators will be allotted the spare levels of 90 and 91 in the 10-digit series. But, they too will have to migrate to 11 digits, by prefixing `9’, in the same timeframe as the existing telcos.

The TEC recommendation adds that the numbering plan for fixed line phones will remain the same.

In 2003, DoT had come out with a 30-year numbering plan, but five years down the line there’s a need for review. This time, DoT wants to ensure that the solution is for a much longer term, it is learnt. Mobile telephony has been witnessing tremendous growth and new telcos have also queued up to offer wireless services.

Currently, India has around 260 million wireless subscribers, and the total telecom base (fixed and mobile) has crossed 300 million.

The teledensity in the country is more than 25 per cent now, with the average monthly mobile growth at over 8 million. The government has set a target of 500 million phone subscribers by the year 2010.

Nine mobile operators were recently given over 120 telecom licences to offer services across many circles. Currently, the established players offering mobile phone services include Bharti, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Aircel-Maxis, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Spice.

In India, the first national numbering plan was announced in 1993, when mobile telephony was yet to begin in India. In 2003, a fresh plan came about, but at that point the government failed to realise that India would witness a growth rate of 8 million mobile subscribers every month.

India is not the only country where mobile numbers would be changed because of the growth story and new operators joining in.

China and the UK are among others to have done it too. The US is believed to have handled things much better because it follows an integrated numbering plan-for fixed and mobile phones.

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