India will face a 'number crunch' by the middle of next year. With a swelling subscriber base in the country, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) are fast looking at other options, including the use of 11-digit mobile numbers. The Times of India now reports that the number series starting with 98 or 99 is nearing the end of its capacity and hence the need to quickly work out a way is both, crucial and time-bound. Rajan Mathews, director general of the COAI was quoted as saying, “There might be a serious problem if a new series of numbers are not brought in by the middle of next year. We are theoretically reaching the limit of existing number sets with a subscriber base of one billion.”
It is sure going to be difficult to remember that (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Elaborating further on the process, Mathews shared that the numbers are assigned to operators in batches, depending the size of subscriber base and how well the existing number sets are put to use. He explains that a batch system is the one used, since it helps keep away chaos arising because of the different kinds phone numbers flooding the market.
It is common knowledge that a specified range of numbers are assigned to one operator and the first two digits of the number like the first two digits are associated with that operator.
Sandip Biswas, director at consultancy firm Deloitte was quoted as saying, “None of these number ranges can be used to their full extent due to the way in which they are allotted. Only a certain portion of these numbers are used as phone numbers. This is called percentage of numbering system utilization and it hovers around 50 percent, meaning only around half or more of the potential numbers are used as phone numbers”.
Biswas even went on to add that considering the numbers, there may even be 12-digit mobile numbers introduced in the future. “The numbers will have to be increased by at least one digit to accommodate new devices. However, to ensure there's absolutely no scope for any problem, we may even see the introduction of 12 digit numbers,” he added.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had reportedly sent a similar proposal to the DoT, which the latter did not act upon. Mathews added, “DoT said that it may need remapping of networks and there might be issues conforming to international numbering standards too. DoT hasn't rejected the idea completely but is looking into alternatives.”
Among the immediate measures, the TRAI has reportedly made recommendations to discontinue inactive numbers in a bid to free up some space. It even plans on getting over a million landline numbers to be used in the mobile domain.
Biswas went on to add further, “The numbering system in general is dependent on the number of subscribers. However, it is a different situation after mobility came into picture. Today, devices ranging from cars to tablets to washing machines are connected to networks.”