Prepaid subscribers may soon have to shell out a sum to keep their number inactive for over two months. This suggestion from several telcos follows a noticeable lack in the availability of 10-digit numbers, reports the Times of India. In their response to the consultation paper pertaining to deactivation of inactive SIM cards, telcos like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices told TRAI that roughly 200 million inactive SIMs needed to be terminated, especially in the prepaid segment. The mobile operators put forth their proposal of 'safe custody' facility for prepaid users. Currently, postpaid users are offered this facility, wherein for a fee, subscribers are allowed to retain their inactive numbers for an extended period of time. In its statement to TRAI, RCom stated, “By paying a lump sum fee, any wireless subscriber should be able to retain their mobile connections even after long continuous periods of non-usage.” 

It is sure going to be difficult to remember that! (Image credit: Getty Images)

You may have to pay to keep your number inactive (Image credit: Getty Images)

The regulatory body had earlier sought on the thoughts of the industry on how they would define inactive users, as well as the period post which the numbers be cancelled. TRAI also proposed to install guidelines to disconnect inactive connections. In an important mention, RCom has stated that extensive periods of non-usage could drive telcos to shift to 11-digit numbers. Only recently, RCom deactived 21 million subscribers not using their connections for over two months. Recently, it deactivated 15 million more of such customers. 

Quoting Rajat Mukarji, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Idea, the report added, “Safe custody is allowed to a postpaid customer for up to 180 days for 50 a month. Idea is in the process of exploring creation of a similar facility for its prepaid customers.” 

Bharti Airtel has suggested that consumers could be given recharge vouchers to activate their connections. The popular operator also added that their prepaid subscribers could pay Rs 150 for six months, or 300 a year, to prevent their numbers from being deactivated.  

In its statement to TRAI, Airtel added, “The period of non-usage must not be more than a year and renewable for another six months. Once the customer begins using the sim during the safe custody period, the service will be automatically deactivated and subscribers would not be refunded any money.” 

Recently, we had reported that India will face a 'number crunch' by the middle of this 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.

At the time, as part of some immediate measures, TRAI 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. 

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