DoT calls for 11-digit cellphone numbers

DoT calls for 11-digit cellphone numbers

New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT) has sought a shift to an 11-digit numbering system for mobile phones from 1 January to cope up with burgeoning subscribers.

The plan calls for an extra 9 to prefix the existing 10-digit number.

“The National Numbering Plan 2003 is amended for migration to 11-digit numbering plan for mobile services by prefixing digit ‘9’ in existing 2-digit PLMN Access Code. It is requested to make the necessary arrangements to implement the migration from existing 10-digit to 11-digit numbering plan w.e.f 00:00 hrs 1st January 2010," reads the DoT note.

The National Numbering Plan 2003 was intended to be in force for 30 years. However, growth in the cellular subscriber base, which stands at 488.4 million, with 10-15 million new users added every month, means the current numbering plan will soon be exhausted.

According to a DoT official who requested anonymity as he’s not authorized to speak to the media, while 10-digit numbering allows for up to one billion users, many numbers are no longer in use.

“This means that while subscribers may be almost 500 million, the actual number allotted to subscribers may be in excess of 700-750 million," he said.

DoT, however, is not sure if its diktat can be executed given the deadline. Admitting that there was an internal note to the effect, another senior DoT official said that there hadn’t been much progress on the issue.

“The issue was raised some time back but it is doubtful that it will happen," he said. “It is not practical to implement such a move. For now it is unlikely that such a move will be made," he added.

Telecom firms refused to comment, pending an official intimation from DoT on the issue.

Analysts say India will need to eventually shift to an 11-digit numbering plan.

(Shauvik Ghosh contributed to the story.)