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11-digit numbering for phones slated for Jan

Anandita Singh Mankotia Posted: 2009-04-08 08:49:25+05:30 IST Updated: Apr 08, 2009 at 0849 hrs IST New Delhi: In a proposal that promises to test one's memory skills, the department of telecommunications (DoT) wants to increase the digits for both fixed-line and mobile phone numbers to 11, the latter probably as early as next January. But there's an upside. It's part of a just-begun exercise to seamlessly integrate the country's often confusing telephone-numbering system. Currently, mobile phone numbers have ten digits, starting with 9. Landline numbers vary depending on the circle and operator, with the longest being eight digits. Once both scale up to 11 digits in a passed manner, it would be impossible to distinguish whether an incoming call is being made from a fixed-line or wireless phone. Two key changes are likely to be brought about in the new numbering system. The first will be integrating the dialling scheme for mobile and landline. That could mean common zero-prefaced appendages for STD calls. The second change could be migration to a circle-based numbering scheme for basic services on the lines of the first three digits on mobile phones. Of course, prompting this review of the numbering system has been the exponential growth in the country's telecom subscriber base in recent years. India, which is one of the world's fastest-growing telecom markets, adds 6-8 million subscribers every month. Last year alone, overall subscriber addition was a phenomenal 48.5%, dominated by the mobile segment. Little wonder, then, that despite DoT unveiling a 30-year numbering plan in 2003, sources said the government was likely to run out of numbers by August this year, forcing the authority to review its policy and come up with a revised long-term strategy. And that's precisely what a recently drafted committee has been mandated to do. "Migration to an integrated numbering scheme for both mobile and basic services would constitute a key recommendation," a DoT official told FE. The move to an 11-digit numbering system is just the first step in that process. The four-member committee, which was appointed last month, is expected to submit its report in three months. Contributing to the looming shortage of numbers, according to industry regulator Trai has been hoarding by operators. The extent of the problem can be gauged by the fact that while India had a mobile subscriber base of around 250 million, operators have been allotted around 600 million numbers.