The tele-density 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.
To accommodate this growth, the DoT plans to introduce an additional prefix of 9 to every mobile number taking it to 11 digits. So, `99’ will be the first two digits in every mobile number, in the 11-digit regime.
TEC (Telecom Engineering Centre) 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.
Nine mobile operators were recently given over 120 telecom licenses 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.
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 telecom companies
However, the fixed line phone numbers would continue to remain as is it is. While all GSM and CDMA subscribers whether old or new, would now have 11 digit numbers.
Apart from India, China and UK follow 11-digit numbers, while USA has a more integrated pattern of common numbering plan with similar numbers for mobile as well as landline numbers, much like Tata ‘Walky’ and Reliance ‘Hello’.