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TRAI releases recommendations for developing a ‘Unified Numbering Plan

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    2nd Jun, 2020

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its latest recommendations for developing a ‘Unified Numbering Plan' to ensure adequate numbering resources for fixed line (aka landline) and mobile services in the country.

Context

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its latest recommendations for developing a ‘Unified Numbering Plan' to ensure adequate numbering resources for fixed line (aka landline) and mobile services in the country.

Background

  • The volume in cellphone adoption has lead to a worry among telecom circles on the need for a eleven digit cellphone number.
  • The Telecom Department had asked TRAI to furnish its recommendations on the strategies of National Digital Communications Policy which also talks of "ensuring adequate numbering resources, by developing unified numbering plan for fixed line and mobile services."
  • Accordingly, the telecom sector watchdog had issued a consultation paper in this regard.

Analysis

Key-highlights of the recommendations:

  • Mandating prefix “0” for calling mobile numbers from a fixed line connection - At present, mobile phones can be accessed from a fixed line phone without dialling a prefix “0”.
    • The latest recommendations are, however, mandating “0” to be prefixed for dialling from a landline number.
    • This means that just like how you dial inter-service area mobile calls from a fixed line phone, you will be required to prefix “0” to access a mobile phone even within a service area.
    • It is important to note that there won't be any change in dialling landline to landline, mobile to landline, or mobile to mobile calls.
  • Shifting from 10-digit to 11-digit numbering scheme in case of mobile numbers - The second major recommendation by TRAI is to switch from 10 to 11 digits for mobile numbers, with first digit as “9”.
    • The regulator said that this new change will give a total capacity of 10 billion numbers.
  • Mobile numbers allotted for dongles to be shifted to 13 digits - Just like the numbers associated with our mobile phones, various devices such as dongles and data cards currently have the 10-digit numbering scheme.
    • The latest list of recommendations, however, include a point that such devices should be shifted from the existing 10-digit to 13-digit numbering scheme.
    • This will also release some numbering resources, TRAI said in its recommendations.
  • Moving fixed line numbers to a sub-level of “2” or “4” - Since some operators in the past offered landline connections to users with numbers starting from “3”, “5”, and “6” numeric that are no longer in service, TRAI has recommended to move the underutilised fixed line numbers to a sub-level of “2” or “4”.
    • This will allow mobile operators to use the underutilised numbers for mobile phone connections in the future.
  • All fixed line connections should be provided with “0” dialling facility - Currently, fixed line users who have opted for subscriber trunk dialling (STD) are only provided with “0” dialling facility.
    • TRAI, however, has recommended to allow all fixed line subscribers to use the “0” dialling facility.
    • This is essential as mobile numbers would be required to dial with the prefix “0” from landline numbers.

Why to switch from 10 to 1 digits?

  • Switching from 10 to 11 digits with first digit for mobile numbers as '9' would give a total capacity of 10 billion numbers.
  • With the current policy of allotment after 70 per cent utilisation, this would suffice till India has 7 billion connections.
  • This could mean liberal allocation to service providers and administrative ease.
  • TRAI also suggested shifting data only mobile numbers, which are used in data cards, dongles and other devices for internet access, to 13-digit numbering series since they are not used for voice calls
  • It is also possible to provide private-numbering series for these numbers by the cellular mobile operators (which is internal to their network). This will release some of the numbering resources blocked by the operators.

About TRAI

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is an independent regulatory body established by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 1997 to oversee the telecommunications industryin India. 
  • TRAI is charged with ensuring the orderly growth of the telecom sector while protecting the interests of both telecom service providers and consumers.  
  • It encourages technological improvements and makes recommendations for how providers can improve efficiency and technical compatibility.
  • To that end, TRAI establishes standards for quality of service (QoS) and supervises how service providers share revenue.
  • TRAI also conducts periodical surveys to ensure that telecom service providers are acting in the best interest of consumers and are operating in compliance with universal service obligations. 

Conclusion:

India already has about 1.2 billion telephone numbers, with a tele-density of 87.47 percent. The number of fixed and mobile subscribers in the country is also growing rapidly. All this has chiefly led to finding new solutions to have adequate availability of number resources.

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