India is running out of mobile numbers!

Mobile penetration is deep in India!

With world’s second largest population and a deep penetration of the cell phones already reaching a billion and growing, India has a unique problem at hand.  It is running out of new mobile phone numbers!

“There might be a serious problem if a new series of numbers are not brought in by the middle of next year. We are theoretically reaching the limit of existing number sets with a subscriber base of one billion,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Some are suggesting 11 digit numbers – unlike the rest of the world, which has 10 – but there have to be some other solution surely!  The DoT realizes the difficulty in going to 11 digit cell phone numbers:

“DoT said that it may need remapping of networks and there might be issues conforming to international numbering standards too. DoT hasn’t rejected the idea completely but is looking into alternatives,” said Mathews.

Usually, the allocation of numbers is madeto operators in batches and typically more numbers are out there than have been allocated.

….allocation of numbers to operators is done in batches, depending on factors like the size of subscriber base and efficiency in utilizing existing number sets, among other things.  A batch system is followed to avoid chaos due to all kinds of phone numbers flooding the market.  Since a particular range of numbers is given to an operator, it generally has an identifier like the first two digits, for example 98 or 99, which come to be associated with that operator.

One thing doesn’t seem to be right here.  I have seen numbers starting not just with 98 and 99 but with 97 and other numbers as well.  Also many numbers – Reliance I believe – starting with 7xx..  So, instead of 11 digit, why can we use the other first digits?

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