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10 or 11? - Digit dilemma for TRAI

March 15, 2010
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TRAI's latest proposal to shift to an 11digit mobile number regime and charge a fee from operators for allocating new numbers has met with stiff opposition from most telecom players, except Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL).

The existing 10-digit National Numbering Plan was formulated for a projected 450 million mobile subscribers. However, with the subscriber base crossing 500 million, the plan has fallen way short of its designed capacity. In order to close the demand-supply gap, TRAI has been planning to move to an 11-digit regime.

Responding to TRAI's consultation paper on this issue, most mobile firms have suggested that the digits which have been reserved for fixed line services be opened for mobile telephony. According to them, levels 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, which are reserved for fixed line services, have remained highly underutilised due to the decline in the number of fixed line connections in the past few years. Currently, over 90 per cent of the mobile numbers begin with 9 as this level has been completely opened up for mobile telephony. Of late, DoT has also opened up sub-levels 8 and 7 for this space. However, RCOM and TTSL feel that eventually the country would have to move to an 11-digit scheme to address the growth in the mobile subscriber base.

Meanwhile, TRAI's proposal to charge a fee for allocating new numbers has been opposed by all operators. BSNL has argued that the operators are already paying a licence fee for providing telecom services, of which numbering resources form an integral part. According to Bharti, operators are paying 30 per cent of their gross revenues towards levies and duties despite a major fall in tariffs and therefore, proposing another levy is completely unwarranted. Other players like RCOM and MTNL have expressed similar views. TRAI, on the other hand, believes that a price can act as a check on operators who hand out numbers to attract customers.

 
 
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