Thai mobile operator TA Orange (True Mobile) has asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for 2.5 million new mobile telephone numbers to address an acute shortage and allow for its future expansion plans. The cellco first made a request in November 2004, and the NTC now says it plans to meet with TOT Corp and CAT Telecom to see whether they have unused numbers which could be re-allocated to TA Orange. The operator ended 2004 with 3.38 million users and says it has 1.2 million numbers reserved for new ones. It hopes to sign up a million new users during the course of 2005. If it fails to secure the new numbers, rivals AIS and DTAC could exploit the situation and steal away new customers. AIS has 23.69 million numbers, of which 17.3 million are in use, and DTAC has 7.8 million subscribers out of a total of 11.7 million available numbers. Meanwhile, Thai Mobile – the joint venture of TOT and CAT – has two million numbers but only 100,000 subscribers. Industry watchers have been quick to blame the NTC for the problem TA Orange faces, arguing that the regulator has been too slow in drafting new legislation which would have resolved the situation. In its defence, the NTC says that around 90 million numbers were given to TOT when the country changed to a seven-digit system, and that there should be tens of millions of these still available.