India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has rejected proposals put forward by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for the introduction of a ten-digit number series for fixed line voice accesses. According to the Hindu Business Line, the DoT has instead suggested that fixed line numbers should remain at eight digits in length, but that the number series starting with 2 and 4 should be made available to all operators; these numbers are presently reserved exclusively for state-owned telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL). Private operators meanwhile are currently numbers assigned different starting digits for their respective fixed line services, with 3 being used by Reliance Communications (RCOM), 6 by Tata Teleservices, 5 by Quadrant Televentures and Sistema Shyam Teleservices and 4 by Bharti Airtel. The DoT maintains that there is enough capacity in the 2 and 4 number series to accommodate all other operators and free up the other numbering series for wireless services. In rejecting the TRAI proposal, the DoT committee claimed that the switch to a ten-digit number series would require changes in fixed line exchanges, in the way calls are routed, and also in operators billing software.
The TRAI had suggested an integrated 10-digit number system for both mobile and fixed connections similar to the system implemented in the US. Such a proposal was made with a view to increasing the amount of phone numbers available in order to cope with growth in subscriber numbers. The country’s existing numbering system was designed to cope with 750 million connections, and was supposed to last until 2030, but with mobile subscriber numbers alone having passed this number as far back as 2009 it has come under continued strain.