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Explained: Why prefixing 0 will be mandatory for fixed-line to mobile calls from Jan 15

Given that India has 10-digit mobile numbering plans, and that series for numbers starting with “0” and “1” are reserved for special purposes, theoretically 800 crore numbers are possible.

Written by Pranav Mukul , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 26, 2020 7:56:31 am
All calls made from landline to mobile phones will be dialled with the prefix “0” from January 15.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has mandated prefixing “0” for all calls being made from fixed-line or landline phones to mobile phones with effect from January 15. This follows recommendations from the sector regulator TRAI, which had arrived to this conclusion after studying the issue of adequate numbering resources for fixed line and mobile services.

What has been the change?

All calls made from landline to mobile phones will be dialled with the prefix “0” from January 15. Those dealing a mobile number from a fixed line phones without the prefix will hear an announcement. Dialling “0” before the mobile phone number was a practice followed for outstation mobile numbers before the government allowed inter-circle mobile number portability, which effectively meant that there was no trunk dialling when it came to mobile numbers and all numbers were considered local. However, from January 15, the dialling procedure for mobile phones to mobile phones will not change.

What was the need to re-introduce the “0” prefix?

Given that India has 10-digit mobile numbering plans, and that series for numbers starting with “0” and “1” are reserved for special purposes, theoretically 800 crore numbers are possible. Till now, mobile numbers were traditionally registered to series starting from “9”, and some combinations starting with “8”, “7” and “6”.

Currently, with these combinations a total of 115 crore  mobile numbers are available. Even though the “9” series — meaning mobile numbers starting with “9” has been fully used, those starting with other numbers overlap with certain numbering plans issued to landline phones. Therefore, to create sufficient numbering combinations, the prefix “0” has been re-introduced. In addition to subscription of mobile numbers by consumers, SIM cards are also being used for machine-to-machine communication purposes.

These include use-cases such as smart meters, for which the government has already allocated a 13-digit numbering system. TRAI had also recommended that all the SIM-based M2M connections using 10-digit mobile numbering series should be shifted to the 13- digit numbering series allocated by DoT for M2M communication; at the earliest. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

What is the impact of this?

As of August 31, 2020 there were already 114.79 crore wireless subscribers in the country. On the one hand wireless subscriptions are gradually increasing, on the other landline subscriptions are recording a decrease in user base. Several series have so far been exclusively allocated to landline operators.

For example, “2” has been allocated to landline numbers of BSNL and MTNL, “4” has been allocated to Airtel, “35” and “796” has been allocated to Reliance Jio. The decision to add the prefix will not only clear the overlap between landline and mobile phone numbers carrying the same series but will also free up numbering resources for mobile phones in the future. In the near term itself, the exercise will result in generation of 253.9 crore numbers.

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