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Mobile numbers to begin with 8 now
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PUNE: The scorching pace of growth of India’s mobile phone use is clear from the fact that the department of telecommunications has exhausted cell phone numbers beginning with 9. Soon, mobile phone companies are expected to issue cell phone numbers beginning with 8.

Moreover, the 95 sub-level of telephone numbers, earlier reserved for trunk calls or STD dialling within a telecom circle, has now begun to be alloted to cellular operators. ET had first reported in March the DoT’s order, asking telecom companies to vacate the 95 level from landline use. The impact of this move is that 10 crore new numbers come into play, around half of which are expected to be alloted to companies. DoT will keep the balance as spare capacity.

The country’s cellular subscriber base has been growing substantially over the last couple of years, which led to the exhaustion of the existing sublevels of 9. According to TRAI, the telecom industry regulator, India had 415 million cellular subscribers at the end of May 2009, compared to 277 million a year ago. Expecting a similar growth over the next few years, DoT is considering an 11-digit numbering system from next year.

With the new numbering series being available, mobile companies are likely to auction some of the special numbers, particularly in newer rural markets although senior officials of mobile telephone companies ET spoke to denied such auctioning. However, several companies invite customers to bid for such numbers, either through their websites or through customer service outlets.

In the past, companies like BSNL, Idea, Tata Teleservices , Vodafone, Airtel etc have auctioned special numbers thus earning large sums of money, particularly from politicians and businessmen. In August 08 alone, state-owned BSNL earned Rs 1.15 crore from the auction of 2000 numbers. Hutch (now Vodafone) sold the most expensive number so far at Rs 15 lakh in 2007 to a Ludhianabased businessman. Tata Teleservices routinely auctions cellular numbers on its website, with prices ranging from Rs 10,000 to over Rs 1 lakh.

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