"All the fixed-line subscribers should be provided with `0' dialling facility, that is, STD dialling facility," said the circular posted on DoT's website.

DoT’s new rule: Dialling fixed line to cell phone numbers require zero prefix

Coming into effect from January 15th, 2020, callers using fixed lines, that is landlines, will soon be required to add ‘0’ prefix for making calls to mobile phones in India.

Dated May 29, 2020, telecom regulatory body, TRAI had proposed this to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which has accepted the modified dialling pattern from fixed line numbers to cellular mobile numbers. The ‘0’ prefix for such calls is reportedly done as a move to create sufficient numbering space for telecom services.

This used to be the case earlier where landline users needed to add ‘0’ prefix when calling mobile numbers. However, in 2015, the calling system was simplified, removing the need to add a ‘0’ prefix before calling a mobile number.

“Following may be implemented…Fixed-to-mobile calls shall be dialled with prefix ‘0’. Suitable announcement may be fed in the fixed-line switches to appraise the fixed-line subscribers about the requirement of dialling the prefix ‘0’ for all fixed-to-mobile calls,” read the DoT circular.

“All the fixed-line subscribers should be provided with `0′ dialling facility, that is, STD dialling facility,” said the circular posted on DoT’s website.

An automated message, from Jan 1st, giving appropriate instructions with the new dialling pattern is expected to play for calls dialled to mobile numbers without the prefix ‘0’.

Why was this prefix incorporation done?

After thorough research on the issue of creating adequate numbering resources for fixed-line and mobile services, TRAI has arrived at this conclusion of affixing the zero. TRAI ascertains that this change in the dialling pattern will generate 2,544 million additional numbering resources for mobile services to cater to the future requirements. However, the introduction of a dialling prefix for a particular type of call is not the same as increasing the number of digits in the telephone number, says TRAI.

TRAI believes that as India has a 10-digit mobile numbering plan, and that series for numbers starting with “0” and “1” are reserved for special purposes, about 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”.

So, currently, with these combinations a total of 115 crore mobile numbers are available. Apparently, the number combination series beginning with “9” has been fully used, and those starting with other numbers overlap with certain numbering plans issued to landline phones. That is why in order to create sufficient numbering combinations, the prefix “0” has been re-introduced.

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. TRAI expects that with this zero incorporation can cause a generation of 253.9 crore new numbers.

With the freeing up of sufficient numbering resources, more number of connections can be added in future which will be beneficial to the mobile customers at large.

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