In a bid to encourage efficient use of numbering resources, DoT has been asked to charge a special levy for numbers allocated to telecom operators. A special research team (SRT) formed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended that DoT “earn revenue’’ and reasonably charge for each number.The SRT has said in its report that service providers may be asked to pay the licensor a one-time charge of Rs 5 for mobile numbers and Rs 1 for fixed numbers held by them. These would be applicable for numbers already held by subscribers and for future allocations as well.
If accepted, telecom companies may have to pay DoT for all new numbers. The number fee is charged across the world. The aim is to discipline the use of numbers without cramping growth. Most regulators in Europe put a modest charge on numbers.
Currently, telecom operators do not pay for numbering resources allocated to them. New number blocks are assigned to service providers without any charge, as and when requested by them, after showing 60% utilisation in case of mobile service.The Trai research team has said that most of the telecom operators charge their subscribers for allocating preferred numbers or “vanity numbers’’. Some service providers even resort to auctioning of such numbers for a higher revenue.
The research team’s recommendation to realise revenue is a drive to encourage effective utilisation of numbers. Numbers are an extremely valuable public resource.If this regime does come into play, sources indicated that telecom operators would be permitted to obtain numbers in smaller blocks based on their actual requirements, subject to a minimum block size decided by DoT.
The Trai research team also recommended that resale of numbers should not be permitted. “No adjustments are proposed in case the subscribers migrate from one service provider to another.The development comes close on the heels of DoT’s plans to introduce the 11 digits numbering system. The rough base limit for the 10 digit number system is about 450 million subscribers, which is likely to be crossed by 2010. With 15 million mobile subscribers being added on every month, the current number of mobile subscribers at 376 million (at the end of February 2009) is likely to cross the limit (450 million), in the next 10-15 months.Currently, only two countries — China and the United Kingdom — use the 11-digit number system.