Nigerian Communications Commission PHOTO:Twitter
Although, fixed lines represent only 0.13 per cent of the total telephone subscription in Nigeria, there are, however, plans that all fixed subscriber numbers will be migrated from seven to a 10-digit number like the mobile counterpart.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in the “Development Of A New Numbering Plan for Nigeria,” the draft final report released on Monday, the present numbering plan and specific assignment being utilised by the mobile service will be maintained in the newly-developed numbering plan for the nation.
The Commission said there will be no need for any changes in number length, operator codes or service codes. Consequently there is no need for any migration plan for all numbers being issued by the mobile operators to their subscribers.
But NCC said a new service identification code (0)2 is recommended for assignment to fixed services in replacement of various digits assigned as area codes in the present geographic numbering system.
According to the Commission, this is mainly to differentiate fixed services from mobile services for billing purposes since fixed services have different termination rates, adding that fixed services billing is dependent on the distance from the originating caller to the terminating (receiver) equipment.
“Where the rate is not distance-dependent, then area codes are used only for routing purposes. Presently, the Nigerian fixed network uses a geographic numbering scheme where different geographical zones are represented by area codes.
“The fixed network number also consists of eight digits including subscriber number and area code. In order to keep to our closed numbering scheme, all fixed subscriber numbers will be migrated to a 10-digit number like the mobile counterpart,” NCC stated.
Furthermore, NCC noted that apart from fixed lines constituting only 0.13 per cent of the total telephone subscription; it is a big waste of scarce resources to reserve numbers for services that are not being used by the public.
According to NCC, the digits reserved for area codes are preventing the use of certain digits for mobile numbers since the two services have to be fully differentiated, as such the elimination of area codes will free up over one billion subscriber numbers, which can be assigned to mobile telephone number and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.
“For example, because fixed lines in Abuja are assigned ‘09’ as area codes, the following codes, 092, 093, 094, 095, 096, 097, 098 099 cannot be used as starting digits for mobile service until the geographic numbering system is passed out. These area codes are tying down a total of 80 million directory numbers. The same goes for 01, 02, 03 (IBADAN) 05 (Benin) 06 (Kaduna), 08 (Enugu) area codes,” NCC explained.
The document explained that adoption of fixed-length, 10-digit closed numbering plan will enable a single lead digit ‘2’ assigned to fixed services to cater for one billion fixed numbers instead of a maximum of one million directory number options possible with the present six-digit numbering scheme.
NCC said the new generation networks deploy mesh network architecture and IP-centric transport layer protocols, which makes geographic numbering schemes obsolete, adding that most networks today have in-built mobility management functionalities and hence geographic location is not a constraint to call routing.
“Based on the above reasons, area codes/geographical numbering system is here by phased out in Nigeria and replaced with a 10-digit numbering scheme,” NCC stated.
The Commission said in the new fixed numbering structure, and geographical codes will be replaced with a new three-digit operator code. The previous three-digit operator code assigned by NCC will now form part of the seven-digit subscriber number under the new structure; all fixed numbers will now start with digit 6, which will form part of the operator code, and all fixed numbers will henceforth be 10 digits just like the mobile service numbers.
On the regulatory implication, NCC said it will assign new operator codes to all fixed line operators to replace old codes. It announced that the old codes will not be withdrawn; they will be added to the subscriber numbers.