Plan for additional landline digit strays
TOT can't find B1bn for project's budget
The government's plan to add one digit to all nine-digit fixed-line telephone numbers nationwide by 2021 is at risk of faltering as state telecom enterprise TOT struggles to acquire a budget of 1 billion baht to develop a transmission system to facilitate the change.
The change was earlier pushed by the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry and the telecom regulator, which indicated that adding one digit would increase the supply of mobile phone numbers substantially.
Under the plan, the existing nine-digit numbers would get an additional digit after the prefix 0 in the province code. For example, Bangkok telephone provincial code 02 would turn into 012. This would make room for mobile phone numbers to start with 02.
In pursuing the plan, the government expects the supply of phone numbers to rise to 550 million, of which 500 million would be for mobile services and 50 million for fixed-line numbers.
More mobile phone numbers are needed as demand rises for machine-to-machine connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The plan was approved by the cabinet in 2017 but has yet to get off the ground.
President Monchai Noosong said that although TOT is pursuing the plan, there is no clear indication of what financial resources the enterprise can use to carry out the scheme.
He said TOT has no budget to pursue the move. Although TOT sought a budget from the DE Ministry's Digital Economy Fund, the plan's purpose was deemed to fall beyond the fund's scope, Mr Monchai said.
"A clear budget resource should have been secured in July to pursue the 10-digit fixed-line phone numbers, as planned in 2021," he said, adding that TOT will inform the government about all limitations soon.
TOT has gradually been upgrading fixed-line transmissions under its business roadmap, with equipment parts getting replacements.
Mr Monchai said the 10-digit transformation may not have to be hastily completed by 2021 as planned, since the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has already set aside 260 million numbers for mobile operators.
In addition, the machine-to-machine connectivity of smart devices and the IoT could require special numbers, such as a prefix number 067 followed by 14 digits for IoT connectivity, he said.
The plan for 10-digit landline numbers is part of the regulatory framework and digital infrastructure to enhance the country's development and digital economy.
Mobile numbers cannot have prefixes of 02, 03, 04, 05 and 07 because of limited transmission settings.
The nine-digit numbers of fixed-line phone numbers would remain accessible during the transition period, according to the government's plan.