In order to provide better security features, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has reportedly issued a directive to all telecom operators to issue 13-digit mobile numbers to M2M (Machine to Machine) customers and one of the first operators to start working in this direction is state-run BSNL. The existing numbers will reportedly be ported to the new format starting October 1, 2018.
As reported by News18, a senior BSNL official revealed that the directive from the DoT came on January 8, 2018, and the operator has started working on it. The operator is quoted as saying, “It is decided that 13-digit M2M (Machine-to-machine) numbering plan will be implemented from July 1, 2018. From this date onwards, all new M2M mobile connections will be allocated 13-digit numbers only… Migration of existing 10-digit M2M numbers will start latest by October 1, 2018 and shall be completed by December 31, 2018.”
With this implementation, Indians will possibly have the longest mobile numbers in the world. Neighbouring China has 11-digit mobile numbers, excluding the area code, while French regions of Gaudeloupe, Martinique and Reunion have longer numbers, CNBCnews.in states.
Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel in its written response to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation paper on ‘Spectrum, Roaming and QoS related requirements in Machine-to-Machine Communications’, wrote, “DoT has already approved a 13-digit numbering series for SIM-based M2M devices which will co-exist with the prevalent 10-digit mobile numbering scheme to be allocated for the Unified Licence (Access Service Authorization).” On the other hand, the Ministry of Communication also confirmed the development through its letter to TRAI saying, “13-digit numbering scheme has been approved for SIM-based M2M devices.”
To understand, M2M SIM refers to technologies which enable devices and sensors or things to communicate with each other and with other Internet-enabled devices and systems. This could also form the core of IoT devices in the near future as India gears up for embracing 5G by 2020. These SIMs can also be used in any mobile phone, allowing for more flexibility of usage.
Although the implementation of the 13-digit mobile number is touted to be more secure, it is unclear how it will ensure this. Also, given that the use cases are larger, concerns about the potential hijacking of connected systems are likely to arise as well. What also makes the implementation of the new format trickier is that there are about a billion mobile users in the country, and the current guideline of linking their Aadhaar numbers to their mobile numbers is yet to be completed. Now, migrating them to an all-new number which will be lengthier will again be a challenge for the operators and from consumers’ perspective, 10-digit numbers were already difficult to remember, 13-digit ones are out of the question.