Ireland to conserve phone numbers to avoid €1bn bill

14 Mar 2016

Ireland is running out of geographic and mobile phone numbers and so regulator ComReg recommends conserving numbers or risk a €1bn bill for operators

Ireland is running out of phone numbers and Ireland’s telecoms regulator ComReg is to instigate a landline and mobile number conservation policy to avoid a financial cost of more than €1bn to the telecoms industry and local economy.

Anticipating demand from over-the-top (OTT) services such as Facebook Messenger and the rise of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications that will require dedicated SIM cards, ComReg said the measures will be necessary.

It said that demand for geographic (local area) numbers as well as mobile numbers continues to grow.

ComReg’s options are to conserve existing number allocations or introduce an extra digit to existing mobile numbers.

The regulator has commissioned a number of reports on the matter from Analysys Maso and European Economics to estimate the scale of the problem and the cost of the solution.

The numbers are almost up, warns ComReg

ComReg estimates that the five currently used 08X ranges for mobile numbers could be exhausted by 2023.

One option is to introduce new number ranges, including 082 and 084, and re-introduce the 088 number range that existed during the era of analogue mobile phones.

This option could create 62m unreserved numbers and push the exhaustion date back to 2036.

However, it warned that based on research from European Economics any change to the 01 number for Dublin, for example, could cost €337m based on 2011 estimates, while Analysys Mason estimates that any change to 08X mobile numbers could cost as much as €650m.

“Therefore, any changes to geographic and mobile numbers should be avoided where possible and measures to ensure efficient usage should be put in place to mitigate the need for changes in the short to medium term.”

ComReg said it has met with the larger fixed-line operators and mobile operators on several occasions to assess their current business practices and the impact number conservation changes could have.

These operators currently hold 11m or 84pc of all assigned geographic numbers and 20m or 88pc of all assigned mobile numbers.

Smartphone image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years