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BW Businessworld

No Lifeline, Please

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Remember the lifetime tariff schemes from telecom companies (where you get to keep the number for your lifetime)? Soon, they may not be for a lifetime; at least, most of them. The Department of Telecommunications has asked telecom operators to "clear the junk" of inactive mobile numbers that resulted from millions of subscribers accepting lifetime schemes that telecom companies offered.

The DoT's instructions are in response to growing demands for another series of mobile numbers from operators. If that involved adding a digit to your number, it will mean a major restructuring to align old numbers with new, not something that the authorities want to deal with before resolving inactive numbers.

Telecom companies acknowledged the pressure of lifetime tariff schemes on their stock of numbers at a recent meeting with senior officials of DoT, say sources in the ministry of telecommunications. How will ‘inactive' be defined? Airtel, Aircel, Idea, Vodafone and the Tatas have pointed that a certain percentage of subscriber numbers not seen in visitor location registrar (VLR) for a week should be taken as the criterion. They also agreed to consider numbers found ‘only' in home location registrar (HLR) and inactive, even within the home network for more than three months as meeting the definition. The DoT has agreed to this, and set a technical benchmark that would be examined every week. Reliance Communications has argued, DoT officials say, that its lifetime plan did had no conditions for recharging prepaid numbers every six months, and wouldn't be able to delete the numbers. But the company may have no choice in the matter.

If you have a lifetime plan in coma, and you want to keep it, now's the time the reactivate it.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 08-08-2011)