In response to the fear of soon running out of its 11-digit phone number by the end of 2020, Japan’s communication ministry has ordered the generation of ten billion 14-digit phone numbers.
According to the Japan Times, the proposal has been approved and accepted by the three major mobile operators there – NTT Docomo, SoftBank, and KDDI. The new numbers will be introduced before 2021 ends.
The reason behind this unnatural (soon-to-be natural) dilemma
The 10 billion phone numbers will start with their usual ‘020’, that is, the prefix that Japan currently uses for all the Internet of Things devices. Despite being introduced in 2017, approximately 33 billion out of the 80 million ‘020’ numbers have been registered as of March 2019. Furthermore, with Japan’s 5G network due to launch in 2021, more devices will be connected to the internet. Thus, putting more pressure on the amount of numbers available.
Japan is not alone
If you are thinking Japan is the only country facing this problem then you are wrong. Back in 2014, people in the United Kingdoms had to include the five digit area code before making a call even if the call was local. It was because they were running out of numbers.
But due to their shift toward IP-based telephone network, UK’s telecom services are debating whether to drop off the concept of area codes completely, to ease the hassle by degrees.
With the 5G network soon to be introduced everywhere in the world, Japan might not be the only country struggling to produce more numbers as the devices connected to the internet are going to increase by the millions. And it is only sensible to assign machines longer chains of numbers as they are to be never addressed by the humans. But mobile phone numbers are going to be the major problem.