Icasa clears the way for 10-digit phone dialling

CONSUMERS will have to get used to dialling 10-digit numbers even for local calls from October 16 when dialling changes are introduced.

Callers will also need to dial “00” to connect to other countries, as the “09” code is being phased out to bring SA in line with international practices.

The changes are part of a new numbering plan implemented finally by the Independent Communication Authority of SA (Icasa) yesterday.

The digital overhaul has been pending since 2001, when Telkom first altered its dialling system to handle 10-digit

Now 10-digit dialling will be mandatory, with users dialling a three-digit area prefix before the normal seven-digit number and replacing 09 with 00 as the international prefix.

The new plan will boost the number of fixed-line numbers, especially in Gauteng where numbers are scarce. If Telkom is to enjoy a surge in demand for fixed line phones, it could allocate an 010 prefix to supplement 011 numbers, allowing millions more numbers to be assigned.

Icasa needs to make room for new competitors. It allocated 087 numbers to private networking companies that offer voice over internet protocol services, allowing customers to make cut-price voice calls over the internet.

To give users time to adjust, Telkom will still route calls dialled with seven digits to their destinations until next January. After that, forgetful diallers will hear announcements requesting them to dial a national prefix first. From March 16 any users still suffering from finger trouble will hear the number unavailable tone.

A get-it-right period will also apply to international calls, with the 09 prefix still reaching destinations for three months in parallel with the new 00 code. After January 16, only the 00 prefix will work.

“What is essentially needed is a mind set change where the area code always precedes the fixed-line number. It is identical to a fixed-line call being made from a cellular phone,” said corporate communication executive Lulu Letlape.

Cellular numbers already consisted of 10 digits so calls from fixed-lines to cellular phones did not require dialling changes. Dialling a national code for a local call would incur no extra cost as consumers would still be charged for only a local call, said Letlape.

Telkom plans a campaign to prepare customers for the change. Consumers have to reprogramme numbers they use for dial-up internet access, reprogramme alarm systems connected to telephone numbers, and reprogramme call- forwarding and speed-dialling numbers.

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Icasa clears the way for 10-digit phone dialling