It is not every day that we get to see a country worried that they are running out of phone numbers but that does not mean that it doesn’t happen. While other countries such as Kenya (which recently introduced a new 01 prefix to complement the current 07 prefixes) do this after a long period, Japan’s problem can be easily considered recurring.
See, the country only recently introduced a new prefix, back in 2017, the 020 prefix that was specifically assigned to the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Reports indicate that 32.6 million of the 80 million available 020 numbers had already been assigned by the end of March 2019. Now, Japan Times reports that by 2022, the country will have run out of phone numbers.
The solution? The company wants to create 10 billion new numbers all with the 020 prefix but instead of being the current 11 digits, these new ones will contain 14 digits.
The problem is not that Japan has a lot of people if this was the case, India’s 10-digit phone numbers would have been first to run out but Japan has a high number of connected devices which require a cellular data connection, thus the need for phone numbers on these IoT devices.
Japan wants to introduce these new numbers by the end of 2021 and the proposal has already been approved by NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank, the country’s major telcos. As much as adding additional digits to phone numbers offers a solution, it could also create a problem for humans as the longer the phone number, the harder it will be for people to cram numbers.