NEW NUMBERING SYSTEM - MOST SUBSCRIBERS UNAFFECTED
SOHAIL RAZA QIZILBASH
July 21 - 27, 2008
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is a statutory body established under the Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996, with the mandate to regulate and control the rapidly growing and booming telecommunication industry in the country. In addition to issuing license to the telecom operators, it also provides policies and frames rules, regulations, instructions etc from time to time, which the telecom operators are required to follow in letter and spirit. PTA has to remain alert to the rapidly changing environments within the country as well as remain abreast of the new technologies and innovations worldwide so as to incorporate them in its policies. This is why Pakistan telecom industry is the leader in this field in South Asia. It also has to undertake effective monitoring of the performance of the various telecom operators. The basic underlying agenda in this regard is to provide the best service at the cheapest rates to the subscribers while providing a level playing field to the telecom operators.
Numbering and addressing is not only one of the most important fundamental functions of a network but it also is the sole means of identifying not just the subscriber but also the network itself. That is why telecom numbering plans are considered as national resources and in Pakistan these resources have been entrusted to PTA. Certain basic parameters and facts in this regard need to be understood:-
* As a result of two new Cellular Mobile Telecom Operators (CMTOs) in 2004 and expansion carried out by all CMTOs, the subscriber density has not just grown rapidly but continues to grow. At present the number of mobile telecom subscribers is 80 million and it is increasing at the monthly rate of 1 to 1.5 million.
* The present annual increase of subscribers between 12 to 18 million may increase further with the expected growth in the national economy, so that a few years hence, the annual increase of subscribers may well go beyond 20 million.
* To differentiate between various telecommunication services, such as cellular mobile, fixed line and wireless local loop (WLL), telephone numbers are segregated in different categories.
* While PTA is the sole agency to regulate and control the telecom industry in Pakistan, it is also a member of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and is bound to adhere to the international standards laid down by it.
* ITU-T standards E-164 lays down the geographical numbering plan including that of local loop and cellular mobile operators. The latter are identified by 4-digit separate access code known as National Destination Code (NDC). It can be numerically explained as 03xx followed by a seven digit subscriber number with numbers ranging from 0 to 9. The first fifty codes are reserved for cellular mobile operators. It, therefore, follows that a subscriber number consists of 11-digits, i.e. NDC and a seven digit number starting from 2 to 9.
* The allotment of cellular mobile numbers in Pakistan is based on geographical boundaries that limit the utilization to 50-60% of the numbering space available against each NDC. Thus the capacity of each access code to accommodate subscribers (excluding levels "0" and "1") is 8 million. The CMTOs, thus, have no choice but to utilize multiple access codes in order to accommodate the increasing number of subscribers. Keeping in view the rate of increase mentioned above and the number of subscribers at present, something needs to be done in order to allay the situation.
The studies and consultations started in 2007. A consultation paper by PTA was circulated to all stake holders and after extensive discussions and examinations of various options a consensus emerged and the plan that was devised is known as "7 to 8 Mobile Number Migration Plan". Conceptually this plan is very simple and its implementation guarantees the results that are desired. The plan was to be implemented in four phases as per the international practice which includes:-
1. 1st Phase. Public Awareness Campaign from January to March 2008.
2. 2nd Phase. Parallel Operations from April to June 2008. During this phase both the old and the new numbers can be used.
3. 3rd Phase. Announcement Phase from July to September 2008.
4. 4th Phase. Sterilization Process thereafter.
The 11-digit dialing format of subscribers of Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor and Warid will remain the same. To illustrate the change, let us take the mobile number of this scribe:0300-5551390. The planned migration of number means only that of the access code or NDC, as explained above, will change to 030 and the subscriber number will have the last digit of the NDC added as the first digit, so that the entire number would read as 030-05551390. No change as far as I am concerned, is there? As mentioned earlier, this will hold good for the numbers of Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor and Warid. So, where is the change, one may ask. The change indicated above is to be implemented at the core network, which is the job of the network operator and the subscriber does not have to lose any sleep over it.
There will, however, be a change for the subscribers of CMPAK, Instaphone and SCOM (for AJK and Northern Areas). The total number of subscribers of the three is around 2 million and out of a total subscriber base of 80 million, this constitutes only 2.5%. Thus, the plan envisages least amount of botheration to the subscribers. During the Parallel Operation Phase (up to 30 June 2008), new numbers of subscribers shall appear on the called party's CLI thus enabling its memorizing and storing. The details of the changes with respect to these three mobile operators are best described in the table below:-
The necessary changes are made in the centralized database that is maintained by Pakistan Mobile Database Guarantees Ltd used for MNP. The modifications have already been carried out successfully for all fixed line, WLL, long distance international and mobile networks.
The 7 to 8 Mobile Number Migration Plan has several advantages, the most important being that each single NDC (one per operator) has a capacity of 100 million numbers and this expansion in capacity is sufficient to cater to the projected increase in the number of subscribers for the next two decades. The expected successful completion of Phase 2 of the plan (Parallel Operations) indicates that PTA has taken another step in the right direction and contrary to the customary practice or inability to plan ahead, it has effectively smoothened the field for at least next twenty years due to its long term policies and effective discharge of its mandated duties. For this achievement no amount of kudos and accolades are enough.
ASKARI BANK TO USE ORACLE SOFTWARE TO MODERNISE ITS BANKING OPERATIONS
LAHORE: Askari Bank of Pakistan has selected Oracle software to modernise its banking operations, provide world-class service to its customers and compete better with local and international banks operating in Pakistan.
Askari Bank has selected Oracle Applications including Oracle's FLEXCUBE Universal Banking Solution, Reveleus Basel II Solution, FLEXCUBE Islamic Banking and Siebel Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Techlogix, an Oracle Partner, will implement the software over a period of 18 months, a spokesman of the bank told PAGE.
According to him, Oracle applications will help Askari Bank become compliant with Pakistan State Bank regulations and with important international risk management standards such as those specified in Basel II guidelines. Oracle's Siebel CRM software will help Askari Bank manage end-to-end relationships with its customers.
"With increasing competition in the Pakistani banking industry, we have to make our operations more efficient and compliant with the global banking industry best practices," the spokesman said quoting President of Askari Bank Ltd., M. R. Mehkari.
"We believe our choice of the best banking industry software from Oracle and Techlogix, the local implementation experts, will help us roll out this complex IT project and will eventually streamline our operations and help us stay profitable.
Banking is a strategic industry for Oracle with 17 of the top 20 banks globally already running Oracle Applications", said Oracle's Regional Director for SAGE-West, Samina Rizwan. "Oracle has been delivering demonstrable value to its customers in banking industry for decades. Our software will serve the unique needs of Askari Bank such as performance analysis, activity based management, financial data management, risk management, budgeting and planning to help in effective resource management".
"We look forward to partnership with Askari Bank to realize its strategic vision as it migrates towards a best in class application and technology platform," said Salman Akhtar, Co-CEO of Techlogix. "We believe the solution rollout at Askari Bank will set the benchmark for the banking industry in Pakistan."