With 5G promising to bring billions of devices into the fold, Japan hopes to meet that demand by announcing plans to create 10 billion 14-digit phone numbers. As The Japan Times reported today, all the new numbers will start with the code “020.”
The plan is to introduce the new numbers by the end of 2021 at the latest. Three of Japan’s largest mobile operators — NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank — agreed to the idea and will update their systems to accommodate the 10 billion new numbers. Japan’s communications ministry plans to reward carriers for ahead-of-schedule support.
Japan expects to run out of 11-digit numbers as early as fiscal 2022, which starts April 1 of that year for the Japanese government.
The 14 billion new numbers sound excessive, but keep in mind that Internet of Things (IoT) devices have been using 11-digit numbers that start with “020” since January 2017. Also, carriers have already taken 32.6 million of the 11-digit 020 numbers that were allocated two years ago.
14-digit numbers could prove troublesome for the masses, since there will be more numbers to remember. That issue could be exacerbated among Japan’s aging population. It’s estimated that people older than 60 make up 33 percent of the Japanese population.
Even so, we could see similar announcements in other countries that plan to deploy 5G networks and are running low on allocated phone numbers. It’s not as much of an issue in the U.S., where a North American Numbering Plan exhaust analysis estimates that the country’s current numbering system is sufficient until 2044.