The Numbers Race

SPN 80's Phone OnLMadrid and Guipúzcoa have run out of new telephone numbers for landlines, so the only way out is to issue new area-code prefixes.

Everybody knew that one day this would happen, despite the fact that more and more people now only have mobile phones, but now the big day has arrived in Madrid and the Basque Lands and the rest of the country is not far behind them

It was the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC), that foresaw the problem and introduced a number reserve in 1998.

Currently, all Madrid numbers are preceded by 91 and then seven numbers: 91 123 4567, for example, so the idea being thrown around for Madrid is to have 919 or 819 prefixes, whereas the Basque numbers would also be 843 as well as the 943 present ones.

Now, the reason that this is important is because it won’t be long before our 958 Granada numbers suffer the same fate. The numbers on a national level are 79.8% used up on average; obviously it varies according to the province.

Many of our readers will remember when you only had to dial six numbers for inter-province calls and would only have to use the provincial prefix if you were dialing outside the province. That all changed in 1998, which is when the full nine digits became obligatory, no matter if it were only a local call. Other provisions were also brought into being, which we will explain later.

The reason that all this changed was the spectacular growth of mobile-phone use: in 1998 there were 4-million users; by March 2006, just eight years later, there was one phone per inhabitant (40 million at the time). In 2014 it reached 50 million, outstripping the population that stood at 46.5 million.

Originally, all mobile-phone numbers began with 906 or 907 but these numbers were used up in no time at all. It was also confusing because just by looking at the first three numbers you knew the province: 91* Madrid, 93*, Cataluña, 95* Andalucia, etc. Yet with the 90* numbers you had 906 high-cost calls and then 907 & 908 a mobile – get it wrong and it becomes expensive.

But it didn’t stop there because when Telefónica lost the monopoly and private operators came into being for land-line services, they had their own prefixes; Airtel had 970,  but dial 971 and you were phoning the Balearics. Dial 908 you got a Movistar mobile but get it the wrong way around 980 and you were phoning Valladolid.

It couldn’t go on.

The first measure was to get the mobiles out of the 907 & 908 system and give them all numbers beginning with six. This gave the mobiles initially plenty of space to grow in but it didn’t really gain much space in the 9** *** *** numbers; hence in 1998 they took steps to prepare 8** *** *** numbers for the crunch, which is why you are now beginning to see 858 numbers for Granada as we near the limit for our old 958 ones.

Oh by the way, we’re starting to see 7** *** *** numbers for mobiles because the 6-beginning numbers are nearing exhaustion.

(News: Spain)

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