One billion new phone numbers on way in online plan

Adrian Weckler Technology Editor

THE telecoms regulator is planning to release up to one billion new phone numbers as part of a new online initiative.

The scheme, to be introduced by Comreg for so-called machine-to-machine communications, will see phone numbers allocated to cars, industrial equipment and even household refrigerators.

Such objects will have the ability to contact each other by pre-allocated design, to facilitate the next wave of industrial and consumer-friendly technology.

The numbers are expected to take the prefix 077 followed by seven digits.

The new numbers are being introduced to prevent congestion on the existing phone number framework from imminent machine-to-machine developments.

"It is Comreg's view that action should be taken immediately to mitigate the risk that any sudden snowballing demand for numbers from the machine-to-machine sector could drive future number changes that might adversely impact ordinary consumers," said a briefing document from Comreg.

"In Ireland, there is a real risk that existing numbering ranges will be unable to provide sufficient numbering capacity for machine-to-machine applications while also meeting traditional numbering demands."

From 2015, car manufacturers will be required to provide an eCall emergency call system – typically operated via an embedded telephone sim card – in all new vehicles sold in the EU.

Other examples of devices that use inaccessible sim cards include Kindle ebook reading devices, which can download books across mobile networks automatically.

Analysis firm Machina Research predicts there will be 25 million machine-to-machine online connections in Ireland by 2020.

Comreg is proposing to allocate blocks of 100,000 numbers to mobile operators and blocks of 10,000 numbers to fixed-line operators. New premium-rate numbers will also be part of the scheme.


Machine-to-machine connections are widely considered to help eradicate waste and duplication, and would allow machines in the energy, health and transportation sectors to communicate.

Irish operators are predicting a boom in machine-to-machine communications, also called the 'internet of things' in technology circles.

"While there are natural factors that limit demand for numbering for human use, the same limiting factors don't exist for M2M," said a submission from O2 to Ireland's regulator.

"It is possible that there could be up to 30 million active devices in Ireland before 2020."