What have they done to the city phones?!

Posted: August 15, 2004 in Uncategorized

Time was when there was only Bombay Telephones. Oh sure, we had problems then. When it rained heavily, phones could be down for weeks, if not months. You had to keep the lineman in good humour (well, everyone knows what that means!), if you wanted your phone to be alive.

Then Bombay Telephones became MTNL.. a lot better service, with the coporatisation. Phones actually worked more regularly, and then we started expecting them to work all the time. Talk about customer expectation! So when they went down, for the few hours or so, we panicked, we shouted, and we paid the linesman.. and then we got the phone working.

Then came the mobile phones. First we had BPL and Orange in our city. Numbers were simple – 98200 for Orange, and 98210 for BPL. Till that time, it was clear.. if someone gave you a phone number like 4123374, you know the phone was in Matunga. 4229234 was in Dadar, and 4943590 was perhaps in Worli or Prabhadevi at most. You could recognise the area, from the first three digits of the phone. You could also recognise that 98200-12345 was an Orange phone, from Mumbai, and 98210-23456 was a BPL phone from Mumbai.

But then, in the last 2-3 years, they have gone and totally messed up things.

MTNL came out with their own mobile service. Numbers were similar to their landline numbers. Only a very close observation would indicate that a number was an MTNL mobile number and not a landline. Then came Reliance, Hughes, Tata, Airtel – prepaid, postpaid, fixed wireless phones, whew! Suddenly it seemed like the dams were broken.

Now we have numbers like 98922, 33014000, 56934500, and what not. You cannot just make out, whether the phone number is a landline or a mobile or a fixed wireless phone. You cannot make out where the landline could be located in the city, you cannot make out, if an STD call is coming in, on to your cell phone. In other words, a phone number gives you almost no hint about its origins, its allegiance, its wired or wireless nature, etc.

If the phone number itself was not confusing enough, there is a provision that is available for most users – to divert phones coming on a phone number to another number. So if you feel that you are calling what is clearly a cell phone numbers, say 98200-24680, the recipient could have easily diverted the calls on that number to his landline. So in fact, you might be actually calling a landline!

Why did they mess things up thus? I miss those good old days of simplicity. Phone numbers that could tell their own history and geography. But now with the new phone numbers, it appears as if “geography is history”!!

  1. RPM says:

    Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come? And what about caller ID and the fact that when we make calls from the US to India (or vice versa), the caller ID shows up as a US number (or a Reliance number, sometimes in US-India calls)?

    And what happens in case of VoIP where I could have a phone number with any area code in the US? And the fact that I can carry my number with me to any place.

    More and more interesting 🙂

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