The surprising growth in the number of cellular phone users
have prompted Nippon Telegraph and Telephone to create new
identification prefixes for the phones. In January 1996 the
prefixes 080 and 090 will be added to the identification
numbers currently in use.
During July 1995 a record 470,000 new subscribers signed up for cellular service. With the introduction of the Personal Handy-phone System (PHS)--a less expensive format whose use is limited to large urban areas--in August, the number of new cellular phone users was expected to drop.
The ranks of cellular users continued to grow, however, with over 400,000 new subscribers signing up in August. The start of the PHS service seems to have had the unexpected effect of boosting demand for cellular phones. As a result, the total number of subscribers reached an estimated 6.2 million by the end of August, and it is almost certain to exceed 8 million by March 1996.
Currently, cellular phones are reached by dialing a 030 or 040 prefix--depending on the distance from the caller-- before a seven digit number. Only slightly over 9 million numbers are possible with this system, however, and it is feared that numbers for new cellular subscribers will soon run out.
Adding new prefixes requires the upgrading of switching devices, scheduled for completion in April 1996. With the surge in the number of cellular subscribers, however, the pace of the improvements has been quickened. The addition of the new identification prefixes will double the number of possible cellular phone numbers.
(The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)