( dpa ) - Hong Kong has so many mobile phone subscribers it is running out of phone numbers to allocate and may soon have to introduce nine-digit numbers, a news report said Tuesday.
The hi-tech city of 6.9 million has 9.92 million mobile numbers in use, the equivalent of 1.4 for every man, woman and child in the former British colony. The total includes pay-as-you-go SIM cards.
Although there are technically 99,999,999 numbers available to allocate, many are held by phone companies to sell because they are considered "lucky numbers" and others, beginning with zero or one, are not used.
As a result, the South China Morning Post reported, the city may have only seven years before it must introduce nine-digit instead of the existing eight-digit numbers for all subscribers.
To try to avoid the disruptive changeover, phone companies may be charged for each number they hold as a way of stopping the remaining numbers from being used up, the newspaper said.
"We have to act now or else Hong Kong will run out of new numbers in seven years if consumption continues at the rate it is going," Chan Tze-yee, assistant director of communications, was quoted saying.
Hong Kong's mobile phone penetration rate is one of the world's highest at 143 per cent. By contrast, 95 per cent of households in the city have fixed phone lines. dpa hp pw