By SHABINA S. KHATRI
GLOBAL VOICES ONLINE
On Wednesday, Qatar added an eighth digit to all mobile and landline phone numbers in the country. Officials said the move is an effort to create more phone numbers in a country that has seen its population double in the last five years.
Hukoomi, Qatar’s government website, explains the change:
Under the plan, the first digit of both the fixed and mobile numbers will be repeated.
Thus, if your old number started with 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 all you need to do is to repeat the first digit such as 33, 44, 55, 66 and 77…
All emergency telephone numbers within Qatar, including 999 and 112, will not be affected by the change, and the country code will remain +974.
Numbers beginning with 1, 2, 8 and 9 will not be changed.
Though residents were initially worried that the change would cause widespread confusion, the transition seems to have been made with little incident.
That’s thanks in part to several renumbering applications for mobile phones that automatically update users’ contact lists.
The apps, however, didn’t appear to work for everyone.
On Twitter, @NazQatar said:
Thanks to screw my phonebook with those apps!! it DOESN’T recognize all numbers start with 00974 #Qatar
its getting kind of annoying already. it’s only been two hours
Others were more accepting (and tongue-in-cheek) about the new number scheme.
On Facebook, Fahad Qureshi said:
because too many people are moving to this country, they ran out of phone numbers lol….so now the first digit of every number is repeated….if you ever plan on calling me in the future lol…update your phone books.
On Twitter, mohamed said:
The upside of the telco’s in Qatar changing the number format is that I will have to speak to fewer people today. #antisocial
And though the change seems to have gone over peacefully, some continue to worry about the inconvenience having a new number would cause.
On the popular social forum Qatar Living, ajmani said:
All business cards, stationeries, resume’s, job sites, other sites, etc etc needs to be updated… i doubt if everyone has fixed it already! Hope there will be a recorded message whenever someone calls on the old number, guiding them to add 3, or 4 or 5 or 6…!
Indeed, for the next three months, those dialing seven-digit numbers will hear an automated message advising them of the new scheme.
Whether that gives people away for the summer and Ramadan enough time to acclimate to the renumbering plan remains to be seen.