Mauritius adds ‘5’ at the start of all its mobile numbers

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5As from the 1st of September 2013, all mauritian mobile phone numbers moved from 7 digits to 8 digits with a ‘5’ at the start of the number. This targets all subscribers of Orange Mauritius, Emtel, MTML/Chilli and all devices that uses the GSM protocol to communicate. Explained as a means to increase the capacity of the number allocation system as “we will soon be lacking numbers”, this decision has had mixed reactions from the population as a whole. For some, nothing great has changed whereas for others, that has had a huge impact on their way of life. In this post i will try to enumerate the problems faced together with solutions and suggestions.

Press ‘5’ to continue…

For around two months, adverts of all types were used to inform the public about the change. On radio, TV, newspapers and billboards, the digit ‘5’ was all around the island. The common man being unaware of technical issues had only one problem; that of having to edit all mobile numbers on their phonebooks. But with some time and patience, they finally completed the last change to their contact whose name started with a ‘Z’.

Then came those who knew about the mess that’s going to happen, obviously voiced out their opinions with some even going to court for that (Hats off btw Mr.A).

Well, below is a list of certain areas affected by the change,

Contacts not aware of the change

Some users, particularly businessmen were against the project as their contacts abroad are not aware about the change. Even though, each time somebody calls your number without adding the ‘5’, an audio message informs him/her of same, that will not always help; what if your contact does not understand the message or calls you after the ‘3-months’ during which the audio playback system will be enabled?

Phonebook Edit

While some have had the ppaaaiiinnfffuuulll task of adding 5 at the start of each number (including me; the software’s not running on my mobile), others were fortunate to use the apps developed to batch edit the numbers. For that, a big thanks to the coders/developers; i will not do any advertisement for any app but here are links to download them;

Orange Care (Source: Orange Mauritius Facebook Page)

Emtel Smart (Emtel Facebook Page)







Mobile Internet

Since the morning after the change, mobile phone users could not use Mobile Data Connection. A shutdown-restart of the device solved the problem in most cases. (Tested on a Symbian Device, Windows Phone Device, and Android Device)


Users of Whatsapp have been complaining about the unavailability of the service since early morning after the change has occured. In fact, Whatsapp uses your International Mobile Phone number as your unique identifier on the network and of course does same for your contacts; i.e uses the phone number you stored in your mobile’s phonebook. So, to be able to communicate with your friend (In Mauritius), BOTH parties must have added the 5 to their contact’s number. E.g; If my friend’s number is friend’s is 731XXXX on my contact list, i must change it to 5731XXXX and he must do same for my number, for whatsapp to enable use to IM.


Facebook fortunately recognises the 8 digits without any issue. Just point your browser to your account’s mobile settings and add /edit the mobile phone number there.


Viber does not recognise the 8 digits format; unfortunately users will have to wait for an update to be released after, of course, informing Viber about it. Will they care?..


Hotmail does not accept the 8 digits format. As a Hotmail and Exchange user, i still haven’t found a way to re-enable sms back. I used it for many purposes including but not limited to Single-Code access. God!!

GSM Devices

The change, as mentioned above, concerns all devices that uses the GSM network protocol. Certain alarm systems, CCTV cameras and home automation systems uses the GSM protocol to communicate either with a server at the HQ of the service provider or to simply feed the user with information about the status of the system. Whether or not your system caters for 8 digits, you should check with the service provider and/or request a patch/update.

Personally, there could have been other ways to do that. We could have ‘not touched’ the existing ones and added it for only the new numbers, but technically that would cause some problems relating to length-checks/validation. And also, my warmest condolences to those who have to scrap/change their business cards, letterheads and contact details.

Well, i think i have covered what i wanted to talk about, i am sure and i can feel that i have missed some areas, but will add them as soon as they come to my mind.