Mr133-10: Acma Asks, Do Phone Numbers Add Up?

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25th October 2010, 02:30pm - Views: 604

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ACMA Media


133 /2010

Page 1 of 2

25 October 2010

ACMA asks, do phone numbers add up?

The increasing use of mobiles, the impact of VoIP and the very wide utilisation of

capped plans and bundling marketing practices are posing important questions for

the way traditional telephone numbers are managed, according to the first of a

series of issues papers released today by the Australian Communications and

Media Authority.

The ACMA administers the Numbering Plan, which sets out the rules for the use

and administration of telephone numbers in Australia. This was last substantively

reviewed in the lead up to 1997, when mobile phones were being introduced and

Australia moved to ten digit phone numbers.

‘Numbering is a key issue as we move to a more converged world,’ said ACMA

Chairman, Chris Chapman.

‘While the existing Numbering Plan has served Australia extremely well, it is now

starting to fray around the edges. Many of its features date back well over ten years,

during which time there has been tremendous change in the telecommunications

and broadband market.’

The issues paper looks at the underlying structure of the Numbering Plan and

several areas where service evolution is already putting pressure on traditional

numbering-based approaches. Some examples include :

VoIP (and other broadband-enabled services) now make it relatively easy to

move a phone service across traditional number boundaries, a trend that is

likely to increase as telephone services become broadband applications

charging based on location and distance is declining in relative importance

as many consumers move to bundled and capped plans

mobile phones are increasingly the preferred device for phone calls, rather

than landline phones (which phenomena raises questions about the

treatment of calls to 1800 and 13 phone numbers, where mobile callers

incur a higher charge, meaning that they are not free or ‘local rate’—which

charges are significant now that there are many more mobile than fixed


‘The pace of change is if anything picking up. It is possible that the service provision

environment may look significantly different in just a few years,’ Mr Chapman said.

‘This will enable us to take full advantage of the many exciting new products,

services and opportunities coming over the horizon, while ensuring appropriate

safeguards for all users.

‘I am determined we deal with this complex, but vital issue now so that we and our

stakeholders have a keen awareness of this issue and hopefully a useful roadmap,

as we all head into the broadbanded, fully digital world.’ 

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ACMA Media Release

133 /2010

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For this reason, the ACMA has commenced a work program that looks at various

aspects of numbering and the Numbering Plan and will be progressively releasing

four papers over the coming months.

The ACMA will hold workshops in November as part of broad consultations on its

work program.

Numbering has been central to the regulation and management of the

telecommunications system and underpins many of the consumer safeguards in the

sector. In the past, consumers have relied on phone numbers to tell them about the

cost of calls and the location of the person they’re ringing. Call billing, the Do Not

Call Register, handling of triple zero calls, security and policing, as well as premium

number sales are all affected by the Numbering Plan.

The paper identifies the pressures on the Numbering Plan and the impact this is

having on ordinary Australians and the communications industry.

It suggests the need to build a bridge between current uses and how

communications services will be used in the near future, and asks what changes to

the Numbering Plan may be needed.

As part of the study, the ACMA is seeking views on ways that the Numbering Plan

can or should be adapted to Australia’s 21st century requirements, including:

asking some basic questions about the role that numbers can and should

play going forward as a strategy for addressing policy concerns and issues

in the convergent environment

simplifying the present division of Australian phone numbers between more

than 40 different types of communications services, including for mobile

phones, landline phones, satellite phones and VoIP phones

simplifying the geographic division of phone numbers for landline phones,

historically used for calculating the cost of long distance/STD calls

addressing concerns about the use of shared numbers and

giving consumers an ability to recognise the cost of calls, whether from the

number they are calling or by other means.

The ACMA is seeking responses by 3 December 2010 to this paper, the first in a

series of four dealing with pressures on numbering arrangements from users and

providers of communications services. The paper is available at [URL].

Provisionally, the other three papers will seek to address numbering administration

and institutional arrangements, including the role of numbers in industry taxation

and charging arrangements; derivation of customer, location and service provider

information from numbers; and information in numbers utilised by end-users. 

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Donald

Robertson, Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7980, 0418 86 1766 or

The ACMA is Australia’s regulator for broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and

telecommunications. The ACMA’s strategic intent is to make communications and media work in

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