Numbering Plan consultation | ACMA

Numbering Plan consultation

The ACMA has made the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 2015 (the Numbering Plan).  The ACMA’s media release can be found here.  A new Numbering Plan was needed because:

  • the existing Numbering Plan was due to sunset[1] in 2015
  • new arrangements for the allocation and administration of numbers are to commence in August 2015.

The making of the Numbering Plan is an important milestone in the ACMA’s work program to continuously improve the regulatory framework for numbering, and to enable flexible, efficient and effective numbering arrangements for the future communications environment.

 

The ACMA released a draft Numbering Plan for public comment for a period of 90 days and received eight submissions. The issues raised in submissions and the ACMA’s response to these issues can be found in the ACMA’s Numbering Plan 2015 Response to Submissions.

The ACMA consulted on the following key changes to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 to:

  1. Re-making the Numbering Plan and consolidating associated numbering instruments.
  2. Removing discretionary decision-making for number transactions, where possible, for most types of numbers. 
  3. Moving from an auction to an over-the-counter allocation process for smartnumbers®.
  4. Simplifying the language and applying best practice legislative drafting.
  5. Implementing minor amendments from the Numbering Work Program.

Background

On 27 September 2012, the ACMA announced that it had completed consideration of submissions to the Telephone numbering: Future directions. That paper articulated the ACMA’s medium to long term vision for numbering in Australia. It proposed 24 specific changes which would apply a managed evolutionary approach to increase the flexibility and efficiency of numbering arrangements, and make pricing clearer for consumers.

Having considered the submissions received to this paper the ACMA has indicated in its Response to Submissions (Word (.docx 335 kb) or PDF (404 kb) formats) that it intends to:

  • allow more flexible use of general numbers
  • provide additional capacity for mobile numbers by removing unnecessary technical limitations in the specification of those numbers, in parallel with providing more capacity for mobiles in the 05 number range
  • streamline the Numbering Plan to make numbering arrangements simpler and more transparent for consumers and providers
  • introduce measures to improve number management and charging, including the removal of charges from carrier access codes, which will improve efficiency and remove an encourage development of new services
  • maintain existing arrangements for premium services, to enable these to be easily identified by consumers
  • make no change in the medium term for numbering of directory and information services, noting the continued development of online search engines and other market substitutes for directory and information services are fundamentally changing the way that people receive these services.

The changes will be adopted progressively and will provide consumers and telecommunications providers with more flexible arrangements.

The ACMA would like to take this opportunity to thank all stakeholders for their constructive involvement during the Numbering Work Program. Stakeholders will have further opportunities to provide specific feedback on individual changes through the statutory consultation process associated with those change as they are progressed.

In 2010 and 2011, the ACMA undertook a work program to examine the current arrangements for telephone numbers. The aim of the program was to consider whether the arrangements were efficient and effective and what, if any, transitional arrangements might be necessary to implement to ensure they are suitable for the future.

The first stage of the work program involved releasing four consultation papers which examined a range of issues identified with the numbering arrangements.

  • Consultation paper one—Structure of Australia’s telephone Numbering Plan. The related media release is also available.
  • Consultation paper two—Customer location information and numbering data. The related media release is also available.
  • Consultation paper three—Numbering: Allocation and charging of numbers. The related media release is also available.
  • Consultation paper four—Numbering: Implications of research into consumer issues. The related media release is also available.

The ACMA progressed its response to the Numbering Work Program in two phases—matters requiring action in the short term, and strategies to address issues in the medium and longer term.

Short term

  • Numbering variation 2012—understanding its effect on numbering (IFC 54/2011)
  • Numbering variation 2011—understanding its effect on numbering (IFC 42/2011)
  • Calls to freephone and local rate numbers—The way forwardNumbering: (IFC 37/2011)

Medium and longer term

  • Telephone numbering—Future directions paper (IFC 50/2011) PDF (778 kb) or Word (.docx 747 kb) formats
  • The related media release is also available
  • Submissions have been received

On 11 October 2011, the ACMA announced that it would progress a set of five matters in late 2011 and early 2012. These proposals will:

  • increase flexibility and increase efficiency in the use of geographic numbers by removing sector boundaries from the capital cities
  • plan for the future by consulting on options to increase mobile number capacity to cater for Australia’s growing demand for mobile phone services
  • reduce red tape by removing service types that are no longer in use
  • by removing redundant historical information from the Numbering Plan.

The ACMA has addressed these via two variations to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997. Formal consultation for the first five of these changes was included in the Numbering variation 2011—understanding its effect on numbering, the variation Telecommunications Numbering Plan Variation 2011 (No. 2) was made on 15 December 2011. The second variation, incorporating items 6–8 was detailed in a public discussion paper, Numbering Variation 2012 – understanding its effect on numbering. The second instrument Telecommunications Numbering Plan Variation 2012 (No. 1) was made on 5 July 2012.

The variations include:

  1. Removal and consolidation of number service types.
  2. Removal of the redundant Schedule 12.
  3. Extension of the time to consider complex numbering applications.
  4. Reduction in the time to process variations to allocations of geographic numbers.
  5. Reduction in the amount of time before number constraints may be applied for non-payment of annual numbering charges.
  6. Remove of sector boundaries from geographic numbers in capital cities.
  7. Expand mobile number capacity by adding a new prefix ‘05’.
  8. Expand geographic numbers in areas where existing supply is expected to be exhausted within 20 years.

Update 24 April 2012

Nearly 100 substantive submissions and over 1000 form letters were received by the ACMA from peak bodies, telecommunications companies, users of freephone and local rate numbers, consumers, consumer advocates, not for profit organisations and government agencies. These submissions provided useful information which has informed the ACMA’s consideration of the options and their implementation impacts, particularly with respect to the expected costs of implementing any associated system, administrative and contract changes. The complete list of substantive submissions is available.

The submissions also highlighted the important steps industry has taken towards providing lower cost freephone and local rate access options, including offering some plans with unlimited freephone and local rate numbers and offering free access to specified services.

The ACMA has now undertaken a thorough consideration of the issues and examined regulatory and non regulatory options presented in feedback from consultations. The ACMA has decided to undertake public consultation on an amendment to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 that would see the proposals for freephone and local rate numbers that it proposed in October 2011 coming into force with a deferred commencement date of 1 January 2015.

In the ACMA’s view, this approach best meets the outcomes identified, allows sufficient time for contractual arrangements to be adjusted and provides certainty to both consumers and industry. The deferred implementation continues to provide opportunities for the development of innovative service that meet the needs of consumers. The period will be especially important to allow freephone and local rate subscribers and service providers time to implement changes.

Statutory consultation on an amendment to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 with respect to this approach is expected to occur later in 2012.

Update 18 June 2012

Since the ACMA’s announcement on 24 April 2012, some stakeholders have indicated that it would be useful to understand the options that were considered by the ACMA in making its recent ‘in principle decision’ on freephone and local rate numbers. The ‘in principle decision’ was to undertake public consultation on an amendment to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 that would see the proposals for freephone and local rate numbers that it proposed in October 2011 coming into force with a deferred commencement date of 1 January 2015. This document (Response to submissions on freephone and local rate numbers - Word [.docx] or PDF formats) sets out the feedback received on the ACMA’s proposals and outlines other options which arose during the consultation – it is intended to meet the request by stakeholders.

The ACMA remains open to further dialogue about this issue, including consideration of innovative alternative solutions. Stakeholders are encouraged to provide any information on the costs or benefits of the approach they believe should be considered by the ACMA. Statutory consultation on an amendment to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 with respect to this approach is expected to occur later in 2012.

Medium and long term

On 28 November 2011 the ACMA announced its medium to long term vision for numbering in Australia. It will apply a managed evolutionary approach to increase the flexibility and efficiency of numbering arrangements, and make pricing clearer for consumers.

Telephone numbering—Future directions (PDF (778 kb) or Word (.docx 747 kb) formats) identifies 24 specific changes needed for numbering arrangements, and eight overarching future directions. To assist with the evolution of the Numbering Plan, the ACMA has developed design principles to:

  1. increase the broad-based use of telephone numbers
  2. reduce the degree to which numbers are specified according to the technology by which services are provided
  3. provide price transparency to consumers, so that where it is necessary to use numbering to recognise the costs of calls, this is supported
  4. achieve clarity in the Numbering Plan, so that it is as simple as possible and readily understood.

The ACMA considers that a managed evolutionary approach is an appropriate response to pressures on current arrangements, which are a result of changes in technology, in commercial arrangements and in consumer behaviour.

The move to a new future for Numbering has commenced with the recent decision of 2013 to outsource numbering allocation services.  Further details can be found on the new future for numbering website.

Related consultations

  1. IFC 11/2009 - Public consultation on shared numbers (7 May 2009)

[1] Under Part 6 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, most legislative instruments ‘sunset’ (that is, they are automatically repealed) on the 1 April or 1 October that first occurs 10 years after they are registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI). The ACMA is required to address the impending sunsetting of key numbering instruments, including the Numbering Plan, before the first sunset date of 1 April 2015.

Last updated: 23 February 2017