26 April 2007
ACMA introduces new number range for innovative communications services such as VoIP
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has introduced a new, location-independent service type and number range to facilitate the introduction of innovative communications services while assisting consumers in making more informed choices.
ACMA has amended the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (the Numbering Plan) to create the new service type and the 0550 number range.
‘The new service type and the 0550 number range provide greater flexibility for industry to innovate in the provision of telephone services but in a way that should also provide consumers with clearer signals about the extent to which their service will resemble a traditional telephone service. This is important because emerging voice services may function in different ways to traditional telephone services,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.
Current examples of innovative services include some kinds of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services. However, as next generation networks are built and software and devices continue to evolve, it can be expected that innovation will broaden further.
Under the new arrangements, service providers will have a choice of number ranges. If a provider wishes to offer a traditional fixed telephone service or a service that is a close substitute, it will continue to be able to access geographic numbers, or, if it chooses, it can diversify to the new 0550 number range.
If a service offers features that depart significantly from those traditionally expected of telephone services, then ACMA expects these will be offered only on the 0550 number range. In particular, 0550 will be suitable in cases where a telephone service is not fixed to a particular location. ACMA has included a set of guidelines in the Numbering Plan that are intended to assist carriage service providers in selecting the appropriate number range for the provision of IP-based services.
The authority’s decision is an important step in facilitating the evolution of voice telephony and also implements an important aspect of the government’s announced strategic framework for VoIP services.
As part of this new approach ACMA intends to more actively monitor compliance with regard to the use of geographic numbers for local services by carriage service providers. In the first instance, ACMA intends to provide information and advice to IP service providers to assist them in meeting their obligations as carriage service providers. In addition, ACMA will also make available information to consumers about the new number range.
‘As new services become available, ACMA expects to continue working with organisations such as the Communications Alliance to ensure that appropriate information is available,’ said Mr Chapman.
ACMA will also continue to work with the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the industry on other matters related to the changing technological and commercial environment for voice services.
The changes will take effect from 31 May 2007. This provides industry with time to make the required networking and marketing preparations to support the number range.
A copy of the Numbering Plan variation and guidelines can be obtained on ACMA’s website or by calling (03) 9963 6727.
Media contact: Anne Parbury, ACMA Media on (02) 9334 7873.
ACMA manages and administers the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (the Numbering Plan). The Numbering Plan sets out the framework and rules for the specification of numbers in connection with the supply of carriage services in Australia.
The widespread distribution of broadband services in Australia, and globally, has initiated telecommunications services that rely on the internet protocol (IP) for the digital transmission of voice telephony (e.g. VoIP services). Unlike traditional telephone services that are fixed to one location, and mobile services that are associated with an individual, VoIP services can be fixed and/or location-independent (nomadic).
In 2005 the Government commissioned and endorsed a report from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts entitled ‘Examination of policy and regulation relating to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services’ (see http://www.dcita.gov.au/communications_for_consumers/telephone_services/emerging_voice_services).
Some of the findings of that report were that:
F5: Consumers associate geographic numbers with expectations about the quality, features and pricing of their voice service. Through the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), geographic numbers also convey location information to emergency service organisations. Geographic numbers are therefore likely to remain important for the next few years at least and any approach to numbering of VOIP services should not deliberately accelerate any erosion of the integrity of geographic numbers.
F6: Consumers associate geographic numbers with a location and mobile numbers with a person. The nomadicity feature of IP services has the potential to blur the boundaries between fixed and mobile services. There is an inherent tension between the desirability of personalised numbering associated with VOIP services and the well-established value of geographic numbers. The future evolution of numbering is a longer-term issue that needs to be considered in the NGN context. In the meantime a new number range to accommodate nomadic services would have value.
F7: Industry charging on the basis of the number dialled is established and appears to be well understood by end users; where services are diverted to other answering points or services, callers understand they will pay for the number dialled. This expectation should translate to VOIP services, whether or not a service is being used nomadically.
F11: VOIP technology and capabilities are different from those of the circuit-switched telephone service and consumers differ in their ability to understand and use emerging voice services. To assist consumers to make informed choices there is a need for strategies to close the information gap between those who understand VOIP or will quickly come to do so and those who are less technologically aware. As with mobile services, change will come as people become more familiar with the technology."
The report went on to make several recommendations that ACMA has had regard to in making its decisions concerning the new number range.
R4: A new number range should be made available for use by VOIP service providers. This range should accommodate services that depart from the expectations of a traditional telephone service, for example, because they are intended for itinerant use, are PC-based or otherwise differ significantly from the services on other number ranges.
R5: Geographic numbers should continue to be made available to telecommunications carriers and other providers of services that are a close substitute for a traditional telephone service.
R6: In seeking number allocations, and choosing the appropriate range, prospective VOIP service providers should have regard for ACMA guidance concerning the nature and characteristics of services for which the numbers will be used … All services would be required to comply with service requirements in the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997.
The Numbering Plan currently makes provision for fixed IP services to be offered on geographic numbers. Section 3.4 of the Numbering Plan sets out the rules for the use of geographic numbers. These rules state that:
- A geographic number must not be used except in connection with the supply of a local service;
- A call made in Australia to a geographic number must:
- terminate at a location in a charging district mentioned for the number in column 2 of Schedule 2; or
- be charged for in the way mentioned in subsection (3).
- The call charge for the call must be worked out as if the call were terminated at a location in the relevant charging district.
- Geographic numbers allocated in the same unit must not be used except in connection with the supply of carriage services:
- that terminate calls to the numbers at locations in the same standard zone unit; or
- for which the call charge for the calls is worked out as if the calls were terminated at locations in the standard zone unit.
Guidelines on the use of geographic numbers in connection with the supply of local services will be introduced to the Numbering Plan to assist carriage service providers in meeting their obligations to provide the option of untimed local calls on geographic numbers.