The Telecommunications Numbering Plan 2015 (Numbering Plan) allows a carriage service provider (CSP) to supply services using geographic numbers outside their normal area if the CSP provides certain information beforehand to their customers.
What is a geographic number?
Geographic numbers are 10 digit numbers starting with 02, 03, 07 or 08. These numbers are commonly referred to as landline or fixed line numbers.
Numbering rules, areas and SZUs
The Numbering Plan specifies the rules for geographic numbers and identifies the normal geographic areas in which these numbers can be used. For the purpose of geographic numbering, Australia is divided into 2054 geographic areas called standard zone units (SZUs). The ACMA allocates geographic numbers to CSPs for use in particular SZUs.
Information about numbers used in SZUs can be found on this page.
If a CSP offers a service with a geographic number to a customer and that service is located outside the SZU for the geographic number-use of the number in this way is referred to as being out of area.
Out of area numbering is a more common practice for CSPs who utilise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to deliver their services.
If a CSP offers a service with an out of area number, the CSP must notify its potential customers that:
- calls to the number may be charged as if the customer is located in the SZU for the number; and
- the customer may not be able to port the number to another CSP.
This notification must be in writing and provided to customers at the time the service is offered. The information must be clear and legible.
If the internet is used to offer these services, a CSP must ensure that the written notice to the potential customer is:
- prominently displayed on each webpage the provider used to offer to supply the service; and
- in a legible text font with a size of a least 10 points and in plain English.
Further, a CSP must, at the time of entering into the arrangement for supply of the service, obtain customer acknowledgement that the customer understood the limitations of the service.
If these obligations are covered by a registered industry code, a CSP does not have to comply with the Numbering Plan obligations.
Untimed local calls
Customers using a standard telephone service may be eligible for an untimed local call. CSPs that supply this type of service typically use the location information in the geographic number to assess whether a particular call is eligible for an untimed local call.
In these circumstances, if a call is made to a number that is out of area, the caller will be charged as if the service is located in the SZU identified by the number and not the SZU it is located in. If this is the case, the caller might be overcharged and could seek redress from their CSP.
Local number portability
Portability is the ability of consumers to change providers and keep their number in certain circumstances. The Numbering Plan incorporates rules relating to the portability of geographic numbers. Whilst the changes to the Numbering Plan do not affect the portability rules (i.e. the requirement for CSPs to facilitate a 'port out') the practical implication of the changes are that customers who receive an out of area number may not be able to find a CSP that is willing to accept the number if they wish to change providers and keep their number ('port in').
Under subsection 462(1) if the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act), a carrier or CSP must comply with the Numbering Plan, including the rules relating to the use of geographic numbers.
Under the Act, a failure to comply with the Numbering Plan would contravene the Standard Carrier Licence Conditions or the Service Provider Rules that apply to CSPs. Under Part 31 of the Act, substantial pecuniary penalties are payable for contraventions of the civil penalty provisions.
More information is available on the ACMA's website at www.acma.gov.au. You can also contact the ACMA's Industry Services and Numbering Section on (03) 9963 6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.