Number portability is essential to a competitive telecommunications market. There is a number of safeguards in place to ensure a customer can port a number between carriage service providers (CSPs).
This fact sheet is intended to better inform CSPs about some of the local number portability (LNP) obligations, and to clarify certain LNP issues generally and specifically relating to the VoIP sector.
CSPs that provide carriage services (including VoIP services) using local numbers must allow their customers to change to another CSP (the gaining provider), while keeping the same telephone number. This obligation is referred to as LNP and the relevant rules are set out in Chapter 11 of the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (Numbering Plan).
The ACMA administers the Numbering Plan which sets out specific obligations for all CSPs and carriers when providing number portability. In recent years, new trends have emerged that challenge implementation of number portability. These include the increase in the number of CSPs, and the complex chains of CSPs that often join to provide VoIP services to customers.
On 16 April 2008, the ACMA released its new approach for dealing with the regulation of VoIP services and identified local number portability (LNP) as a key compliance area for 2008, stating that:
- LNP is intended to support competition and enhance consumer choice by permitting consumers to retain their local telephone number when changing CSPs; and
- The ACMA strongly encourages provision of LNP and will work with industry and other regulators to ensure portability operates consistently with the intent of legislation.
- Portability obligations apply not only to the CSP that issues numbers to its end customers, but also apply to the chain of any upstream CSPs/carriers involved in providing an end customer with the carriage service for a number associated with a local service.
- In a chain of CSPs, the household or business customer of the last CSP in the chain (to whom the number has been issued by that CSP) has the rights of use for the number and can port the number.
- LNP provisions are dependent on the customer being able to find a gaining provider that is willing to accept the customer and engage in the porting process.
- CSPs cannot contract out of their statutory obligations. Contractual arrangements with other CSPs and carriers should not be used as the sole basis for refusing to port a number that can otherwise be ported.
- Where single numbers from a group of contiguous numbers are issued to a number of end customers, the ACIF 540:2007 Local Number Portability Industry Code (the LNP Code) does not prohibit the porting of an individual number from the number group.
- The LNP Code provides guidance on the selection of the process to be used when porting numbers, including the Category A to D processes.
- The Category C process for porting, which requires project management, is typically used to port complex telephone services. However, it is also available as a default process when the other processes are not available.
- Enquiries can be made with ACMA staff as to whether it is appropriate to apply the Category C process when the other processes, such as Category A, are not available in a particular situation.
If a gaining provider is willing to port in a number used in connection with a local service but porting is refused by the losing provider, the gaining provider may report this refusal to the ACMA to investigate any non-compliance by the losing provider and to consider appropriate action.
Under subsection 462(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act), a carrier or CSP must comply with the Numbering Plan, including the portability requirements.
Under the Act, a failure to comply with the Numbering Plan (such as a refusal to port a number) would contravene the Standard Carrier Licence Conditions or the Service Provider Rules which apply to CSPs. A breach of these conditions or rules enlivens the civil penalty provisions and may lead to proceedings for substantial pecuniary penalties under Part 31 of the Act.
The regulatory framework for number portability can be found on the ACMA website.
- Telecommunications Act 1997 (Part 22 deals with the making of the Numbering Plan; Schedule 1 deals with Carrier licence conditions and Schedule 2 deals with Service Provider Rules).
- Numbering Plan (Chapter 11 deals with number portability).
- LNP Code.
For more information about LNP and the LNP Code contact:
- the ACMA’s Broadband Applications and Services Section on (03) 9963 6800.
- Communications Alliance on (02) 9959 9111 or at www.commsalliance.com.au.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and while every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the information is accurate at the time of publication, it should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases. The references to the LNP Code are a summary of some parts of the LNP Code and should not be relied on as a substitute for the LNP Code.