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Wednesday, 26 March 2003
Page: 10312

Senator Harris asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 7 February 2003:

(1) (a) Was the commencement date for Telstra's changeover from 008 to the 1800 prefix 1 September 1993; and (b) at that time was Optus in fact leasing and/or using floor space in the corner of Telstra's exchanges for Optus' own 1800 exchange equipment.

(2) (a) Was the Minister previously aware of the many 1800 prefix systemic faults that affected a substantial number of both Telstra and Optus subscribers' businesses nationally; and (b) can the Minister advise what the settlement arrangements or terms of settlement were between Optus and Telstra over the 1800 prefix faults in Telstra's exchanges and computer software that apparently not only caused Telstra's 1800 network not to be fit for purpose, but also caused Optus' 1800 network not to be fit for purpose.

(3) Have Telstra or Optus yet notified the subscribers affected by these 008 to 1800 and ten digit number problems of the fact that both Optus' and Telstra's 1800 networks were not fit for use, and that, unless their subscriber customers dialled 008 instead of 1800 during the double trunking period of the 2-year changeover period or until fixed, their 1800 customers would not have been able to reach the subscriber's 1800 number being dialled, despite the fact the subscriber was unaware of the systemic faults and reasons for loss in incoming business.

Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) No. The National Numbering Plan, released in April 1993 by AUSTEL, the then telecommunications regulator, required all carriage service providers to progressively implement a change in the prefix for Freecall numbers from `008' to `1800' by September 1995. Telstra has advised that it wrote to its `008' customers on 22 September 1993 advising that it was providing a two year changeover period to convert from `008' to `1800' numbers with the new `1800' prefix to commence in late 1993.

(b) No. Optus has advised that it commenced offering its own `1800' service on 2 November 1994. Optus has advised that it did not offer any `008' services. Optus advised that it did not have equipment for providing `1800' services in Telstra exchanges.

(2) (a) No, on the basis of Departmental records, the issue has not previously been raised. Telstra advised it is not aware of any systemic faults to the `1800' service affecting a substantial number of customers nationally. Optus has advised that the Optus network did not experience changeover problems from the `008' to `1800' prefix, as Optus did not offer `008' services.

(b) No. Any such settlement arrangements would be a commercial matter between Telstra and Optus. Both Telstra and Optus have advised that they are not aware of such arrangements.

(3) Telstra has advised that it wrote to its `008' and `1800' customers in March 1994, noting that some users had chosen to configure their telephone equipment, such as PABX, so as to prevent calls being made to numbers beginning with `1', or ten digit numbers, including `1800' Freecall numbers. Telstra advised customers that the users' telephone equipment suppliers or maintainers could advise on any reconfiguration of equipment necessary to permit calls to these `1800' services. AUSTEL also included information about the need to reprogram some business systems in its public information campaign on the National Numbering Plan.

Telstra reiterated that it is not aware of systemic faults in relation to the `1800' service that affected a substantial number of customers nationally.

As outlined in part 1(b), Optus advised that it did not offer `008' services to its customers.