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Thursday, 20 June 2002
Page: 2390

Senator Bartlett asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 13 May 2002:

(1) How many 1300 phonewords are currently available in the number pool managed by Industry Number Management Services Ltd (INMS) under the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

(2) (a) What are the current processes, procedures and fees involved in businesses and not-for-profit organisations obtaining 1300 phonewords; and (b) do the processes, procedures or fees differ between businesses and not-for-profit entities.

(3) (a) Why is it possible to obtain 1300 phonewords only within the existing number pool; and (b) why will neither INMS nor the ACA consider or permit the issuing of specifically requested 1300 phoneword combinations outside of the available pool.

(4) Can the Minister please confirm that the 1300 phonewords yet to be released will not be subject to any public tendering or public auction process in the future.

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

(1) A phoneword is a combination of letters represented by numbers which is of value to the customer. This includes real words, names of businesses and even acronyms. Given this definition, the number of phonewords available is impossible to quantify as it is not possible to identify all the combinations that may potentially be of meaning or value to a customer. However, the total number of local rate numbers currently still available from the INMS number pool is approximately 100,000. As at 28 May 2002, the number of local rate telephone numbers allocated was 1,792 13-numbers (six digits) and 29,361 1300-numbers (ten digits).

(2) (a) INMS manages the allocation of freephone and local rate numbers to carriage service providers (CSPs). It does not allocate numbers to individual consumers. If individuals wish to obtain a specific 1300 phoneword number for their own use, they can do so by applying to their preferred CSP who will apply for the number from the INMS. If the number is available and is held by INMS for allocation, the CSP can issue it to an individual customer. The ACA administers an annual numbering charge for most telephone numbers, excluding geographic numbers,

but including freephone and local rate numbers, payable by CSPs. In 2002, this charge was approximately $1.10 for ten-digit numbers and $10,963.40 for six-digit numbers. CSPs can in turn impose a charge, as determined by them, on customers to recover this cost.

(b) The processes, procedures and fees of the INMS only apply to CSPs. INMS currently charges CSPs $14.91 for each database transaction that occurs as part of the number allocation process. The processes, procedures and fees for end-users ie businesses and not-for-profit organisations are determined by the individual CSPs.

(3) Numbers are released into the INMS by the ACA in response to overall levels of demand. The ACA has advised that currently there are sufficient numbers available in the INMS pool.

(4) The ACA is responsible for managing the efficient allocation of all freephone and local rate numbers. The ACA is currently investigating the processes for allocating the numbers that are presently unreleased. A public discussion paper was released in December 2000 and a public meeting held in April 2001. The ACA is proposing to consult further with industry and the community on possible allocation methods for particular freephone and local rate numbers that are keenly sought.