Australia to assign ‘05’ mobile numbers to prevent run out

Australia will start assigning “05” phone numbers to mobile users in an effort to avoid number exhaustion, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said. The ACMA revised the Telecommunications Number Plan 1977 to implement that and two other changes proposed earlier this year.

The ACMA expects ‘04’ numbers to run out as soon as 2017 based on current demand. At that point, the agency will start to assign ‘05’ numbers. The ACMA’s plan is based on a number exhaustion report conducted last year.

To avoid confusion, ACMA proposed removing the “0550” location independent communications services number range. The ACMA is seeking feedback from “the small number” of affected providers and consumers, it said.

“Demand for mobile numbers is being driven by new technologies like Internet capable smartphones, tablets and machine to machine communications,” said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. “The ACMA estimates an additional 100 million numbers will be needed to provide an adequate supply for more than 20 years.”

“The addition of a ‘05’ prefix will ensure that we won’t be left short of mobile numbers if there’s a surge in mobile connections over the coming years,” Optus corporate and regulatory affairs vice president, David Epstein, said in a statement.

In addition, ACMA will remove geographic sectors in five capital cities. The agency also plans to add geographic numbers in several regional areas to ensure adequate supply for the next 20 years, it said.

“The removal of geographic sectors around capital cities from the Numbering Plan will provide greater flexibility for carriage service providers (CSPs) in offering services to consumers by allowing them to use numbers over a greater area within capital cities,” the ACMA said.

“The removal of geographic sectors has a limited effect on customers,” said Dougal Heath from ACMA’s Communications Infrastructure division. “ To take an example, prior to the change, the ACMA may have allocated numbers with the prefix (02) 99 in Sydney’s North Sector. These numbers could then be issued to customers in this area. Following the change, these same numbers can now be allocated across a broader geographic area (anywhere in the Sydney standard zone unit (SZU)) and numbers could be issued to customers in same geographic area (Sydney SZU).”

“This change provides additional flexibility in managing numbers to phone companies and provides greater number efficiency,” Heath said. “The removal of the sector boundaries does not change whether or not a consumer can port a number.”

The removal of geographic restrictions was “long-awaited” by Optus because the carrier allows customers to move address while keeping their existing telephone number within capital city inner-change zones, Epstein said.

Telstra also supported the changes. "The decision to introduce ‘05’ as the next mobile number prefix is necessary to accommodate growth in the sector and will provide industry the certainty it needs to begin the planning for this important change," a Telstra spokeswoman said.

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