The telecommunications commissioner's office has finally agreed to look into number portability for both land line and cellular numbers.
A submission from five companies - TelstraClear, CallPlus, Ihug, Compass Communications and WorldxChange - has called for a determination on number portability after negotiations stretching back several years have failed to reach any conclusion.
The commissioner's office has agreed to investigate the issue and has called for written submissions from those involved with a view to publishing a draft determination by October this year. A final decision would hopefully be made in January 2004.
The companies first brought the issue to the commission's attention in March (see Number portability still a hot issue) after the industry failed to reach a decision over the payment for switching equipment needed for the implementation.
The telecommunications commissioner has been criticised by some telcos and industry commentators for the delay in making some decisions. Number portability and interconnection have both taken longer than some parties would like and the commission has required longer at times than is set out in regulations.
However the commission has also been tackling some of the bigger issues in the industry, like the telecommunications share obligation and unbundling of the local loop as well as issues like interconnection and portability.
Number portability has been an issue for the industry for many years. In 1996 Computerworldreporter Russell Brown wrote about the Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) debate: "The first of the questions canvassed from TUANZ members concerns number portability, which everyone quickly agrees is a jolly good idea".
Four years before that the Telecommunications Numbering Advisory Group (TNAG), which consisted of the main telcos, TUANZ and the Consumers Institute, and was facilitated by the Ministry of Commerce (now the Ministry of Economic Development), argued over number portability and finally settled on using Telecom's call forwarding facility as a temporary stop-gap measure.