Telecom has been swift to reject a fast-track plan for number portability put forward by nine other telecommunications companies.
CallPlus, Clear, Compass, Ihug, Newcall, Quest, Superway, Telstra Saturn and WorldXchange have all signed up to the so-called "roadmap for portability". Vodafone is a notable absentee from the list.
The nine companies said in a statement on Friday that telecommunications users were having to wait too long for portability because of the glacial progress of the Number Administration Deed (NAD). Spokesman Dennis Millard, of CallPlus, said the group wanted to halt the planned cost-benefit study into Long Term Number Portability about to be commissioned by the parties to the NAD.
"The NAD process has taken 18 months just to get to the stage of agreeing on who should undertake a cost-benefit study," said Millard. "The study itself is likely to take more than six months and offers no guarantee that we'll get portability. Even if the NAD parties then agree on portability, further time will be lost on issues such as allocating the costs of its implementation.
"New Zealand's telecommunications users should not have to wait so long for a facility that is both essential and basic. Internationally, the benefits of portability – particularly for local numbers – are now universally accepted. A further cost-benefit study in New Zealand is both unnecessary and expensive, and will serve only to put the brakes on the rollout of portability.
"What we're saying is: The technology is here and the will is here. Let's get on and do it."
Telecom shot back with its own statement on Friday afternoon, saying "New Zealand does not need another 'roadmap for portability'."
Telecom's general manager access and transport Richard Dammery said the industry already had a process. "So heading down another path to the one set out in the existing numbering arrangements would not be good for consumers."
Dammery agreed that it had taken "some time" to get to the point of doing the analysis, but that it was now "well in train".
"If it wasn't for this new initiative, launched on the eve of the
telecommunications inquiry panel's report, we could actually be advancing the established industry process … There's no guarantee that any alternative will produce a better or faster outcome, so why not just get on with it?"
Dammery said New Zealand already has a workable number portability solution in place, under which "thousands of New Zealanders already have changed networks, retaining their telephone numbers through using a call forwarding arrangement. So the only consideration is whether New Zealand should upgrade the solution."
The parties to the Telecommunications Industry Number Portability Initiative outlined 10 key recommendations:
1. That the current cost-benefit study into Long Term Number Portability (LTNP) being considered by the parties to the Number Administration Deed (NAD) be halted. 2. That the industry agrees to implement systems and upgrades to their own existing systems to enable them to deliver LTNP as currently specified in clause 7 of the NAD LTNP Economic Study Terms Of Reference for the independent expert, dated 4 March 2000f. Note 1: The NAD specification simply defines "service equivalence" where the service of a ported number is equivalent to a non ported service within the same network. Note 2: the technical implementation of a solution within an operator's own network is for the operator's sole determination so long as the implementation delivers the agreed "equivalence of service" and interfaces and integrates to an agreed technical specification with other operators. 3. That each operator agrees to be capable of supporting LTNP as defined in 2 above within 12 months of all operators agreeing to these resolutions or sooner by mutual agreement or sooner by mandate of the Government. 4. That all costs associated with the implementation of number portability within an operator's own business, including amongst other costs, network and operating support systems upgrades, will be borne by that operator. 5. That the industry commission a 3 month project to design an independent intra-industry process and administrative institution to facilitate the delivery of LTNP (for example to manage churn and a central register of ported numbers). 6. That the cost of development of an intra-industry system, will be shared equitably by all operators that currently have numbers allocated to them. The on-going costs of administration will be shared between all operators via a small annual flat fee and usage basis. 7. That a recipient operator will be liable to pay a one-off administration charge to a donor operator for each user that chooses to change their operator and take their number with them. The administration charge to be of the order of the current administration charge ($17.00) and no more than $20 + gst. 8. That a donor operator will not charge a recipient operator or ported user any amount per call or for conveyance, in addition to normal interconnect charges, for the service being ported. 9. That the current arrangements of charging an additional 0.5c per minute for conveyance of calls 'ported' via the Call Readdress facility (the current interim number portability arrangement) will cease by the end of 2000. 10.That the parties will seek any necessary authorisations under the Commerce Act to support the above resolutions before implementing such of them as require authorisation.