Telecom defends $3.4 million upgrade charge

Telecom says New Zealand telcos should not be surprised at being told they have to pay their share of a $3.4 million network upgrade, as they've known about it since 1997.

Telecom says New Zealand telcos should not be surprised at being told they have to pay their share of a $3.4 million network upgrade, asthey’ve known about it since 1997.

Telecom has informed TelstraSaturn, Clear and Vodafone that they will have to pay a share of the costs involved in upgrading Telecom’s network to allow it to cope with freephone number portability. The four telcos form the Toll-free Number Administration Service (TNAS) group and have been working on number portability in general for a number of years.

Telecom spokesman Andrew Bristol says Telecom has always maintained it would seek to have costs incurred reimbursed and it is finally in a position to show the other TNAS members just what the cost is.

“We can’t be asked to pay for something that these carriers are demanding of us.”

However, Clear’s manager of industry and regulatory affairs Grant Forsyth says the attempt to bill the other telcos for network upgrades is nothing more than an attempt to delay the introduction of number portability.

"In Australia the partners to the number portability agreement pay their own way, prices are based on those of the most efficient operator and there are no ongoing charges. Sure, there is an administration charge for customers switching between networks but that's understandable," says Forsyth. Telecom on the other hand, he says, wants to charge one cent for every call made over a toll-free number that has been ported to another network.

"That's the way it's done in most of the rest of the world." He says Clear will not be paying Telecom to upgrade its network.

"It's a way of delaying the rollout of the TNAS agreement, which is imminent, until after the new commissioner is appointed." Any complaint laid with the commissioner would take a number of months to be processed regardless of the outcome.

Vodafone's manager of carrier relations, Francois Zergers, says this is Telecom's way of signalling its intentions over general number portability.

"Freephone number portability is just a part of the proposed regulated services which include mobile and local number portability. I would imagine this will position its approach in terms of those number portability issues."

Zergers says Vodafone will also not be paying Telecom anything.

"We're all spending money on this already. We have costs associated with staff training and implementation and the parties have contracted an external developer to build the platform. While that's sitting idle it costs money to maintain without earning anything to recoup the costs."

Zergers says he hopes the move by Telecom won't delay the introduction of freephone number portability but that's up to Telecom.

"If Telecom persists in requests for payment then the end result is it either drops those requests or the go-live date will be delayed. It's inevitable really."

Telecom’s Bristol also indicates that Telecom will have to charge an administration fee of $17.50 per number moved in addition to the one cent per call and the overall cost of the network upgrade.

TelstraSaturn did not immediately return IDGNet calls.

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