Clear ponders numbering response

Clear Communications is considering its options following last week's Commerce Commission decision to authorise the Telephone Number Administration Deed signed by Telecom, Telstra, Vodafone, Teamtalk and Newcall. Clear and the four other telcos that declined to sign the phone number portability agreement - Saturn, Worldxchange, Compass and Global One - will now need to sign if they are to have access to phone numbers, or appeal the decision.

Clear Communications is considering its options following last week's Commerce Commission decision to authorise the Telephone Number Administration Deed signed by Telecom, Telstra, Vodafone, Teamtalk and Newcall.

Clear and the four other telcos that declined to sign the phone number portability agreement - Saturn, Worldxchange, Compass and Global One - will now need to sign if they are to have access to phone numbers, or appeal the decision. "We are considering the details and reviewing our options," says public affairs manager Clayton Cosgrove.

He will not confirm whether Clear will appeal the decision in the High Court or, if that were to fail, the Court of Appeal.

The Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand also opposed the deed but TUANZ chairman Ernie Newman says the group will support the commission's decision. "We'll watch carefully to see that progress is made at a satisfactory speed and with adequate openness and consultation."

The deed was signed in late 1998 to deflect government regulation on the portability issue. It involves the establishment of an independent administrator for numbering, and lays down steps towards full number portability, including a cost benefit analysis of the work involved. It is this step, and the lack of any set timeframe, which worries telcos opposed to the deed. They say other countries have done similar studies and found portability to be essential for competition, and Telecom could potentially claim the process is too expensive and stop it completely. However, Telecom external relations manager Clive Litt says this isn't possible. "An independent expert will be appointed by the board - in which Telecom only has one vote - to do the analysis."

The other concern of non-signatories is who will pay for the necessary upgrades to Telecom's equipment. Currently portability has to be handled using call forwarding, a limited solution that can only deal with a small number of customers and removes extra services from a number. To move to the "intelligent networks" used internationally, and by many newer New Zealand telcos, would involve a lot of expense which Telecom believes should be shared with the smaller players. Litt says the appointed expert will determine the cost of the upgrade, identifying exactly what's needed for the move to intelligent networks.

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