Clear steps up number portability pressure

New Zealanders want number portability, says Clear Communications, and it has a survey to back up the claim.

New Zealanders want number portability, says Clear Communications, and it has a survey to back up the claim.

The company has long agitated for portability, saying lack of progress in achieving it has held back choice for customers because the cost of changing numbers moving from one carrier to another is too high.

The company has surveyed more than 1000 business and 1000 residential telephone subscribers; 61% responded, and of those, nearly half said that if there was choice, they would change providers.

Clear chief executive Andrew Makin says the present method of working out portability issues is going nowhere. The Telecommunications Numbering Advisory Group (TNAG), which is comprised of the main telcos, the Telecommunications Users Association and the Consumers Institute, and facilitated by the Ministry of Commerce, operates by consensus. This means that Telecom, which has the most to lose by the introduction of portability, can hold up the process, Makin says.

The company is also challenging Telecom’s contention that it owns the numbering plan.

“There is no evidence that the numbering plan was included in the intellectual property rights included in the sale, nor in any other part of it,” he says. “In every other country the number plan is a natural resource, like the radio spectrum.”

In a move clearly aimed at the post-MMP Parliament, the company says any new government should give the telcos a deadline to agree on a portability arrangement--it suggests a 60-day period. If that isn’t met, says Makin, the government should use the price control provisions of the Commerce Act to force a settlement.

TNAG has been meeting for nearly four years and the telcos have agreed on a technical, interim solution--call forwarding. The parties are now engaged in bilateral talks on the pricing of such an arrangement.

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