Mobile, VoIP and geographic phone numbers

Mobile, VoIP and geographic phone numbers

Summary: Will we see mass adoption of VoIP calling on our mobile phones? Does VoIP over 3G provide the quality of voice call that we've grown to expect? Can we expect the mobile carriers to fight its adoption and control access on their networks?


Will we see mass adoption of VoIP calling on our mobile phones? Does VoIP over 3G provide the quality of voice call that we've grown to expect? Given the threat to their traditional voice revenues can we expect the mobile carriers to fight its adoption and control access on their networks?

Today on Twisted Wire Phil Dobbie talks to Skype's APAC VP Dan Neary and Graeme Dollar, COO for Australian VoIP provider engin.

Mobile VoIP could create a headache for ACMA, which is responsible for managing the numbering plan. The portability of VoIP devices has already challenged the charging regime of local call zones. Will the situation become more pronounced with the advent of Mobile VoIP? ACMA's Robert Johnson talks about the authority's Numbering Discussion Paper.

We also ask whether the demand for VoIP on a mobile device is ill-placed. Are we looking to save money or do we really want a unified communications solution, where calls find us wherever we are? In which case, do we care how the call is delivered? And do the limitations of the geographic phone numbers still apply?

Tell us what you think. Have you tried VoIP over 3G? How did it sound? Do you think we'll see widespread adoption of VoIP on mobile devices? Add your thoughts in the Talkback section at the end of this post. Or leave a phone comment on Phil's answer phone — call 02 8006 1257.

Topics: Unified Comms, Broadband, Browser, Government AU, Mobility, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • ACMA bad jokes continue unabated

    The ACMA numbering discussion paper (link in article) deserves some comments:
    1. Yes, you need some regulatory body to ensure that emergency calls are handled properly... but they haven't been thus far:
    a) The Inquest into a walker-death 100km W of Sydney showed that Calling Number Display had naught to do with the death, but the Ambulance Service insistence on only being able to locate by street and nearest cross street meant a walker giving the description of the well-known named walk he was on, was left for dead, despite numerous phone calls for assistance.
    b) Thus far ACMA etc has simply said, don't use VOIP for emergency calls. That might be right, but Triple-O should always have been ABLE to handle VOIP and even SMS from people stuck in marginal mobile range. The authorities have been far too 'blinkered' in this area. What telephone number would you SMS to if you wanted to get the info to a Triple-O operator?
    c) In general how the call was made will be less relevant, but getting the info from the caller is the need.

    2. ACMA made itself a joke when it put '03' prefix for SA numbers (as well as Vic numbers). For eons, we've had state-based digit assignments (used as first digit of postcode, prefix digit for radio stations etc). In changing the national telephone numbering, ACMA (or its predecessor name) ran roughshod over that convention, when it should have implemented it. Now, there is little point in keeping to any strict geographic basis, as the allocation of prefix to region was muffed by ACMA.

    3. In terms of geographically-independent numbers, I loved the original fully-portable 0500 sequence. My number was (0500)UGETME... then Sol arrived and hated the idea of Telstra supporting number portability, so the whole service was limited to forwarding to ONLY Telstra numbers, and then the service was killed. I just love to watch the innovation you see roll out from large monopolies - if it is innovative, it gets withdrawn.

    4. The costs to have Telstra relay calls, if you relocated a business just a few suburbs away is so high as to NEED VOIP-IN services to do that easily for you. I don't have a problem with them restricting you from doing a VOIP-OUT from such services (appearing to have an office where you don't). But frankly, Skype lets you do this anyway, so maybe you are trying to stop the tide by barring it. From a national competition perspective, allowing a near-free-for-all (any non-geographic numbers) is actually better. The more levels of red-tape you add, the more you add to business costs. If someone answers an apparent Perth number, and can ship to customers in Perth, good luck to them. And if the service they offer requires a local physical presence, then they won't be able to have a 'virtual office' there.

    5. The ONLY valid concern of ACMA is that people should not be fraudulently misrepresenting what another party might bill as a local call. In other words, if a VOIP provider is prepared to give a Sydney company a Perth number, then it is the obligation of the VOIP provider, to have the transfer from IP-based network to PSTN/POTS (normal voice line) at a Perth exchange (any Perth exchange). That way, no other telco can claim they were 'fooled' by the number. However, the fact that such VOIP calls are free to the consumer is only a 'theoretical' (market share) loss to Telstra, and not fraud. Telstra could have offered the same VOIP service at the same rates (but chose not to).
  • if ACMA wanted a real job to do...

    And if ACMA wanted a real job to do, instead of considering how to add more layers of regulation, perhaps they might consider running (or letting a contract to) a PROPER white pages for Australia.

    The Telstra one is pretty hopeless:
    1. You can't give the whitepages operators any change instructions, UNLESS you are a Telstra client. (White Pages claim only telcos can supply changes).. but what interest does a second-tier telco have in sorting out your White Pages listing... and their operators do not understand how the listings can be tweeked (what on what line, different business name for a second line etc).

    2. Telstra has moved to maximise advertising revenue from what used to be free listings. To have a number bolded costs a fortune. To add your web-page costs extra (c$2b if all Australian companies did it). You can't have a free listing if you can't provide a physical address, even though you pay for a prior office number to still appear, etc etc.

    3. VOIP numbers (even if you migrate your existing PSTN number to a VOIP service) can no longer be listed in White Pages (goes against Telstra's anti-VOIP stance).

    On the basis of the last point alone, ACMA ought keep a web-page up (or contract someone to do so) which lists ALL Australian phone numbers and other contact details.... able to be maintained directly by users... and making way for a unique email address per citizen, allowing the slow migration of government snail-mail advices to electronic form. It ought add Australia Post's DPID (barcode number for that address) which Telstra has no interest in. This would be a huge boon for national productivity. There needs to be a central whole-of-government place for people to change their contact details, and as in other things, Telstra has a private-enterprise way of seeking to add the maximum 'monopoly rent' for all such services... so it is best to not expand the existing White Pages (over which Telstra claims copyright over your address etc) but to start from scratch with a new system. And if not ACMA, then Medicare or someone ought put their hand up...

    Graeme, You asked "If ACMA wanted a real job to do" !

    ACMA is the epitome of a bureaucracy & obeys Professor Parkinson's law to a tee. The good professor observed:

    "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

    The bureaucrats in ACMA are incapable or prevented from any real lateral thinking. Most of the time they only do or provide real change if it suits them or provides their department head or Minister kudos or political points scoring. There's about as much chance of ACMA producing any real change as there is of their Minister making a decision to jump start the NBN which is now 6 months or more overdue!

    Both objectives are so remote as to be wishful thinking. It would be a pleasant surprise to be wrong!

    Oh! and you dare to suggest the sacred cow (Telstras monopoly) should be set aside by ACMA? You joke,..surely? Any attempt to do that would invoke the wrath & provoke endless legal challenges by the lawyers in the hugely expensive Telstra legal department. Is it any wonder our Telecoms costs are so high?
  • Engin can "theoretically" offer number portability?

    There was a huge non-answer to Phil's question to Engin. He asked if they could port numbers in and out - and the answer was that "in theory" it could. But it relied on the telco who owned the numbers.

    This seemed to slip by in the interview. So... is it possible "in practice"?!?!?

    And if not, who's blocking it?
  • We don't want new numbers we just want cheaper calls

    Anyone who uses VoIP uses it because the incumbent Telcos are just too expensive. If I can pay only 10c/min to call any mobile in Australia with no flagfall and per second billing, why cann't the Telcos?

    As for VoIP over 3G, I like PennyTel's approach; PennyTel SIM to PennyTel VoIP Access Numbers are free calls and then you pay VoIP rates to the destination you wish to dial. They even simpified the process by automating the process using a Mobile Application.

    Using this method I can call from my mobile to any PSTN line in Australia, UK, US or Canada for just 8c untimed - bet that Telstra.

    Finally, as for number convensions, I'd be happy for my VoIP Number (Direct Inbound Dial- DID) to be on a specific numbering range, as long as the Telcos only charged as long as they did charge STD or similar rates for anyone to call me. Also we should be looking at some of the international numbering schemes like iNum and eNum for guidance.
  • LNP

    Greg - If you have a number you would like to port into engin please let me know and I will be happy to get the process rolling. I don't use the word "process" lightly - it is long and arduous, requires a lot of time and effort and is something we are still trying to get our heads around.

    Alternatively, if you want to port a number away from engin, let me know and I will give your new service provider the contact details at the company we obtain our numbers from. We in no way block requests to port out.

    Send an email to
  • VoIP

    I've been hearing lots of talk about VoIP. A new plan has just been launched that uses VoIP and is offering customers unlimited talk, data and text for only $79.95.
    i found this info on

    what do you think of this plan??