The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has aired its planned changes to the Numbering Plan that would see mobile phone users get access to free 1800 calls and cheaper 13 number calls.
The Numbering Plan sets forth how phone carriage services and phone numbering works around Australia. Initially enacted in 1997, the plan had been previously adjusted to make way for new geographical areas and new phone prefixes, as well as changes that allow easy access to 1800 and 13 numbers for charities.
The latest proposal to amend the Numbering Plan was announced this morning in Melbourne by the acting chairman of the ACMA, Richard Bean.
According to Bean, the changes to the Numbering Plan will:
- Increase flexibility and increase efficiency in the use of geographic numbers by removing sector boundaries from the capital cities
- Plan for the future, by consulting on options to increase mobile number capacity to cater for Australia's growing demand for mobile phone services
- Reduce red tape by removing service types that are no longer in use and by removing redundant historical information from the Numbering Plan.
The proposed changes would also see 1800 numbers become free to call from mobiles, while 13 and 1300 numbers dialled from mobiles would be charged at the same rate as a local call from a landline.
The proposal has drawn praise from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which has been calling for fair call rates from mobiles for some time. ACCAN had lodged a complaint with the ACMA over the issue, in conjunction with the Australian Council of Social Services and Financial Counselling Australia in September. ACCAN and its consortium of complainants claimed that the practice was hitting low income earners hard for calls they needed.
Elissa Freeman, ACCAN director of policy, said that the proposed changes mark a significant step in its quest "towards fair calls for mobile users".
"This is decisive and forward-thinking action being taken by the regulator today, and we look forward to working with them and the telco industry on the implementation details.
"Hopefully, fair calls for mobile users are not too far off," she said.