If a VoIP service is a close substitute for a standard phone service, it will still be able to use standard geographic numbers. However, if a service offers features that depart significantly from those traditionally expected of telephone services, then ACMA expects these will be offered only on the 0550 number range.
The ACMA says that, in particular, 0550 should be used where a telephone service is not fixed to a particular location. ACMA has included a set of guidelines in the Numbering Plan that are intended to assist VoIP providers in selecting the appropriate number range.
The ACMA claims that its decision "is an important step in facilitating the evolution of voice telephony and also implements an important aspect of the government's announced strategic framework for VoIP services."
And it warns that, with the introduction of the new number range it intends to "more actively monitor compliance with regard to the use of geographic numbers for local services by carriage service providers." In the first instance, ACMA intends to provide information and advice to IP service providers to assist them in meeting their obligations as carriage service providers and also make available information to consumers about the new number range.
The changes will take effect from 31 May 2007. A copy of the numbering plan variation, is available from the ACMA website. It also contains a set of guidelines to assist VoIP providers to select the appropriate number range.
It found that consumers associate geographic numbers with expectations about the quality, features and pricing of their voice service. Most significantly, the report concluded that "Through the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), geographic numbers also convey location information to emergency service organisations. Geographic numbers are therefore likely to remain important for the next few years at least and any approach to numbering of VoIP services should not deliberately accelerate any erosion of the integrity of geographic numbers.
Also: "Consumers associate geographic numbers with a location and mobile numbers with a person. The nomadicity feature of IP services has the potential to blur the boundaries between fixed and mobile services. There is an inherent tension between the desirability of personalised numbering associated with VoIP services and the well-established value of geographic numbers."