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section heading icon     numbering and naming

This page considers phone number allocation, domain naming and administration, and directory services in Australia and New Zealand.

It covers -

  • introduction
  • numbering - area codes, landline and mobile numbers, premium, freecall and local rate numbers, and number portability
  • naming - domain naming and resource identification on the 'network of networks'
  • the IPND
  • directories - silent numbers, reverse directories and database access
  • Do Not Call regimes in Australia and New Zealand

section marker     introduction

Identification of resources on the Australian and New Zealand networks is founded on the premise that individual users do not own a phone number or domain name. Instead use of that number/name is licensed by a government agency with responsibility for telecommunications or by the two nongovernment entities responsible for administration of the dot-au and dot-nz ccTLDs.

Information about those numbers and addresses is shared by network operators and by registrars, with competing carriage service providers in Australia for example having access to the integrated public number database (IPND) is an industry wide database of all listed and unlisted public telephone numbers.

Control of public and private versions of that information can be contentious, with disputes about unauthorised reverse directories of phone numbers and restrictions on WHOIS data in the dot-au domain space.

Perceived misuse of opportunities for unsolicited calls have led people in both countries to propose Do Not Call Registries, in essence databases of residential and mobile numbers that should not be contacted by telemarketers.

section marker     numbering

In both Australia and New Zealand the national government has responsibility for a framework regarding allocation and use of individual telephone numbers and numbers identifying networks/types of services.

That framework is embodied in a formal numbering plan covering -

  • standard landline numbers, often characterised as geographic numbers because they broadly reflect a specific location
  • mobile phone numbers
  • free service numbers, with a charge to the receiver rather than the caller
  • local rate numbers, with long distance calls being charged at the local rate
  • premium rate numbers, charged at several times the standard rate
  • emergency numbers, with calls being routed to police, fire or another emergency services agency.

It accommodates provision of connectivity by different network operators (carriage service providers). It also accommodates 'number portability', with consumers in some circumstances being able to use the same number despite moving from one network operator to another.

In Australia the national Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 is administered by ACMA under the Telecommunications Act 1997. The New Zealand plan dates from 1993. Both feature differentiation between competing mobile phone networks and scope for identification of landline numbers on the basis of location, ie an 'area' code that reflects a hierarchy of exchanges within a specific region.

Most landline numbers in Australia consist of a two digit area code (eg 02) - a relic of the military districts at the time of federation - and an eight digit sequence that is sometimes characterised as the local number.

The following area codes have been in use since reorganisation of the numbering plan between 1996 and 1998 -

02 New South Wales
02 Australian Capital Territory
03 Victoria
03 Tasmania
07 Queensland
08 Western Australia
08 Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands
08 South Australia
08 Northern Territory.

The first four digits of the local number generally specify the exchange, with the final four digits in the sequence identifying a line at that exchange. (The shift to digital switching has meant a consolidation of many small exchanges, so that most exchanges now encompass several four digit exchange codes.) Prior to the introduction of eight digit numbers in the early to mid-1990s, landline numbers were seven digits in the major capital cities (with a single-digit area code) and six digits in other areas (with a two-digit area code).

Since 1993, landline numbers in New Zealand generally consist of a single digit area code and seven digit local numbers, the first three of which generally specify the exchange and the final four a line at that exchange.

The five regional area codes are -

03 the South Island and the Chatham Islands
04 Wellington Region except the Wairarapa and Otaki
06 the remaining southern and eastern North Island (Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui except Taumarunui, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, the Wairarapa and Otaki)
07 the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and Taumarunui
09 Auckland and Northland

Mobile phone numbers in Australia have a 04 prefix, followed by two digits that identify the network operator and the number that is specific to the subscriber. The introduction of number portability means that there is no longer necessaily a relationship between the mobile phone number and the network it uses. In New Zealand mobiles have a 02 prefix, followed by one digit identifying the network operator (eg 5 for Telecom, 1 for Vodafone) and the subscriber's number, which is either six, seven or eight digits.

The 1997 Telecommunications Numbering Plan ensures a common approach to use of telephone numbers by different network operators, so that consumers are able to recognise that a particular number (eg with a 1300 or 190 prefix) is associated with a specific type of service and call cost.

Local Rate Numbers (identified with 13 and 1300 prefixes) work across large areas (up to across Australia) and only charge a local call, routing the call to the appropriate place in a given area. Australia uses a 1800 free call prefix. New Zealand free call services generally use the prefix 0800 (although some use 0508), with local rate (often internet access numbers) having the 08 prefix.

The 190 prefix in Australia is used to identify premium services such as recorded finance or sports data, competition lines, horoscopes and adult services. In New Zealand premium rate services are identified with an 0900 code followed by five digits.

In April 2007 ACMA amended the 1997 Numbering Plan, introducing a "location-independent service type and number range to facilitate the introduction of innovative communications services" with the 0550 number range. The expectation was that the "innovative services" would include some kinds of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services. Providers wishings to offer a traditional fixed telephone service will continue to be able to access geographic numbers or to diversify to the new 0550 number range. ACMA expects that non-traditional services (eg where those not fixed to a particular location) will only be offered on the 0550 number range.

The emergency number in Australia is 000; in New Zealand it is 111. The global GSM mobile emergency number 112 works on some mobiles in Australia.

section marker    naming

Administration of the dot-au domain name space is the responsibility of auDA, discussed in a detailed profile on this site.

Administration of dot-nz is discussed here.

section marker     the IPND

The integrated public number database (IPND) in Australia is an industry wide database of all listed and unlisted public telephone numbers.

It was established in 1998 and is managed by Telstra under the Carrier Licence Conditions (Telstra Corporation Limited) Declaration 1997.

The IPND contains all public numbers and associated information such as the customer's name and address and the name of the service provider providing the carriage service. It encompasses geographic numbers (landline numbers), mobile numbers, numbers used for paging, numbers used for services that charge a local call fee or transfer the charge to the called party and numbers in conjunction with prepaid services.

Information associated with each public number in the IPND includes -

  • the public number
  • the customer name and address
  • the service location (if practicable)
  • the carriage service provider name
  • whether the telephone is to be used for government, business, charitable or private purposes, if practicable.

That information may only be accessed and used for "approved purposes" -

  • providing directory assistance services
  • providing operator services or operator assistance services
  • publishing public number directories
  • providing location dependent carriage services
  • the operation of emergency call services or assisting emergency services
  • assisting law enforcement agencies or safeguarding national security
  • any other activities specified by ACMA through written notice to the IPND Manager (currently Telstra), although neither ACMA nor its predecessor the ACA is reported to have specified such other activities.

Telstra as the IPND Manager is responsible for maintaining the IPND. It receives data from registered data providers, provides data to registered data users, tests data for errors and provides feedback to data providers on errors identified.

Privacy aspects of the IPND are discussed here. In May 2005 ACMA's predecessor sought public submissions on a draft industry standard about the protection of customer personal data. That standard

proposes new measures designed to balance community and commercial expectations about the use of personal information in the contemporary environment.  Concern about the improper use of telecommunications customer information led the then ACA to make a draft mandatory standard covering the use of this information. 

section marker    directories

For much of the past century telephone directories were building blocks for profiling individuals and organisations. They were published by the monopoly telecommunications provider, which was first reluctant to suppress name/address details for particular numbers and then, as consumers became more privacy aware, embraced as a revenue mechanism (ie a consumer could go 'ex-directory' or get a 'silent line' in return for payment to the network operator).

A 'silent number' (aka 'silent line') is a fixed line service for customers who seek enhanced personal information protection by not having their telephone numbers included in publicly available print and electronic directories (and similarly not disclosed by directory assistance).

Silent line customers pay a fee to have their names, addresses and phone numbers withheld from directories. Silent line customer addresses and phone numbers are also not available through some directory assistance services, though the operator on these services may indicate that there is a listing for a silent number under the name requested.

How many people are 'ex-directory'? As of 2000 Telstra had around 800,000 silent line customers in Australia. About 16% of residential customers in Melbourne and Sydney (and an average of 12% in country areas) have silent lines.

In Australia the 1997 Telecommunications Act and industry codes relating to the IPND - eg the ACIF IPND Data Provider, Data User & IPND Manager code (PDF) - provide Telstra subsidiary Sensis, Acxiom and a handful of other commercial entities with direct access to the national 'master registry'. That is discussed in the ACA 2004 Who's Got Your Number - Regulating The Use Of Telecommunications Customer Information discussion paper.

Section 285 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 prohibits unauthorised creation of reverse directories.

During 2001 the 2600.org.au group launched a free 'Black Pages' online reverse search service for Australia, discontinued after a few months because of complaints from privacy groups and apparent pressure by regulators.

Desktop Marketing Systems (DtMS) subsequently marketed CD-ROMs with a reverse directory facility. DtMS managing director Andre Kaminski reportedly dismissed privacy concerns, commenting

There is no such thing as privacy. Information is just a commodity. As Australia becomes a more sophisticated market, there is a demand for people like us.

Telstra successfully argued in the Federal Court that DtMS had breached its copyright; the product is no longer available.

In New Zealand the 1992 Privacy Act prohibits reverse searching for New Zealand residential phone numbers, although reverse searching of business numbers is permitted.

Network operators in Australia and New Zealand, as in many parts of the world, have differentiated between 'white pages' and 'colour pages' directories.

The white pages directory provides basic contact details (surname and initial or corporate name, street address and telephone number.

The 'colour pages' version comprises categorised listings for businesses and other organisations, with most pages of the print format directory featuring advertisements by those businesses prepared to pay a premium for such display. They are thus a precursor of online directories such as Yahoo!

section marker     Do Not Call regime

Australia has adopted a national mandatory Do Not Call registry, discussed in a more detailed note elsewhere on this site. As of 2007 the registry has gained substantial consumer support.

New Zealand has yet to establish such a registry.

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version of April 2007
© Bruce Arnold
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