Porting Phone Numbers in Australia – Everything You Need to Know

As Australia embarks on its ambitious ISDN depreciation program, we’ll be writing a series of articles assessing the current communications landscape in the country. Today, a look at the ramifications for number porting.

Australia’s shutdown of the ISDN is underway. A few quick facts and figures for you if you haven’t been following the situation on the ground.

By 2022, the country’s copper network goes kaput and 92% of premises will have their communications and data services provided by the National Broadband Network – via a mix of technologies including fiber to the premises (FTTP), fiber to the node (FTTN) and fiber to the curb (FTTC).

Once a premises is able to connect to the NBN, there is an 18-month window before legacy telephony services are shut off. So for Australian businesses, communications providers and ISPs, there is a major cliff edge on the near horizon. With less than three years to go until we reach ‘End of Life’ for legacy telephony services Down Under, it’s not surprising to see a mass digital migration is underway – as the country’s 2 million+ local businesses attempt to future proof their communications systems by moving to new service providers.

MORE: Australia’s Golden Opportunity for Cloud Communications Providers

Phone Number Porting Traffic Jams

As if decommissioning its legacy copper and HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) network was not a big enough job for incumbent Telstra, the situation is complicated by the need for businesses moving away from legacy solutions to maintain their existing phone numbers. The carrier is being inundated by such a wave of number portability requests, that a backlog is rapidly forming and slowing down the process.

As a result, the Australia porting process, which usually takes 15-20 working days, is now taking up to 40 working days (with a possible cut-over date as long as 9-12 weeks after validation), to the annoyance of communications service providers and the distress of their end-users. This is obviously not an ideal situation for businesses that need to maintain continuous lines of communication with their customers while migrating away from their legacy systems. For many, changing a contact center phone number just isn’t economically viable.

We’ve seen an absolutely huge ramp-up in Australian number porting requests from our customers. In 2018, Australian numbers represented 8.5% of the total number of phone numbers ported into our network. This year, that percentage has already risen to a staggering 26.5%.

And as the 2022 deadline approaches, the demand for ports in Australia is only growing – threatening to drive up waiting times even further. In fact, by the time the deadline is reached, nearly 10 million premises will be served by the NBN – and the vast majority of these homes and businesses will require their existing phone numbers to be ported to new services.

As a result, communications service providers face the unenviable task of needing to port hundreds, thousands or more phone numbers away from Telstra’s legacy network on behalf of their customers.

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What’s the Hold-Up?

To understand why it is taking so long, we need to dig a little deeper – both into the general porting process and into the particularities of the Australian telecoms market.

The porting process is heavily localized, regulated and technical – differing from one market to the next. But one thing that’s common in every country is the sheer amount of legwork required to coordinate between an end-user making a request, the winning operator, the losing operator, and the regulator.

A lot of validation work must be undertaken for each submission and if, for some reason such as a formatting error, it’s not possible for the winning or losing provider to validate the port, the process usually needs to be started again from scratch.

In Australia, port times are further compounded by the fact that there is no central porting database. Instead, each carrier is required to maintain and update their own, which is an incredibly costly and complex undertaking.

Furthermore, there are numerous porting validation stages between submitting a request and the cutover date when the port is completed, including but not limited to:

  • PNV (5-10 working days): Pre-Port Number Validation – The winning carrier requests validation of phone number details from the losing carrier
  • CNA (5-10 working days): Complex Notification Advice – The winning carrier must provide porting details for each number to be ported to the losing carrier.
  • Donor Validation (5-10 working days): If the number was originally allocated from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – the national regulator – to a different carrier, they must also validate the port
  • Booking Stage (10 working days): All parties must agree on a date to schedule the port.

You don’t have to love acronyms to work in porting, but it certainly helps! The above timelines are the typically expected SLAs, but due to the current delays, we’re seeing Telstra and other losing providers often doubling these time frames, while the booking stage is rising to as high as 9-10 weeks for Telstra and 10-30 days for other operators.

As a result, the process of porting a number away from Telstra can take anywhere up to 9-12 weeks at present.

Telstra’s Migration Strategy

Beyond the complexity of the porting process itself, clearly the major factor behind extended porting times in Australia is the sheer number of requests that are currently being processed.

Telstra and the operators with numbers from its ranges are being inundated with port requests as the country migrates away from its copper network to the NBN. Given how long the National Broadband Network has been in the planning, one might argue that more could have been done to prepare for this very scenario, but that’s a conversation for another day.

As part of the NBN rollout, Telstra has committed to disconnecting retail copper services at any premises for which it receives a validated number portability request. To be fair to the provider, each of its wholesale customers retains control over the timing of their own ISDN disconnection during the migration window, which certainly makes it harder for the carrier to accurately forecast demand for ports from one moment to the next.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of Telstra’s wholesale customers to manage the migration of their own customers in a way that “minimizes the period of any service outage and the time taken to complete local number portability processes”.

Simplified Number Portability from Voxbone

Even for people who know the industry, porting can be a complex process that’s hard to understand – especially given that it is different in every country. If you’re looking to port phone numbers for your customers in Australia and wish to streamline the process as much as possible, Voxbone’s Number Porting API does just this by standardizing and automating the request process, including submission and validation of required documentation and proofs.

In this way, we can ensure to minimize the risk of any unnecessary hold-ups due to incorrect formatting or missing information – things that may well cause the ACMA, the country’s regulator, to demand that the process is started again from scratch.

Voxbone has streamlined its porting process from conducting thousands of ports in Australia. We know the the regulators and carriers, so we are well placed to give our customers advice on best-practice to ensure minimal delays when they need to request a port. And because our LNP team has resources across different time zones, we’re able to cut out any waiting time caused by time differences.

Ultimately, the best thing to do to get your numbers ported is to submit your requests as soon as possible. Our Number Porting API is designed to make it easy to do just that.

Dig into our Number Porting API documentation here