ACA tightens MNP standards

Describing the overall performance of Australian mobile carriers during the first week of mobile number portability (MNP) as "unacceptable", telecommunication regulator Australian Communications Authority (ACA) will now impose stricter standards, ACA said in a statement Thursday.

MNP, which was introduced last week, allows consumers to keep their mobile phone number when they change their mobile service provider -- a process known as porting -- and is expected to increase the rate of subscribers changing operators.

The new standards follow an investigation launched Tuesday by ACA into allegations that some mobile operators were slow to fix their systems, especially when dealing with port-outs -- subscribers leaving to find a new service provider.

In the statement, ACA said that under the new standards, which will be imposed for the next four weeks, carriers will be required to ensure that:

-- at least 90 percent of ports are completed in less than three hours as specified in the MNP Code; -- no port takes more than two days; -- responses to port-outs and port-ins are the same.

The four main carriers -- Telstra , Vodafone, Optus, and Orange brand, will have to report weekly to ACA regarding their porting performance.

The MNP process has been hampered by IT glitches and a lack of communication between carriers to solve incompatibilities between these systems, ACA said in the statement.

"Clearly the performance of the carriers in the first week of MNP has not been good enough and porting times of more than three hours are not acceptable," ACA said in the statement. "In many cases, consumers are not getting a satisfactory service. This needs to be fixed quickly to ensure public confidence in MNP."

ACA said its investigation had not found any prima facie evidence of deliberate anti-competitive behavior by any of the carriers.

Former monopoly carrier Telstra has urged that MNP be suspended until performance improves, but the other three carriers did not agree, ACA said. Telstra also asked that the ACA report should list the specific MNP performance of each of the four carriers.

As the largest player in Australia's mobile market, Telstra potentially has more to lose than the other carriers. But the company said in a statement Thursday that some of Australia's biggest companies would shift their mobile phone services to Telstra from other carriers. Optus earlier said it expected to gain market share because of MNP.

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