To sum up, VoIP services can have numbers from any local area in the whole country (which they did anyway in a lot of cases, but now it is official policy).
New numbering rules for phones Lucy Battersby February 2, 2011
FIXED-LINE telephone numbers can now be taken outside geographic areas following a decision by the regulator to accommodate the increasing use of internet-based phones.
The decision recognises that area codes are becoming irrelevant to millions of people taking up internet-based phone services with flat national pricing, but also affects emergency services, which rely on geographic information in phone numbers to locate callers.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) changed the Numbering Plan earlier this week as part of a wider review prompted by changing technology and consumer habits.
Currently, about 2 per cent of calls are made on voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phones, but all fixed-line phones in Australia will eventually operate over the internet as the national broadband network replaces the underground copper line network.
The new rules allow a number to be taken across a state, or to another state, as long as the customer is aware it could affect the cost of calls to and from their phone and their new telephone company agrees.
''In practice, the number is still in the place that it belongs,'' general manager of regulatory and corporate affairs at Internode, John Lindsay, told The Age.
''It's just now it is legitimate to use that number somewhere other than the geographic region it belongs to.''
Calls made through VOIP services are generally a flat price regardless of the distance, but calls from the copper network would be charged as if the number were in the original location. ''I don't think that people using numbers actually care about where the numbers are any more, what they care about is whether they pay a fixed price to call it,'' Mr Lindsay said.
However, Inspector Peter Ferguson, from Victoria Police Communications Centre, said emergency services sometimes relied on the geographic information in telephone numbers.
''We want as accurate information as possible ? about the location [of the caller] because that assists us to send the right people to the right location in an emergency,'' he said.
''Every clue that you have available to you, you would use to try to locate them.''
ACMA is expected to make further changes to numbering rules this year. It recognises that consumers want flexibility in numbering and many were already taking VOIP numbers across local boundaries, manager of telecommunications, licensing, numbering and submarine cables section at ACMA Robert Johnston said.
''VOIP, convergence and the NBN are changing technology and the sorts of services that can be offered,'' he said.
''The use of internet protocol for service addressing is increasing and it is possible that this addressing scheme could replace traditional numbering in the future.''