New phone numbering system implemented

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 17            May 3, 2002

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On Wednesday, May 1st, the new National Telecommunications Numbering Plan for the country of Belize came into effect. Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) customers nationwide, and their worldwide callers, are now required to dial seven numbers to reach all phone lines in Belize. Persons placing calls within the same village, town or district, or to a distant  village, town, or district, and all international callers to Belize must now dial all seven numbers.

    The Government of Belize signed a contract with BTL in 1987, establishing BTL as the exclusive telecommunications service provider for the country, so an alternative telephone numbering system was never necessary. Now, because telecommunications competition is imminent, BTL has fulfilled an obligation to the government, in keeping with the Telecommunications Act, to implement a plan designating a single digit of all Belize telephone numbers to reflect the telecommunications provider the customer chooses. Initially published in the June 9th, 2001 edition of the Government Gazette, the plan was announced to BTL business clients earlier this year to give them time to alter their business stationery, business cards, advertising, etc.  

    In the revised numbering plan, the first digit of the area code will classify the customer's geographic location or "District Code". The district numbers are: Belize (2), Orange Walk (3), Corozal (4), Stann Creek (5), Mobile (6), Toledo (7) and Cayo (8). The second digit will identify the choice of service provider. BTL, as the only service provider has designated the following choices: pre-paid (0), mobile (1) and regular telephones (2). For example, the first number of a landline (non-mobile) customer located in San Pedro Town, Belize District, is designated a "2". If the customer has chosen regular telephone service, the next number is "2," making their new area code "22". These two numbers are followed by the remaining five-digits of their previous telephone number. Thereby, using this example, The San Pedro Sun regular telephone was (02)-62070 and is now (22)-62070. Now, there is also the option of pre-paid landline service. So, if The San Pedro Sun decided to switch their phone number to prepaid service, using the formula above, the second digit would be changed to (0) for pre-paid and the number would convert to (20)-62070.

    Regarding mobile cellular phones, the first digit is always (6) for mobile. The second digit is either (0) for prepaid cellular or (1) for standard cellular phones. The third number is the same as the old number. For example, The San Pedro Sun standard cellular phone number was 015-2070 but as of May 1st, it changed to 615-2070; a 014 standard cellular phone will be 614. Pager numbers, formerly a 017 number, now use the prefix 617. Prepaid cellular phones that began with the numbers 016, 018 or 019 are now 606, 608 or 609, respectively. Internet users will not need to re-configure their computers to dial in to BTL.

    The new numbering formula for fixed cellular phone numbers could not be established as several phone calls from this newspaper went unreturned by BTL public relations personnel over a two-day period. Dialing 113 seemed to be the most informative option as customer relations revealed many answers to our questions.

    This new numbering system appeared in Gazette form in June 2001 and was first announced by The San Pedro Sun in January of this year. There was but one advertisement explaining the basic formula of the numbering system in all this time, yet, it was stated new phone books are still not ready and will not be distributed until mid-May!

    BTL announced Tuesday evening (April 30th) they are extending a three-month grace period to assist customers in adapting to this new 7-digit format. Therefore, in dialing both the existing and new numbers, customers will get calls through. After this period, customers will get a recording, which will direct them to telephone operators for assistance. For those with Internet access, new numbers can also be accessed at www.btl.net or www.belizeweb.com.



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