Radio Silence For Unregistered Cell PhonesToday at 6:00 pm - tens of thousands of cell phones and SIM Cards went dead across the country: disconnected for non-registration.
Today July 13th was the firm final deadline - and we spoke with both cell phone providers to find out how many phones went out of commission at 6:00 pm.
Here's what they had to say:
Lisa Gonzalez, Marketing Manager, Speednet Communications
"The latest information we have regarding registration is that we have 80% of our customers registered. That is good news for us because it is majority of our customers. We have about 20% more that is still left to come in and update their information, so we are waiting on them to come in."
At the time that this story airs - their cell will have been cut off. Am I correct?
"The deadline is today. What will happen is that when we close our showrooms today we will run a report and see who is not registered and then those are the ones that will be suspended. So these customers won't be able to send or receive calls and SMS. After they are suspended we will have to open them again, once you come in and provide your information. Of course we don't want to inconvenience these customers by suspending their account. But if they don't comply by registering we will have to suspend them."
"Our showrooms will be open tomorrow for half day. So if you get suspended tonight you still have the opportunity to come tomorrow and bring your information that is required from you. But of course from tonight to in the morning or whenever you come your line will be suspended and you won't be able to used your phone."
"We've extended these deadlines several times; these are customers who are delinquent so to speak."
"I wouldn't really want to call our customers delinquent. Maybe some of them have not really had the time to come to register. Some of them are busy, that's why we are extending the opening hours until 6 o' clock. Maybe some of them are not really taking it seriously and they don't think that something will happen. I guess people are all having different situations. I urge everyone to come in and to register their accounts and update everything with us."
Anjali Vasquez, Manager Public Relations - BTL
"We have already communicated with the Government Press Office in saying that we will be complying with what has been mandated. So as of 6 o' clock this evening we will begin the process of disconnection of unregistered numbers."
"What is your estimate of what part of your customer base has still not registered their numbers?"
"We are around 45,000 customers, I used the word around because that a dynamic figure. People are still registering at this point and up to 6 o' clock the people who have registered will be taken off the disconnection list. So we will disconnect less than that but that's the number we have at this time."
"We haven't had that much rushing. We open offices last week Saturday from 8-3 and I have to tell you we didn't have that big of a turn out, we've been blasting customers - reminding them that we've extended opening hours and we've beef up staff to ensure that there are people to deal with you efficiently when you come in. We know people don't have time to spend in an office registering, so we try to make it as quick as possible and we haven't have that many in the last couple of weeks. I think we are still at the 45,000."
"It's a long overdue process, I think that we as a people have this culture where we will stick to the very last moment and they don't think that this threat is real, they don't think that their numbers will be disconnected."
"Well we are at the 11th hour and as I mention government mandate in writing that we disconnect unregistered numbers and we are complying with that law and with that order. What we will do however, a lot of these numbers have credit on them - they have value and also the have make calls and have done texts, so there is usage and we know you want to keep your service, maybe for some reason you weren't able to come in and register. Of course at 6 o' clock today we will comply but then tomorrow morning we will open at 8 all the way to 3pm. For those customers who needs to register and reconnect their number as soon as possible. So we will be doing that in response to those customers who maybe didn't have a chance, they got disconnected today but they can come in tomorrow and register."
"So all their data and everything will be preserve until they comply and they are able to get their service reconnected?"
"They will first have to register - so you come in with your passport or valid ID, you register your number and we will reconnect you and of course the balance that you had at reconnection will be placed back on to your account. So you will end up with your full service once again but having a registered number this time."
"I don't mean to be-labored the point but am 45,000 after 2 or 3 extensions is still a large number of people who are still unregister."
"That is correct and we will keep reconnecting people. We don't have a timeline just as yet but at the end of the day we want our customers to keep their service, so we will do as much as possible to ensure that."
As you heard in the interview, if you failed to register your phone, you can go into both offices tomorrow and get it done. Once you have, all of your information, and your credit - or whatever value - will be there, because both companies will preserve the accounts until they are reactivated.
Phone companies disconnect over 60,000 unregistered customers
The deadline for the mandatory registration of prepaid cellular phones was initially in March, but was extended twice, eventually landing on July thirteenth. Well, it appears that those extensions led consumers to doubt that the disconnections would really take effect, but on Friday night over sixty thousand customers from Belize Telemedia Limited and Smart were cut off. According to Anjali Vasquez, the Public Relations Manager for B.T.L., they expected to be bombarded with last minute registrations on Friday, but that was not the case. Instead, the crowd showed up on Saturday to get their phones reconnected.
Anjali Vasquez, P.R. Manager, Belize Telemedia Limited
“Actually the last day of registrations was slow. We didn’t get as many people in as we had hoped, being that it was the twelfth hour at that point. We believe everybody who wanted to register pretty much did it beforehand. We had opened on the Saturday before as well but we were at that point still forty-five thousand unregistered numbers in our system so we expected that quite a few people would be coming in over the weekend—which, we opened on Saturday again because if you wanted to reconnect your number immediately, we understand that this is your number so we wanted to be able to accommodate that, which we did. We had quite a busy Saturday this weekend and again this morning we’re getting a lot of people in.”
“Okay, so people are coming in to reconnect.”
“That’s right. What we’ve been emphasizing is that we want to give you your service, you just need to register that number and it’s a very simple process. I mean it’s five minutes of your time with your ID and your number, you come in, you register and we reconnect you. A lot of people had credit on their numbers at the time of disconnection, so we’re just putting back that balance that you had at that time back on your phone.”
“So at the end of Friday how many ended up getting disconnected?”
“Well, it was a process over the weekend so basically under forty-five thousand because we had mentioned that as of six o’clock, even if you register at six o’clock on Friday, you were taken off the disconnection list because you had registered. So a little under forty-five thousand and we started reconnecting immediately on Saturday morning if you came in and needed to register and reconnect. We invite you to come in and register your number, reconnection is free and whatever is remaining on your account at that time will be put back onto your account. So your number belongs to you, come in and register.”
While Smart had customers going in at the eleventh hour on Friday, it also pulled the plug on thousands of unregistered customers, who have since been filing in to reconnect. Smart’s PR Officer, Ian Courtenay told News Five today that in the first instance, the accounts are only suspended and can be reclaimed by the customers in the next few weeks, after which they will be completely disconnected.
Ian Courtenay, Public Relations Officer, Smart
“Countrywide we did see an increase in people coming in to register. At midnight, we of course did our disconnections so Saturday morning was very busy day in all our showrooms countrywide as people realized that it was something that was followed through.”
“How many people ended up getting disconnected?”
“We have just about twenty thousand customers who were disconnected. Of course, we suspect some of those are lost phones and so on but, as I said countrywide, we have had longer amounts of customers who have been in the showrooms. But people have been coming in and so on. We have, of course suspended all the unregistered accounts. So we have a period of time that we will keep those numbers in case people are interested in keeping the numbers and they can come in and register. And then I suspect after a couple weeks those numbers will be deactivated and put back in the available list.”
“What about—I know some customers may have had credit on their phones, what happens in those cases when they come to reconnect?”
“If they come in before we disconnect the numbers—so while the numbers are being suspended they will still have the credit. But once we disconnect that and put the numbers back, that credit will be erased. If somebody comes in and request a number and that number is given out, then they have lost their number. So we would encourage customers who have the intention of wanting to keep the numbers to come in and the usual registration process will continue from here on so they’ll have to bring an ID and proof of address and so on.”
During the suspension period, reconnection is free and any credit on your accounts will be restored.