New National Telecommunications Numbering Plan to be implemented

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 3            January 24, 2002

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What the recent rate increases in phone bills implemented by Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) did not stir up in residents of Belize, the government will- with the new National Telecommunications Numbering Plan for the country of Belize. Since BTL has been the only service provider in Belize for so many years, an alternative telephone numbering system was never necessary. Now, because of the reality of future competition, BTL is obliged by the Telecommunications Act to implement a plan to designate one digit of Belize phone numbers for whichever provider the customer chooses. Eliminating the area codes currently used by consumers, the new plan will soon replace the existing area code and five-digit telephone number with a "uniform seven-digit number."

    Initially "gazetted" in the June 9th, 2001 edition of the Government Gazette, the plan was announced first to BTL business clients last week to give them adequate time to prepare for changes to their business stationery, business cards, etc. According to the BTL letter, as of May 1, 2002, customers nationwide will be required to dial seven numbers for all calls, whether within the same area or district, or to another area or district. Claiming to "minimize any inconvenience to you" the letter also stated that BTL is "making its best efforts" to standardize the changes made so that customers may keep their current five-digit number, and only change the additional two prefix numbers.

    Answers to how this new Numbering Plan will improve telecommunications in Belize and why this plan is being implemented could not be obtained from BTL. Inquiries made to the Sales Department (the number designated in the letter) to obtain further information led to a Public Relations Department representative who explained that nothing more could be disclosed until educational booklets are completed. The information that could be revealed from PR rep was that a public education campaign will soon be launched and business clientele will "very shortly" be the first to learn exactly what their new seven-digit number will be; which was the same information supplied in the letter. It was learned that this new plan will affect mobile cellular and fixed cellular numbers as well as land line telephone numbers. It was not established if mobile phones would need to be reprogrammed by BTL personnel.

    According to the Government Gazette, the plan was established to provide a "coherent and standardized process of accessing any consumer through addressable number codes with a choice of service and/or service provider." In the revised Numbering Plan, as explained in the Gazette, the first digit of the seven-digit code will classify the "Geographic or District Code" and the second digit will identify the service provider. In the example used by the Gazette, a land line in San Pedro Town, (being in the Belize District), would be designated as a "2". This would be the first number of the new seven-digit plan. Further on in the example, BTL is designated by service provider code "2" which would make the new Ambergris Caye area code "22," to be followed by the remaining five digits of the customer number. Thereby, using this example, the San Pedro Sun telephone number would switch from (02)-62070 to (22)-62070. This is ONLY AN EXAMPLE- as interpreted by the information printed in the Government Gazette. As stated before, BTL will be conducting a publicity campaign to educate the public and will soon be informing businesses of their designated numbers.

    According to the letter issued by BTL, the objectives of the new Numbering Plan are: 1) to provide you with an easier way of making both local and national calls, 2) to make it simpler for you to call Belize when traveling abroad, and 3) to ensure that telecommunication in Belize is comparable and consistent with international standards.
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