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Digicel, FLOW assure compatibility with new '658' area code

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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JAMAICA'S two major telecommunication service providers — Digicel and FLOW — have committed to having their networks compatible with the new 658 area code by the May 2018 deadline stipulated by the Office of the Utilities Regulation (OUR).

The OUR, in a press release yesterday, announced that Jamaica now has an additional area code, 658, which will be used in addition to, and not as a replacement for, the existing 876 area code once the existing telephone numbers under the 876 area code are exhausted.

Director General of the OUR Ansord Hewitt, noted, however, that the most immediate change will be the introduction of mandatory 10-digit dialling, for all local telephone calls, come May next year. The additional area code is aimed at ensuring that there are sufficient numbers available to satisfy growth in demand over the next 25 years.

According to the OUR, effective May 31, 2018, the country will commence a five-month adjustment period known as the permissive dialling period where customers will reach numbers in the current 876 area code by dialling the area code plus the seven digits phone number.

“If only the seven digit telephone number is dialled the caller will hear a recording reminding him/her to dial the number using the area code plus the seven-digit number, then the call will be completed to the called number. After the permissive dialling period is ended, all local calls will require 10-digit dialling to be completed. For example, to call the OUR persons will have to dial 876-968-6053,” the OUR said its press release.

Digicel in a statement to the Jamaica Observer said it has been planning together with the OUR and other industry stakeholders the launch of a public education campaign to support implementation of an additional area code for Jamaica.

“We have participated in various sensitisation sessions hosted by the OUR, involving public and private sector groups over the past six months, and we're now making plans to engage the wider public. In the meantime, we are ensuring technical readiness by the stipulated dates outlined by the OUR,” the service provider said.

Director of corporate communications and stakeholder management at FLOW, Kayon Wallace, also told the newspaper that key parts of the telecommunications company network can now support 10-digit dialling. However, some further software upgrades, along with table and configuration adjustments, are required to implement this dialling format into production.

“The introduction of 10-digit dialling will not mean an increase in telephone charges. Nor will anyone have to change their existing telephone numbers. However, we are encouraging persons, especially businesses and government agencies, to start adding the current 876 area code on all their printed materials and signage. We are also encouraging users of alarm services and solutions with automatic diallers, and operators of PBX systems, to contact their respective service providers to ensure that their systems will be compatible with the new numbering and dialling arrangements,” Hewitt said.

Under the Telecommunications Act, the OUR has full responsibility for the allocation, assignment and usage of telecommunication numbers in Jamaica.

In 2012 the regulator began work on the 10-digit dialling system, and since then it has placed a formal request to the North American Numbering Plan Administration for the assignment of an additional area code and has commenced the Numbering Plan Area implementation process.

Jamaica's 876 area code was assigned in June 1996. It was envisaged then that the area code would provide sufficient numbering capacity for the next 20 years of demand growth. But, in 2009, after just 13 years, the country had to consider the introduction of a new area code to augment the existing '876' numbering space and, consequently, to move from the current standardised 7-digit to a mandatory 10-digit dialling for all local calls.

At December 2009, 6,250,000 of the assumed capacity of 7,730,000 numbers had been assigned to telecommunications service providers and their projected five-year demand for numbers indicated a need for 1,310,000 new numbers over the next three years. Using its numbering resource utilisation and forecast survey results, the OUR estimated that the expected period for the exhaustion of area code 876 would be the fourth quarter of 2012.

However, subsequent developments in the local telecommunications markets, including acquisitions of local telecommunications business operations and the lowering of mobile termination rates, which lowered the utilisation of and demand for numbering resources, served to delay the exhaustion of the 876 area code until the current forecast date.

Typically an additional area code must be implemented at least 18 months before the exhaustion of the existing area codes serving an area.

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