Tue | Mar 19, 2019

Ten-digit dialing not likely to pose any major problem, says business leaders

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Private-sector leaders say that their organisations are prepared to integrate the 10-digit telephone dialling sequence that is due to come on stream later this year along with the introduction of a new international area code number '658'. The current area code, '876', is almost exhausted and requires an additional code, or NPA (numbering plan area), which will come into effect at midnight on May 31, 2018.

The change effectively makes the dialling of local numbers a mandatory 10-digit exercise (the three-digit area code plus the last seven digits of the phone number). While this promises to bring Jamaica in line with most of the world, it, no doubt, will create some amount of disruption, primarily to the business sector, according to Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, spokesperson for the Office of Utilities Regulations.




"The greatest impact, I think, will be on businesses because they have, for example, their private branch exchange (PBX) systems, which will need to be reconfigured," Bennett Marsh said. PBX is a private telephone network used within a company or organisation.

However, Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, believes that the changes are unlikely to pose any major disruptions. He said that with most people using smartphones that are capable of adjusting to specific commands as well as other smart technology, getting accustomed to a 10-digit dialling sequence should be of little concern.

"I do not see a big issue with this. My personal view is that individuals and companies would have had to make the necessary change to become comfortable with this new system. I feel that many persons already have an idea of this," Mitchell told The Gleaner.

Similarly, Don Wehby, chief executive officer of the GraceKennedy Group, anticipates no problems.

"We are prepared for the transition and do not expect any disruption," Wehby said. "Our teams have already done an impact assessment, and our current focus is on participating in the education effort by sharing information about the new dialling format with our more than 1,800 staff worldwide," he added.

 Non-smartphone users to start editing local numbers

Although mandatory 10-digit dialling is six months away, the country's major telecommuni-cations providers, Flow and Digicel, are advising non-smartphone users to start editing local numbers in their contact list to reflect the '876' area code before the seven-digit phone number.

According to OUR spokesperson Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, the telecoms providers have explained that users of non-smartphones will have to manually input the area code in front of their contacts as there is no facility for them to do it otherwise.

In contrast, smartphone users will have the advantage of utilising applications, or "apps", that can update a person's mobile phone contact list by automatically adding the area code.

"We encourage them (non-smartphone users) to start the process of updating their contact database immediately in order to ensure that they will not suffer any inconvenience once we switch to the mandatory format," Flow's communications director, Kayon Wallace, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

Her counterpart at Digicel, Elon Parkinson, agreed. "It's a process that a user can carry out either in one session, where they just go through the contact list and perform the updates, or they could simply elect to case-by-case update their contact list as the opportunity arises," said Parkinson, who also encouraged users to get into the habit of dialling and saving all 10 digits of a local number.

Come May 31, Jamaica will have its new area code to supplement the existing decades-old code, but there will be a permissive dialling period to allow users enough time to familiarise themselves with the new calling method. During that period, both seven-digit and 10-digit dialling will be allowed. However, when the permissive dialling period has ended at 12:01 a.m. on October 30, only 10-digit dialing will be allowed.