Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, has cited increased competition among local telecommunications providers as the primary reason for the proposed introduction of the new 658 area code.
Noting that “quite a number of service providers exist”, he argued that it is “only logical for (there to be) additional numbers, to be able to service the demand”.
The Minister was addressing an Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) media workshop on the additional area code and 10-digit dialling, at the Hotel Four Seasons, St. Andrew, on Wednesday (April 25).
Dr. Wheatley said other reasons for introducing the new area code and 10-digit dialling, include an increase in the growth of home and business telephones and the rapid spike in wireless phones, pagers, modems and fax machines, among other telecommunications devices.
“Other technologies such as debit and credit card facilities have become common conveniences, and as the demand for these technologies increases, so will be the need for new telephone numbers, (which) will continue to increase in the future,” he noted.
Data from the OUR indicate that the new area code will provide more than seven million additional numbers for the next decade.
The method of relief provided by the code is known as the standard overlay method and will serve the same geographic area used by the existing 876 code.
This is favoured by telecommunications carriers and service providers due to cost considerations.
As of 12:01 a.m. on May 31, Jamaica will become the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to utilise an additional area code.
This timeline will be designated as the permissive period, which means calls will still be allowed. However, this will come to an end on October 30, at which point it will become mandatory to dial 10-digits.
Dr. Wheatley urged Jamaicans to embrace the proposed changes and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by these advances in telecommunications.
He expressed the view that this new development can potentially facilitate expansion of the telecommunications landscape and generate increased investments.
The Minister commended the OUR for its “forward-thinking and role in sensitising the media and the general public about these new developments”.
The OUR’s Director General, Ansord Hewitt, pointed out that the decision for a new area code and the 10-digit dialling was made years ago due, in part, to exhaustion of the numbering capacity.
He informed that the OUR has established a Relief Planning Committee and two subcommittees – the Consumer Awareness Taskforce and the Network Planning Implementation Task Force – to ensure a smooth transition to 10-digit dialling.
“All the committees have as members, representatives from the OUR, the telecommunications companies, and Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC),” Mr. Hewitt said.