By Chris Halsall
CONSUMERS in Barbados who have been early adopters of new telephony offerings should be commended. Not only have they encouraged competition, but some have faced some strange challenges…
Imagine that you have just activated your new service, using one of the new competitive providers. You call everyone you know using your new phone, and gloat about how great it is. Clarity is amazing. Calling features are astounding. You’re doing the “happy dance”.
But, strangely, some people start telling you that they cannot call you back on your brand new phone number… This becomes a serious issue — a phone which can’t be called is not much use.
Why would this happen? Well, it is actually quite simple…
Phone numbers are assigned in blocks by the Barbados Telecommunications Unit. These are known as “NXXs”, and contain 10,000 phone numbers. 628 is an example of a relatively new NXX here in Barbados, containing the phone numbers 246 628 0000 through to 246 628 9999.
NXXs are only assigned to licensed carriers, and are published in an industry database known as the Local Exchange Routing Guide, usually referred to as “the LERG”. Once an NXX is in the LERG every carrier in the world should know how to reach any phone number in the block.
But in a bizarre twist for Barbados consumers, Cable and Wireless (C&W) have configured their client’s Private Branch eXchanges (PBXs) such that by default they cannot reach any NXX not explicitly allowed. This means that unless and until a C&W field engineer reconfigures each and every PBX in Barbados correctly, some customers of C&W cannot reach a new competitor’s numbers.
To make matters worse, these reconfigurations cannot be done remotely — someone has to go to each and every customer’s location. And they have to do the configurations correctly. And they have to remember to save the reconfigurations, or else they will be lost the next time the power fails.
And then the whole thing has to happen again when a new NXX is assigned.
This may explain why competitive carriers’ customers continue to face this issue for many, many months. And the most frustrating thing about this is there is absolutely no technical reason why things are done this way by C&W. PBXs here in Barbados should be configured with a “default allow”, with NXXs only being denied at the explicit request of the PBX customer.
Your author tries not to attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. But it is very clear that how C&W configures their clients’ PBXs here in Barbados is illogical, can cause a bad user experience for their customers, results in unnecessary work by their field technicians, and causes difficulties for their competitors. One might even go so far as to say it is subtly anticompetitive.
So, what can be done about it? You, gentle reader, can help… Call [A local Barbados Phone Number]. (ED: Note this number is no longer operational.)
As a public service, your author has created a test to help diagnose this issue. Anyone who works in an office here in Barbados is encouraged to call [A local Barbados Phone Number]. If your PBX is configured correctly, you should hear a very polite woman read off your caller ID, and then bid you goodbye.
If, however, you hear a busy signal or some message saying that the number cannot be reached, then your PBX has not yet been reconfigured correctly. If this is the case, you need to call your C&W representative and complain.
International readers who are willing to invest in the expense of a ten second long distance call to Barbados are welcome to call 246 [A Barbados Phone Number]. If the call fails, you need to contact your long distance service provider and ask why you cannot reach a valid Barbados number.
What is most worrying is that this is yet another barrier to any competitive carrier entering the Barbados marketplace. From the consumer’s perspective, it appears that the new carrier is not functioning correctly, thus discouraging adoption.
But the knowledgeable consumer knows better — and keeps the pressure on.
More information about telecommunications issues in Barbados is available at www.ideas4lease.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be published in the Barbados Advocate Business Monday 2008.03.03.