Another step to establish St. Maarten's identity
Another step to establish St. Maarten's identity

1-721 area code now in effect

MAHO - Another facet of St. Maarten's identity as an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom was established when the country's new dialing code 1-721 went into effect at 2:00am this morning. The new code was launched symbolically at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on Thursday afternoon when former Netherlands Antilles telecommunication minister Captain Leo Chance pressed a button to introduce it.

This is the start of the transition period until September 30, 2012, during which the existing 599 code can still be dialed, or 1-721. As of September 30, 2012, only 1-721 can be used to reach St. Maarten. Calls made using 599 will not be processed after September 30, 2012.


Tourism, Economic Affairs and Telecommunications Minister Franklin Meyers originally was supposed to perform the symbolic launch of the new dialing code that makes it easier for people in North America and most countries in the Caribbean to call St. Maarten and for people here to call those areas.


However, Meyers requested that Captain Chance do the honours as he and Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTP) Interim Director Peggy-Ann Brandon looked on, together with a number of invited guests, including Governor Eugene Holiday, President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.

 

With this move the country code is 1, the area code is 721 and these are followed by the existing seven-digit telephone number. The only change to the existing telephone numbers are those beginning with 555, because in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) the 555 prefix is reserved for "special services" in the United States.


Keynote speaker Curtis Haynes, who is well known in the local telecommunications industry, described the move to the new code and away from the old country code of the Netherlands Antilles (599) as a major step to establishing St. Maarten's own identity and breaking free of the Antilles. He said that often when people called or looked on the Internet, the old country code identified St. Maarten as Netherlands Antilles.

 

Haynes also encouraged government and the private sector to explore more opportunities in the telecommunications sector. The new code gives the country access to some 7.8 million telephone numbers and will use only about five per cent, far more than the market needs, thus opening the way for businesses with "mobile virtual operations" to hook up to the local cellular network. This would generate income for the country.


Haynes recalled the long journey to arrive at the new code, the growth of the telecommunications industry in St. Maarten and the benefits of the new system. He called the move to the NANP used by the country's main source market – North America – as "simplicity of dialing," because people can dial the same way they do at home.
Meyers said the achievement of the NANP was testament to the resolve of the people of St. Maarten, in particular many people in the tourism industry and government. "We have heard 'it can't be done' and 'no,' but we continue to do it."


Similarly, St. Maarten was told it could not have its own submerged cable, but the SMPR1 was laid. Plans are on the way for another cable to link St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Kitts.


The minister said the move to the NANP was "no-brain thinking," because the country's economy depended on tourism from North America.
He pointed out that Japan was the size of New Jersey and had made a profound impact on the world and said St. Maarten also could become an economic powerhouse.

 

Brandon thanked a number of people for their efforts, especially past and present commissioners and ministers such as Maria Buncamper-Molanus, Frans Richardson and Meyers under whose past tenure as a commissioner the plan was formulated. She added that St. Maarten had been told before the SMPR1 was laid that the market here was too small and it would be better to hook onto an existing network.


On behalf of the BTP and government, Brandon thanked Meyers, Captain Chance and Nigel Cassimire of the Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU) for their efforts in arriving at the actual hooking up to the NANP.


In turn, Brandon was presented with a plaque by Meyers for what she described as an "emotional achievement."

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Bureau Telecommunications and Post St. Maarten (BTP) is the independent regulatory authority for the Telecommunications and Post industry in St. Maarten.
BTP is responsible for the maintenance of a competitive environment in St. Maarten in the industries with which it is tasked to regulate.
BTP executes its tasks through consultations with industry participants and stakeholders, focused on attaining quality and affordable communications for all, working towards establishing an environment that support continuous growth and development within the industries. Read more