Belize North – The Telephone Situation

December 22, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.belizenorth.com/telephone_situation_2006.htm 

Basically, the situation has not changed much, altho there is a lot of hullabaloo about it.

You can read about the hullabaloo here, a site maintained by the Belize Free Internet Consortium.  As I have pointed out elsewhere, Hon. Said Musa and the PUP acknowledged that the Internet was key to future economic success in 1999.  He commissioned a a blue ribbon panel to study the Services sector of the economy and presented a report which was on the belize.gov website for over five years.  This year, it disappeared. (You can see it here.)   After that repoort was issued, the PUP pressed to quit the monopoly that BTL had.  A competitor, Intelco, was founded to break the monopoly, and was awarded a contract to supply all of the GOB’s communications.  It a farcical series of events, Intelco borrowed a bunch of money (about $88 million) from the DFC and a Miami bank; built a set of towers and offices, and then… shut down, defaulting on the loans. BTL continued to supply GOB communications.  

Speednet is a competitor in the Cellular arena, but they buy all of their services from BTL! 

The history of BTL, through Jun 2005, is related by Mark Espat here.  At that time, it appeared that BTL might be sold to employees and other interested Belizeans, but the majority share was sold back to Lord Michael Ashcroft. It soon became apparent that BTL would not lower its rates — the Belize was still basically in the same monopoly situation it was in when the services report was published in 1999!

Mort recently, the PUC and the Legislator have expressed a desire to allow people in Belize to use VoIP (Voice over Internet) systems to make long distance calls.  This has been thwarted by BTL.  Their blockage of such services as Skyp and Vonage are related here.  

Most recently, BTL has announced a new service, WebTalk which works like other VoIP services. By some accounts, it appears to be antequated and expensive.

My old partner and friend Hugo now has a calling center in Corozal.  His office, Stellar Links, is at 39A 4th Avenue (half a block north of Reyes) and he offers calls to the US for $5 dollah a half hour, $2.50 min. for 15 minutes or less.  You can inquire by mail here.

If you have additional comments about the current situation, please write me.

Advertisements

Channel 5 – B.T.L. Introduces Low Cost “Webtalk” Service

December 19, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=17624 

They refuse to let Belizeans take advantage of low cost computer based phone services like Skype or Vonage and for that and other reasons few people will be singing the praises of B.T.L. this Christmas. But as of December fifteenth the phone company is offering an alternative that, while not as economical as we’d like, at least is a whole lot cheaper than we had before. News Five’s Kendra Griffith reports.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
It’s called the Webtalk and according to Senior Marketing Rep. Lisa Stanford, it’s just one more means by which B.T.L. customers can make cheaper international calls.

Lisa Stanford, Sr. Marketing Rep., B.T.L.
“It’s B.T.L.’s internet phone service and with that service customers could make calls from their PCs to a regular telephone number or a mobile number to destinations over the world. It doesn’t have to be the U.S.; it’s international calls at very low rates.”

And while you might not need a phone, you will need…

Lisa Stanford
“They need to have computer, internet access-–preferably B.T.L.’s high speed internet access-–and they also need to have a headset. We’re recommending that they have a headset that they could have on the ears like you did, we’re recommending a one hundred twenty-eight k high speed internet connection.”

You will also need to have access to an international credit card.

Lisa Stanford
“It’s simple to register, to get on to the web site, and it’s just one two, three steps, and you’re on, and you can make calls.”

Step One, log on to http://www.webtalk.btl.net

Lisa Stanford
“Once you are here, the first thing you are gonna do as a new customer is register your account. So click on register and fill out your necessary information.”

Step two, Purchase calling time

Lisa Stanford
“We have four denominations, five, ten, twenty, and thirty. They are all U.S. dollars. You click on the one that you want, and it will automatically change here. You don’t have to write that in. Then you put in your information, your credit card number, your security code and everything that’s needed in order to purchase it.”

Step three, download the software.

Lisa Stanford
“Every time you want to use the service, you just need to put in your username and your password and login to the service.”

Step four, place your call.

Lisa Stanford
“With this service you just dial the country code. For the U.S. it’s going to be one and then the area code and then the seven digit number.”

Webtalk also comes with features like a phonebook, call history, and how much money you have remaining. Stanford says another plus is that the service doesn’t tie you down to one computer.

Lisa Stanford
“Once you’ve registered your account, you could use that account while you are travelling abroad, you could use it while you’re at home or at work, it doesn’t have to be stationary, anywhere that you are, and you have access to internet and your credit card, you could use the service. The reviews have been very good, and the service being that it’s voice over IP is very good. So we’re recommending that you know people could come out, they could use it.”

Like its other promotions, calls on Webtalk get cheaper after five minutes, Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

For more information on rates or to try the service, log on to http://www.webtalk.btl.net. As for those other lower cost computer phone services, many Belizeans have discovered that there are ways to electronically beat the system and continue to do so.


BTL Webtalk Launched…

December 19, 2006

Official BTL Webtalk Site:

https://www.webtalk.btl.net/belize/

Here are the basics:

  • High rates compared to Skype and other softphone applications. For example, Calling the USA still costs 10-30 US cents per minute. Skype is free PC to PC and virtually free calling regluar phones.
  • The following snapshot shows Webtalk’s rates for US and UK calling.  Remember, rates are in US currency.

Country Peak
(0-5mins)
(US$)
Peak
(over 5mins)
(US$)
Off-Peak
(0-5mins)
(US$)
Off-Peak
(over 5mins)
(US$)
United States of America 0.30 0.16 0.22 0.10
United Kingdom 0.54 0.40 0.45 0.33
  • Softphone only, cannot be used with a regular wired/cordless phone
  • No inbound US/International phone number and no inbound Belize number
  • No voicemail
  • No added features like caller ID, call waiting, 3-way etc.
  • Credits may only be added to the account using a US credit card totally alienating Belizean customers.
  • MS Windows-only client, no Mac OS X support.

My personal favorite technical feature listed on the site:

“-Hold the transmit button 1 second before speaking.”

Is this thing a CB radio or a phone? Post your review here if you are actually using this.