Published On: Tue, Oct 30th, 2018

TelEm emergency shutdown shot down by BTP

Telem building

POND ISLAND — Telem Group announced Monday, October 29, 2018, that they would be shutting down their communications network for important upgrades to the system. The maintenance window for these urgent upgrades would be from Tuesday night 11pm until 3am. For four hours no communication services would be available. Not even for the emergency services.

In a press statement the telecom company announced that all mobile voice and data services, internet and landline services would be affected. A number of emergency services would also be affected including the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Sint Maarten Medical Center and the Government Administration Building.

According to TelEm Group Chief Technical Officer, Mr. Eldert Louisa, the shutdown would allow for critical maintenance and upgrade works and cannot be avoided at this time.

“Once completed, this operation will help with many technical improvements to the service we provide for our customers and to St. Maarten generally,” said Mr. Louisa.

Mr. Louisa said the late hours of Tuesday, October 31, were chosen to carry out the works so that there can be the least impact on customers, however the technical chief says some very important public and emergency services will be affected and he is especially asking members of the public who may wish to make use of these services to take special note.

“We will have outside contractors and engineers standing by and assisting during this maintenance window to ensure services are restored as quickly as possible and with the least interruption and impact possible,” said Mr. Louisa.

The CTO meantime took the opportunity in advance to apologize on behalf of management to all those who would be affected by Tuesday’s four-hour shutdown.

Temporary emergency number for Fire Department

Then Tuesday, the Fire Department issued a press announcement that they would have a temporary emergency number available during Telem’s four hour emergency shutdown.

For fire alarms people would be able to dial a UTS-Chippie number, which would be active for the public in the event of a fire emergency from 10:30pm Tuesday night, October 30, until TelEm restored its network and the regular Fire Department emergency numbers were back online.

The Fire Chief Clive Richardson thanked UTS for their cooperation with the aforementioned, basically thanking UTS for providing a temporary alternative number on such short notice as the TelEm emergency shutdown was scheduled to affect all mobile, voice and data services, internet and landline services on its network.

This meant that only customers with a UTS-Chippie phone number would have been able to dial this temporary UTS-Chippie number in the event of a fire emergency.

BTP puts a halt to emergency TelEm shutdown

Then BTP, Bureau Telecommunications & Post, the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector in St. Maarten, stepped in and shot down the shutdown plans.

BTP published a release on Tuesday afternoon stating that on Monday, October 29th, 2018, the management of Telem group duly informed the general public of Sint Maarten of its intents to carry out an “Emergency Shutdown” of its telecommunication services that was scheduled to take place Tuesday from 11pm, lasting till Wednesday morning 3am.

BTP stated that considering the fact that Telem didn’t adhere to proper reporting procedures, the message was communicated to the public on a very short notice, and the fact that several Emergency Services – such as the police, ambulance and fire department – would be affected, Bureau Telecommunications and Post St. Maarten (BTP) – the regulatory authority for country Sint Maarten – had no other choice then to put an immediate halt to the intended shutdown.

The decision to halt the shutdown was also explained during an emergency meeting that took place Tuesday, whereby Telem was heard by the BTP Director and supporting staff.

In an effort to ensure that customer connectivity is minimally affected and that the general public safety is safeguarded, Telem Group have agreed to delay the maintenance window until later this week.

Telem has been instructed by BTP to ensure that the critical services will have no interruptions, and in the event that operations are affected, alternative connectivity is ensured.

The director of BTP – Mr. Carty explained that ‘while we have full understanding that network upgrades in our industry are necessary to improve services, we must never forget the importance of the availability of emergency services on our island, especially since we are in the Atlantic Hurricane Season, with one active storm reported.’

“During important upgrades operators must have a plan in place to ensure that the critical services are available at all times, and we cannot settle for less”.

BTP announced that scheduled maintenance on the Telem network is postponed until further notice, and the operator agreed that it will notify the general public accordingly of the new dates.