Hello Matangi Tonga!
I read with interest your recent article about the expansion and improvements in the services of the two phone companies in the Kingdom. It brought to mind something that I discovered a few weeks ago.
Those of us that reside away from the Kingdom but try and stay in touch with our family/friends there have been so grateful since the Crown Prince has started his company and lowered prices considerably for telephone calls. They are still higher than anyplace else an overseas Tongan would be expected to call, but hopefully new phones will mean new volume and even lower prices. Congratulations to Tonfon, it doesn't seem that would have happened with the old monopoly.
One thing we were waiting for with the new company was text messaging. My friends there tell me that with one phone company you can send text messages, but unlike with our friends in the US and Europe, Tonga cannot send or receive text messages overseas. This is unfortunate, but since the Internet has come to so many more people in Tonga (once again, good job Tonfon!) it's been easier to chat with family online.
This brings me to the main point of my letter. Recently, one of the online chat services (MSN Messenger) has a new feature where you can send an online message from the internet to your mobile phone with a text message. Strangely enough, these text messages appear to be coming from Tonga!
How can that be? There must in the world be some sort of body that keeps track of telephone numbers and their uses. They must grant the 676 country code to somebody in Tonga. After talking with a friend who is a bit more Internet savvy than me, we are of the belief that either these leases/allocations/assignments (whatever the word is) must either have been used illegally or by a special grant from someone in the Kingdom.
This leads to an interesting question. With two telephone companies, who grants these overseas parties the rights to use "Tongan" telephone numbers for their own uses? What sort of payment do they receive for it? Are there any restrictions on how it might be used?
Why the big deal? After the ship registry, overseas banking, and the .to scandals, those of us who have enjoyed the lower calling prices to Tonga are very worried that perhaps someone in Tonga will start selling Tongan phone numbers for uses such as horoscopes, gambling, pornography, or any other unchristian uses. They use an "overseas" number to charge an incredibly high "overseas" rate, the profit of which usually getting split between the phone company and whatever organization is selling their services. That makes phone companies in countries such as the US, Australia, and NZ nervous and either makes them raise their rates or for some smaller phone card companies (like most of us use overseas to call Tonga) cut out calling to such a country altogether.
What's the profit in selling Tongan phone numbers overseas? Who's in charge of it? Is it really worth it? With so many things working so well, do the powers that be really need to "milk out" this area and once again risk the chance of Tonga getting made a laughing stock worldwide at the best, and an economic pariah at the worst?
Something to think about...
Sunday, December 26, 2004.