Memorandum from Mr Jim Watt
1. I have listened with interest to the
submissions to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Mr Peter Caruana
and Mr Peter Hain on the 28 November 2001.
2. As previously I made a written contribution
to the Committee on an area I had particular knowledge, I would
like to again clarify a vital point which was unfortunately not
explained by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar who has clearly not
been adequately briefed on this highly technical issue.
3. This is a technical issue and the Spanish
"generous offer" requires interpretation.
4. I am an IT professional of some 30 years
experience, with a specific knowledge of telecommunications. I
am not employed by the Government of Gibraltar but advise companies
regarding telecoms in Gibraltar and am recognised as an expert
on this subject.
5. Gibraltar has been allocated an international
country code by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
of 350. Within this country code the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority
(GRA) is responsible for producing a numbering plan in consultation
with the local operators, in the same way as OFTEL in the United
6. In ITU terms a "country code"
does not have any sovereignty meaning, as indeed Canada and the
USA share the same "country code" of 1.
7. Spain refuses to accept the Gibraltar
code of 350 and instead insists on treating Gibraltar as a part
of the province of Andalucia.
8. At present Gibraltar has a numbering
scheme based on five digit numbers. Because of historical reasons
related to the interworking of the Military exchange and the Civil
exchange some prefixes are not available. As a result of developments
like fax machines, the Internet and the growth of business and
home use of "the telephone" the present five digit numbering
scheme is at its limit and cannot cope with future needs.
9. You will be aware that the United Kingdom
has several times changed its numbering scheme to accommodate
expansion of the network and the introduction of new services.
The actual numbering scheme, or "number space" is always
much greater than the anticipated number of physical lines or
operating numbers per capita.
10. When Sr Piqué talks of "granting
Gibraltar 100,000 telephone lines" he really means he is
allowing Gibraltar to increase the Gibraltar numbering scheme
in a way strictly limited by Spain.
11. This is not a matter of physical lines,
as the Gibraltar telecom companies can always purchase as many
lines as are commercially viable.
12. At present, if Gibraltar increased its
numbering scheme by including an extra digit, it would be impossible
to dial any of our numbers from the Spanish network, which is
13. As with the case of refusing roaming
agreements in respect of GSM mobiles, this is direct economic
sabotage to the economy of Gibraltar.
14. That "generous offer" when
viewed from a technical perspective is somewhat less than what
one would expect in a modern Europe.
15. In addition the non-recognition of our
code of 350 causes problems with incoming calls from other countries
which are routed in transit through Spain. This is a highly technical
issue, but the only solution is the correct use of the assigned
Mr Jim Watt
1 1st Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session
2001-02, Gibraltar, HC 413. Back