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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — One of the major concerns that Yokota Air Base, Japan, residents have about the new services being offered by Allied Telesis is the phone system.

Will 911 still work? How do you call someone on base from a cell phone or regular phone? Is the area code where my family lives available for me to pick so they can call me for free?

Yokota customers have nothing to fear, said Chip Hawkins, Allied Telesis’ project manager, on Monday.

Much of how the new service works, from the customer’s perspective, will be similar to the old system, he said.

Residents will still be able to dial 911 for emergency services from their home, Hawkins said.

Although all residential phone numbers will change, most workplace DSN numbers will remain the same, Hawkins said, adding that base residents calling from home to a workplace will have to add “97” before dialing those numbers.

If you are calling from one workplace to another on Yokota, or from other bases using DSN, you will not need to dial 97, Hawkins said.

Calling from off base in Japan to an on-base residential number will work similarly to the previous system, using a switchboard, although the numbers will be new, Hawkins said. Calls to phone numbers out in town and cell phones will also work the same as in the past, and will be priced at a comparable rate, he said.

But base residents who choose to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Vonage or Skype for their home phones will not be able to call 911 and would have to pay international rates to contact numbers still using the old DSN numbers, he said.

One of Allied’s biggest selling points for the new service is that customers will receive a 10-digit U.S.-based phone number with unlimited free calls to anyone in the United States, Canada and Yokota.

While customers will be able to choose their stateside area code, Hawkins explained that not every customer will get an area code near their family or friends back home.

With over 300 U.S. area codes, Allied was only able to secure blocks of area codes in certain areas, he said.

Hawkins wanted to make it clear that Yokota customers will still get free calls regardless of their area code, and loved ones back home will also find it easier and cheaper to call a U.S. number than an international number, regardless of area code.

He said customers can request an area code not offered by Allied Telesis, and if demand is high enough for that area code, Allied Telesis will attempt to obtain a block of phone numbers from that area.

Hawkins also wanted to clear up the concern many have about a stateside phone number attracting telemarketers.

“By picking an Atlanta area code, will I then be getting calls at three in the morning from a telemarketer in Atlanta trying to sell me aluminum siding?” asked one customer at Allied Telesis’ Yokota store recently.

Hawkins said that customers shouldn’t be concerned about telemarketers because Allied controls who gets access to the phone numbers.

“We own the numbers and we’re not giving them out, so I shouldn’t expect anyone to be getting any calls,” he said.

Allied Telesis is still on schedule to begin phasing in phone and Internet services in February and is currently in the process of testing the service on base, said Hawkins, adding that a new base phone directory is in the works, although no release date has been set.

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