Dear mobile operators, stop treating us like morons

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South Africans are well accustomed to being treated like morons by the ANC but there’s no reason we should take that from the private sector too.

international_airtime_transfer_clip_image002In taking SA mobile operators to task I could be talking about their rapacious data prices or mind-bending bundle configurations designed to confuse us into signing over large chunks of cash monthly. But I’m not. Not this time.

No. I’m talking about the bullshit around different types of airtime.

Sign up with any one of the four mobile operators in this country for a top-up contract and you’ll soon learn what I’m talking about. The bundled airtime, for which you pay a monthly ransom, is “not-transferable” and “non-convertible”.

In other words, you have no ability to share airtime with others or use that airtime to buy SMS or data bundles. Oh no, if you want to do that you have buy more “prepaid” airtime.

Fuck off. That’s just theft. Airtime is fucking airtime. It doesn’t matter how or when we pay for it; It’s bloody airtime and it’s paid for. It should be as transferable or convertible as the money what purchased it.

It’s long past time that somebody took the mobile operators to task on this and many other questionable practices they have evolved over the years.

Unfortunately, there is nobody to do that. Icasa is a hopeless case because, whenever a bright young thing starts to make a mark there, one of the thieving foursome makes them an offer too good to refuse. In this way, they collude to keep the regulator weak and ineffectual.

All of which leaves us consumers with nowhere to turn. We end up venting on soapboxes and in irrelevant forums like this one. We desperately need another Isabel Jones.

It’s not patently obvious

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If you want to know what the current patent battle is about the answer is simple: money. The bottom line is that Apple and Microsoft’s litigation against Google are nothing more that attempts to undermine the Android mobile operating system, which, for those who don’t know, the search giant gives away free, gratis and for nothing to mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola. This is unacceptable behaviour in Cupertino and Redmond, where serious cash is generated by “selling” operating systems – but I digress.

The bottom line is that I applaud Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s mobile phone business because has potential to defuse the ridiculous patent litigation from Apple and extortionate license fees demanded by Microsoft. You see, Motorola has been around a lot longer than either of those two and has a portfolio of over 17 000 patents. That gives Google the option to threaten litigation of its own and, thereby, keep Android free-of-charge and unburdened by unreasonable licensing.

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Virgin Mobile sucks

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This is both weird and stupid. The only way the average consumer can communicate with a telecoms supplier in SA is through their respective call centres – most of which are outsourced to specialist call centre operations. In effect, that means they’ll take your money but won’t speak to you, ever.

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Partial telecoms relief

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Long suffering South African telecoms consumers yesterday got news of impending light relief from the heavy burden of a rapacious and collusive telecoms regime. Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda announced in a ministerial report to the national assembly that peak hour mobile termination rates will drop from 125c per minute to 89c, while the off-peak rate will stay constant at 70c per minute.

IT Web reports on the news here and Mybroadband also has a take. My take is simple: It’s not enough. The telecoms players in this country have a long profitable history of screwing consumers at every turn – aided and abetted by government in the form of a minister who was incompetent or dishonest or both. Fortunately, that has changed; Apparently. More

Open Source coming to a phone near you

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Interesting news the other day. Nokia announced that it has offered to purchase the 52% of Symbian that it doesn’t already own and that the deal has been favourably received by the other shareholders. It promptly then announced plans to make Symbian open source. You can find details here and here.

But for me the most interesting aspect of this development is the particular license Nokia’s creation, the Symbian Foundation, has chosen. Instead of the ever popular GPL 2.0 or fledgling GPL 3.0, the decision has been made to release the source code under the Eclipse Public License.

I’d love to know why. What does Eclipse have the GPL doesn’t have? Or visa versa? I have queries to numerous sources outstanding on this topic and will report back as soon as somebody comes up with a plausible explanation. What this space.

Ivy’s poisonous legacy

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The Times is running a piece this morning by Stuff editor, Toby Shapshak, which sums up rather eloquently the damage Poison Ivy has done to South African telecommunications and the broader economy by her actions and, in most cases, inaction. This passage is particularly poignant:

Now, all the warnings have turned into the mess that analysts, commentators and vocal journalists predicted. Ivy screwed us all.

It’s worth a read.

How we funded SBC’s AT&T acquisition

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If you ever wondered about the true reasons for the high cost of telecommunications services in South Africa, elucidation is at hand. An article by Ann Crotty in last week’s Business Report explains how government’s sale of a 30 percent stake in Telkom to the Thintana Communications (the consortium of SBC and Telekom Malaysia) placed both companies above South Africa’s laws.

As a result SBC effectively drafted our new Telecommunications Act and this cozy deal helped finance SBC’s recent acquisition of rival AT&T. Read all about it here. The story draws heavily on an article published in the subscription-only US academic journal, Telecommunications Policy.