Archive for the ‘TELECOM’ Category

AT&T offers unlimited mobile-to-home calling, but…

January 19, 2007

AT&T announced a promotion to outsmart the cable competition, but IMO it is hardly appealing.

The service, dubbed AT&T Unity, is offered as a perk to subscribers who pay for both the $50 a month unlimited local and long-distance calling plan for their home or business and the $59.99 a month unlimited wireless plan.

..errr if the mobile plan is unlimited, how does it matter? OK may be it is not really unlimited. Either way, I dont feel that much need to call home these days. Every individual has a mobile phone and mobile-to-mobile is free. Besides, you can get a VOIP for $25, so use the other $25 to get into the next level of plan in wireless.

I know for some people this will be attractive, but not for those who are cost conscious. Let’s see what happens, who goes out of what segment. (Telco’s offering video, cable offering telecom!!). As Jeff Nolan mentioned in his comments, cable VOIP is not exactly cheap.

iPhone or aPhone (new phone from Apple)

January 10, 2007

Everyone is talking about the iphone from apple. There are some good coverage at engagedat etc, but good place to see the demo is of course apple web site.
Apple i Phone

One, I was amazed at the some of the simple things that other cell phone manufacturers/providers could not think of. Like visual menu to voice mails. It is probably not all that hard to do if they really had thought about it. It is too early to say if this becomes successful, but I am sure it will start a new page in the usability of cell phones.

When I tried to buy a new phone couple of months back, initially I purchased a smart phone that runs the M$ OS. It sucked was a understatement. I cannot really say if it was because of the hard ware or software, but the experience was awful. So, I just went back and purchased a samsung phone without much of the bells and whistles. My thought was, if it is a phone, let it be just phone not a internet device which is hard to use for browsing. With smart applications that are built for mobile device, I might change my stand, but as of now I feel that let phone just do the “talk/sms” part properly. Of course, having music in the same device seems natural.

As many have pointed out, make or break of this device depends heavily on
* Touch screen usability: apple claims that they have patented and smart technology, we can only say if it really works after few months.
* Exclusiveness: of course it is OK in initial days, but hope there will be unlocked phones
* Price: Paying price of a computer for a phone, nah! it is not an easy sell. But then again, looking at iPod’s success, you never know.

Price point of this is probably too high for now and I dont like their exclusive deal with Cingular. But if it is what is hyped to be, then you are really see a new trend of common people avoiding PC altogether 😉

It also brings up an interesting thing, at one point everyone wrote off Apple because they adamantly controlled both hardware and software. Now, looks like tables have turned, it looks like everyone wants to control both (MS xbox, zune, sony ps, nokia, motoroala etc). Apple is showing it can be to your advantage.

It is pretty apt that they changed the name of the company to Apple inc. from Apple computers.

VOIP cheap or not cheap?

December 26, 2006

BW blog has a blog on how VOIP is not the cheapest option for calling international. However, I feel that going VOIP is not just about international calls, it provides more options for the same buck(s). I just got a mailer from AT&T saying that their prices for calling features would increase, Call waiting would cost $4 (3.43 currently) and caller ID would cost $8 from $6.17 ( I dont know how their cost increased, thats why I call it rip off).

With all necessary features, your traditional telco bill would run into $40, with VOIP phone for ~ $25 you’ll get all those features and unlimited domestic calling. Only thing is the long term reliability and financial health of the VOIP providers. I have talked about the advantages of using VOIP to India calls in my other posts here and here. Also, I feel that calling cards are not reliable and have their own issues.

Rumours on BSNL’s DSL rate plan changes

December 26, 2006

It is rumored that BSNL is going to upgrade/update their DSL offerings in new year, it is going to be a great news for Indian consumers. At the lowest level it is going to be Rs250 per month, that gives 2 mbps speed and 2 GB of upload/download. It is pretty good for a casual user.

Om malik of GigaOM feels that the restriction on data transfer is not very good for spread of internet, but I feel that at that price point it is really enticing for the consumers to get on to the bandwagon. For close relatives of Indians living abroad (NRIs), it will be a good idea to get the internet and use VOIP phone to get unlimited calls with their friends/family living abroad. Even though the long distance providers from US are becoming competitive, VOIP option gives a different dimension into the price wars. Also, you can use the link for other purposes like exchanging photo etc. Voice quality on VOIP is pretty good these days.

Today biggest problem for aged parents of NRIs is the technology fear-factor (handling computer/laptops). if there is some kind of a video phone type of equipment that can be used for uploading/downloading photos without use of computer, it may find great market. I know there are some services available that can upload/download photos from the internet into a digital photo frame, but it has recurring monthly service charges.

Cingular/T-mobile Prepaid: Misinformed or illtrained sales associates?

December 26, 2006

I wanted to get a prepaid plan for a guest who was here in US for a short duration, I had my own phone (GSM, new one from cingular and other Sony erricson that was unlocked) i visited T-mobile and the sales associate (in San mateo) said that minimum was $50, since I did not need it for that much I declined and went to cingular in fremont, ca. There sales associate said that the minimum is $25 if you are getting a new SIM card and since I was in a hurry i just signed up.

After a month, I am realizing that I may have been misinformed by these sales guys 😦 , I can see starter kits available for as small as $10 from walmart, ebay and other outlets.

Well, knowing is key to these things, idea of using prepaid itself was so new to me, I just got too excited that I could get a SIM card for $25, jumped into it 😉 Sometimes even time is a factor, you dont want to research too much when you need something right then.

Reliance India call reacts to Airtel Call Home, lowers the price in par with Airtel

December 21, 2006

Good news, Reliance lowered their price (at least till 31st Jan 07).

Now, that is pretty hard for reliance india call loyalists to switch. Even though I want to thank airtel for bringing in the price war, I am still mad at the way they have launched their service without proper testing.

Rip-off called caller ID

December 20, 2006

Most of you have caller id feature enabled, because you could not stand those marketing calls. But have you noticed how much your telco charges for this seemingly inexpensive feature? it costs $6+ per month. Yes, these baby bells that kept merging to become behemoths think that they should rip their customers on this feature royally (all other features cost $3+).

Isn’t it funny that this feature is mostly free in most of the cell phones, voip phones etc. No wonder people started going wireless completely bypassing these regional bells. (Oops, I forgot cellular providers are also merged with baby bells 😦 )

I am seriously thinking of getting off the DSL bandwagon. Free up my primary phone number from the “lock” and allow itself to be ported to VOIP phone. Currently, I pay 50+ to regional bell, $5-15 for long distance provider, $25 for international call provider. By switching to cable modem + voip, I think my cost will remain the same, but I will get additional calling features (yes, I have not enabled caller ID so far 😉 ) , faster internet, I dont know about the service, only way to find out by trying it out and incurring some pain of transition.

At the end, we are still dependent on the regional bells, for one, they own the “last mile“, so any content that wants to use the pipe into our homes has to go through them. I hope that Muncipal WiFis provide some alternatives to last mile problem, but I guess there is some limitation with the “wireless” technology.

Airtel Call Home sucks

December 12, 2006

Airtel (unit of Bharati Telecom, big reputed mobile company in India) introduced this service to call internationally from US (mainly to India). This is probably in competition against Reliance india call.

Stupidly, I signed up to their service, thinking that it is a big company hence their service would be OK. I signed into Reliance also at it’s early days and it was never dysfunctional like Airtel. All said and done, reliance web site may look little primitive, but their service was excellent, customer service was reachable all the time (there was no need to call them in last two years). I guess you get what you pay for.

Here, it allowed me to register, took my CC number, but does not allow me to register my phone numbers. That being the most important thing, I tried to call up their customer service number, which is busy all the time. I sent an email, for which I got an automated reply saying someone will contact me, nothing has happened so far (it is second day today)

If Airtel wants to be a serious player in this field, they should clean up their act. They cannot go live without making sure things are in place. (like the 800 number for customer service).

Update: When I sent a mail to customer support, here is the bounced back message, isn’t it hilarious:

Subject: Re: PIN Reminder

was not delivered to:

Customersupport@airtel.in

because:

Error delivering to Customersupport/ES-Carrier/Airtel/BTVL; Router: Database disk quota exceeded

Update 2: Finally, I thought let me try it out directly and take the pain of entering the account number and pin. Surprise!! All it asked me was for PIN, so it did register my number, but I dont know why the hell it needs the PIN. Once I could get in call quality was good, but lot of irritants all the way

  • Lot of instructions, repated greetings (Welcome to Airtel, Welcome to Airtel)
  • It asks you to dial your home number in the same way you dial in India (like STD code + number), hello!! what is the need to make it look like that?
  • After the number is pressed you need to press the # sign.

    I guess I just need to finish what ever I have filled and then revert back to using Reliance India call, even in their early days, their system was robust. (Remember, they provided free calls etc)

    Update [21-Dec-06]: Reliance has matched their price with Airtel. Thanks and no thanks to Airtel.

    Also, checkout my musings on voip service, using bsnl broadband and getting ripped off by regional bells (no longer baby bell).