3 Aug 2008

Cellphone economics...

... in another world make you wonder what are people thinking when they throw their money at something

In the US most cell phone users are on some wierd outdated scheme which died out in India two years back. Remember the time when you were given a fixed number of minutes for a certain amount. However you could make unlimited calls in the non peak hours. Most of the people in the US are still using that system.

This means that most of them want to get off the phone even if you are calling them because receiving a call also means your minutes are being knocked off. How outdated is that idea ? Why should the cell phone make money off two people at the same time? We told them to stop doing that about five years back. Maybe that is what capitalism is about...

The other thing is the Voice Mail culture. If you are not available then you let the person who called to leave a message. Now to retrieve this message you have to dial a number. Again your minutes are docked when you dial and listen to the message. What is amazing is that no one seems to mind. You dial and leave a message. Your friend dials back and now you are busy so he leaves a message. This could keep happening three or four times a day. Imagine the amount of money the cell phone companies make out of this ! They don't even have to worry about your talk time - they are already making a profit.

And does all this mean that the signals are better? No chance. I've often noticed that in markets where the profits are high per user (Bombay, Delhi) very often there is a signal problem in the middle of the city. One can understand call drops in remote areas but in the city it almost seems like a conspiracy. Waiting at the San Fransisco airport for my luggage, I could see grown up men running around to get better reception while women leaned over to the windows in the hope that the signals would travel to them.

I needed to make a call so I borrowed a cell phone but could not connect through. The owner of the phone suggested that we go up to the first floor. I looked at him. He was actually suggesting that we take all our luggage up the stairs because the signal was better?

So off we went. Both of us pulling our suitcases (two each) till we reached a large hall on the next floor. I made the call and thanked the man. He shrugged. As we walked down back one floor (since the taxis were on that floor), he said - Welcome of America !

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