Sunday, September 22, 2013

With calls now averaging just under 20kobo per second, should telecomm service be so damn poor?

The good news with my Airtel line is that I get to call 2 special numbers for 2k/s.  Also with my Glo line I can call 5 special numbers for 5k/s.  The bad news is the two kobo service I'm getting.  Why?  Anytime me and my babyboo start to say something important, the call is dropped.  Every two to five minutes, a dropped call. 

But texts are worse.  In the past few days, I've recorded only about one in every four text messages delivered.  You can imagine the madness, when people exchange text messages and the sender gets billed (and gets a delivery confirmation) and the receiver gets nada, nothing to hint that a message was ever sent.  Things were better when text messages at least bounced with a "message undelivered" report, so you could retry or at least be aware that the message failed. 

Nowadays I just call rather than text if I want a little more reliability, before they spoil my market for me.  From the phone company's standpoint, that may be more revenue, but isn't it more channel-intensive to phone, and aren't the phone networks already congested, so shouldn't they encourage people to rather text than call, rather BBM than browse, until they can beef up their facilities?
Last week I sent a text to my friend who was sitting next to me in the car.  It arrived several minutes later.  :) 

It's been a terrible summer for Nigerian phone users.  I know we've said that before, but really things got better then got a lot worse this summer. 

As for internet, well...
The internet modem speeds have gone up on average.  Up-time too.  (I use Visafone.) 
That's the good news.
See a brief history of my internet service (disservice).

The blackberry plan by Airtel is currently quite rubbish (I'm mostly on Lagos Mainland, it might be much better on the Island or other states.)  I want a refund, seriously, the thing is down more than it's up.  And when it's up, it's most useful for sending quick emails.  It's also reasonably useful for BB chats, which I don't use.  But when I tried, chat messages took several minutes to zoom across the Atlantic.   
Using their so-called Complete Blackberry plan with a browser, e.g. searching for a word online in google takes real patience...enter the search item, count to 100 in Chinese, then MAYBE it will return a results page, or maybe you will have to retry/cancel your effort, or maybe you'll fall asleep waiting.

The blackberry plan by Glo was better, but then I switched my Glo phone to a non-BB to take advantage of their G-BAM with very basic internet for N5 per day.  I noticed Glo stopped deducting my daily five naira, which makes sense because the service provision was down to just about zero and I was starting to wonder if my N150 a month wouldn't be better spent eating cassava bread or something.  The great thing about Glo is that when they screw up, they fix it before people get too angry.  Unlike MTN which I wouldn't touch with a long bamboo stick.  Really.  MTN IS REALLY REALLY BAD.

There has to be a solution. 

Regulatory:
I thought government said no more promos, but see the proliferation of promos and the death spiral of quality.  Can we really afford to have undelivered text messages (billed and masked as delivered?)  What if somebody dies?  What if somebody loses business?  What if me and babyboo break up because of this stupid service lol. 

Technical:
Naija!  Naija! Naija!  How many times did I call you?  Are you the first ones to use mobile telephony?  Or to use electric power?  How come what works in other developed and developing countries would come here and suddenly be a source of drama?  Mobile phones and internet browsing are becoming more popular, does that not mean the phone companies need to increase or rationalize their resources? 
First, let me ask: 

Have the network engineers, telecom managers, been given any mandates to ease congestion
If so, aren't there methods out there to simply copy?  Google "Network Congestion Technical" or something.
If not, (more likely to be the case since there seems to be no penalty for bad service), then back to the regulation question.  Let me be paid (a refund plus 100%) for every bounced message.  Let me be paid a small apology fee for every dropped call.  Give me back my 400 naira plus an apology for the poor 'complete blackberry' service.  See how the quality of service can improve once it starts costing something to give poor service.
Another way to 'make it cost something' is to publish comparative data on the available services.  A weekly report, for example, showing for each service provider:
  • Up-time/Down-time?  (For phone, for internet, with reasonable thresholds/cut-offs, e.g. 5kb/s internet is off/down let's be real. Phone access switching between 0 and 1 bar is no access )
  • How many bars?  
  • Call drop behaviour?  
  • Failed texts?  (Failed texts should NEVER happen, it's just wrong and dangerous) 
  • Delayed texts?  (Texts delayed under 2 mins and texts delayed over 2 mins might be counted separately)
This might let everybody take advantage of the number-portablility to dump the worst service-providers. 

2 comments:

t said...

On the technical side, there could very well be a bad procedure causing the degraded service e.g. some sort of new instruction bouncing packets around.
To illustrate, just now I checked my facebook APP (programmed to be lighter than web browser version) on BB (service is up now, it's 3:30am) . I wanted to see what was on my wall but the items were very stale, days old, so I hit refresh.
This stupid app proceeded to scroll/fastforward through everything I'd missed (thousands of posts, thousands of friends) instead of maybe jumping to the latest two posts or so. It was probably designed for users who kept continuously updated, not those who were constrained (by lack of interest and lack of internet service) to look rarely.
I clicked something else so the madness would stop. Now I know not to use refresh. I also noticed that there's a CLOSE function so I can just turn off the service when not using it.

But anyway, imagine someone unleashed such an error in managing the phone network. You could see how it would eat up valuable resources doing useless errands.
- Just some inspiration that should help a network admin do his/her job. Call an expert. Use a network analyzer (whatever, I just made that up, but whatever you call your diagnostic tools.) And ask for help on whatever fora, look what solutions others have found before (and ask for a raise :)

And really, someone should make the phone company want to do its job. Make them pay for bad service.

t said...

Noticed that I haven't received a single text on my Glo phone in 2.5 weeks (part of the reason I got problems with an ATM transaction that basically emptied my account without me noticing, and 'that' may take weeks for banks to fix. Oh well).

So I phoned customer care (121) and told them I hadn't received a message in a long time.
First guy mumbled instructions to check the message settings (set message center number to +2348050001501 and set something to text not html, I couldn't find the something and the msg ctr number was already fine.)

The next time I phoned, a girl mumbled with fake foneh what the something was, and then I should send a message to test. I still couldn't figure it out but I fiddled with text message settings and MMS settings. The test, from my phone to itself was negative: message was said to be delivered but I never received it.

Next guy spoke clearly. I told him the story so far. He suggested I phone customer service in the morning after 8am to get benefit of network engineers' input. I commended him for speaking clearly. He was basically an experienced cust service rep, giving me the lines about how they apologize for inconveniences and it's all because they're upgrading their system to serve me better. Smile.

I phoned back just now. 9am. Fourth rep was a girl, again clear-speaking and experienced. She first misunderstood thinking I couldn't SEND so I said the real matter is I haven't RECEIVED a message in ages. Who knows if I can't send too. She suggested a test so I quickly did that from another phone to my erring phone. (I asked her to hold - so I won't have to call back and wait through their ads.) Same result as before, says it's delivered but nowhere to be seen.

Then she says, do a hard reset on your phone. It's not a blackberry, I protest. Yes, still, she asks me to take out the battery and the SIM, then put both back in and then switch phone back on. This is what they call a hard reset.

I did and like magic, my phone started ringing unending incoming message beeps...20messages...50messages...will it ever end?...100...200...hallelujah, alhamdulillah. All those lost messages (mostly junk I bet) have been found.

MORAL OF THE STORY: if you've lost text messages on GLO, Airtel, MTN, Etisalat etc as many Nigerians recently have, try a hard reset. It worked for me.

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