Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will per second block charges take off?

DON'T you love idea of per-second block? Why pay for the unused seconds? Why do we need to be charged at least 17 sen when we hung up as soon as the voice mail takes over?

Personally, I am a fan of per-second billing. It's practical.

Here's the tricky part. The only player who package their prepaid plan that way is U Mobile, the fourth largest mobile operator by subscriber base. Most of U Mobile's network is currently riding on Celcom's network. That arrangement itself will limit U Mobile's ability to compete in pricing.

Plus, being a new player in the industry, the company simply can't lower its tariff too much, as it will hurt its margin. Lower margins will eventually prolong its return of investment period.

So, on what situation we can see all players offering per-second block charges?

Here are the few scenarios:

1. Ask everyone you know, convince them to bite the bullet (for the short-term period), switch to U Mobile. If this initiative can create a storm, i.e. it has more than 3 million users by end 2009 (1 million from each operator: Maxis, Celcom, DiGi), we can be rest assured that the incumbents will offer a more attractive prepaid plan.

2. Complain. Keep complaining. Never be comfortable with what you have. Always ask for more. Write to the operators. Write letters to editors of newspaper publication. Tell them that the operators are should start offering value-for-money prepaid services, tell them that 15, 30, 45, 60 second block charges should be abolished as it confuses consumer.

Yea. You may be wondering why am I making a big fuss over block charges and all. Well, lately, a colleague of mine was surprised over her expensive phone bill. She claimed that she does not talk a lot on the phone. But, she did admit that she did make a lot of calls that went to voice mail, the thing is, she kept calling the person again and again, and the call kept goes to the voice mail.

So, she will probably be charged RM3.30 if she is on Maxis Hotlink, for 10 phone calls to a same number that went to voice mail. If she is under U Mobile, those 10 phone calls that went to voice mail (provided if she hung up within a second), would cost 8 sen.

"I hung up as soon as i heard the voice mail!" she claimed.

Well, it doesn't matter... That's how the operators make money.

Below are the rates offered by the top four players:

Celcom: at least 35 sen a minute. 30 second a block (depending who you call, where you call etc)

DiGi: 36 sen a minute. 30 second a block.

Maxis: 33 sen a minute. 60 second a block.

U mobile: 0.8 sen a second. per second block.

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