Thursday, 8 October 2009

Magic? Not really, no...

T-Mobile G1 Google AndroidImage by netzkobold via Flickr

UAE telco Etisalat yesterday unveiled the new 'HTC Magic' smartphone, a device based on Google's Android operating system. There's no sign from today's newspapers that anyone at yesterday's press conference chose to press the telco that likes to say 'ugh' on the massive network outages that have taken place over the last few days. We're all 'on message' today.

This is the third device that the telco has announced it will support and sell in a reversal of the decision, taken back in the early '90s, to liberalise the UAE's terminal equipment market. Etisalat also sells RIM's BlackBerry (the source of the great spyware scandal) and Apple's iPhone. That decision, formalised in comments to media yesterday, is a tectonic shift in the market and deserved more coverage than it got. But perhaps its importance wasn't blindingly obvious enough for it to be picked up.

Gulf News' slightly breathless coverage is eclipsed by Emirates Business 24|7 (which is now, of course, only published five days a week, making it Emirates Business 24|5, but we'll let that go), which trumpets 'Etisalat to launch own branded mobile phone'!

The Emirates Business story on the HTC Magic mixes it up confusingly with the news that Etisalat is going to go back into the 'own brand' terminal market, with a new 'phone being brought to market under the 'Etisalat' brand.

Gulf News' story provides a great deal more clarity, information and depth on the HTC touch, which is a nice surprise. It also points out that the phone will ship with 'Goggle' applications such as mail, search, maps and Google Talk.

Goggle. Nice one, GN subs.

The telephone's 'connectivity technologies' include HSDPA 7Mpbs and HSUPA 2Mbps, reports Gulf News with a charming and complete lack of context.

HSPA is the 'next generation' of telecom protocols, at times referred to as 'beyond 3G', High Speed Packet Access. it comes in two flavours Downlink (HSDPA) and Uplink (HSUPA) and supports hyper-fast mobile data rates - today's HSPA networks can pump over 20Mbps down to a mobile, while HSPA evolution is going to more than double that. So we're talking about hyper-fast network access, streaming video, rich content downloads and all that good stuff. Except, of course, at Etisalat's rates, the whole proposition is utterly ruinous.

At 7 Mbps, you would eat through 1Gig of data in a little over two and a half minutes, taking 25 minutes to munch through the 10Gigabyte package that will be bundled with the HTC Magic contract (reports, uniquely, The National).

Worse, you'll be paying a smidgen under Dhs75 per second for data access when you're roaming.

Yup - at Etisalat's ridiculous roaming fees of Dhs2.5 per 30 Kbytes of data, you'll certainly be loving that old high speed download Magic!

(If this post seems unusually grumpy, it's probably because my lowly 384kbit 3G Nokia has been cut off by said telco because my bill is over Dhs1,000. Or two seconds' worth of Magic!)

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EmiratesMac said...

To me the bigger story from yesterday is that they continue to push out handsets with contracts. I asked the Etisalat guy at the event and he answered yes to my question whether this is something we can now expect Etisalat to continue doing.

ghoonk said...

Alex, GoogleTalk on Android does NOT offer IP telephony. Regardless, from what I understand, PC to PC calls are not illegal, though call originating from PC and terminating on a fixed or mobile line is (i.e. PC to phone and vice versa)

HSPA is 3.75G, not 4G. LTE is 4G, see

As for being overcharged, why not just move over to du. @wildpeeta switched and his bill went from AED1500 to AED210. That's saying something :)

alexander... said...

Hey, M. Ghoonk

HSPA - thanks: 'beyond 3G', then. Changed the post. I'm a tad out of date, but when we launched HSPA in Kuwait a couple of years ago we, and Nokia, were talking it up as 4G and got away with it.

GoogleTalk on PC offers peer to peer - voice and video - does it not on Android?

Illegality isn't the issue - there is no law, it's only regulation. If PC to PC calling is permitted, then why are Skype and other VOIP players blocked?

I'm afraid I still don't trust Du's network. And presumably, because operators in the UAE aren't allowed to compete on price, the data rates remain as ridiculously high - so high, in fact, that you're probably paying as much (if not more!) for a VOIP call when you're roaming as you would for circuit switched telephony...

ghoonk said...

no sweat, you can always bounce stuff off me if you need confirmation.

GoogleTalk on Android doesn't offer VoIP, just instant messaging. Android and the hardware can handle it, but I don't think VoIP is taking off on handsets due to high latency, jitter and packet loss on mobile networks. Works fine if you're in a WiFi hotspot, but how many of them exist around here? Besides, du's IDD rates are now stupid cheap -- Elite plan gives you 75% off your IDD bill if you exceed AED500, or you get AT LEAST 55% discount off IDD rates (tiered discounts), and du's prepaid has that WoW International recharge option.

Try MSN Messenger -- PC to PC chats work fine, as it does on Xbox.

To set the record straight, operators ARE allowed to compete on price, but they are being encouraged to compete on value. Price erosion hurts everyone -- look at the telecoms industry in a certain sub-continent and you will see what I mean. Those guys have volumes to work with, while telcos here only have 4 to 6 mil to sell to.

Roaming rates are stupid high, but I think there was a du offer on roaming (voice) awhile back as well. Bear in mind that data rates while roaming are high partly due to the roaming tariffs between telcos. Happens with all telcos

FWIW, 10GB isn't easy to consume on a mobile device. I'm a fairly heavy user and I struggle to exceed 2GB per month even with lots of YouTube, email, IMs, etc. There's only so much you can do on a handset, but once you tether the device and hook it up to your notebook for bittorrent downloads, then 10GB isn't unfathomable, but that's not really fair use, is it?

Tom Gara said...

You've got the 24-7 story totally wrong. Of course the HTC Magic is not going to cost Dh300 (it costs Dh2200).

Their story is about something completely different than the HTC Magic launch, and its based on things the Etisalat guy said to reporters in the informal q&a afterwards. Although the fact that an informed reader such as yourself can make this mistake suggests they should have been a little clearer...

alexander... said...

Sorry, Tom, but I didn't mention the Dhs300 price tag at all!!!

While Ghoonk's got me on the Google Talk functionality on Android (I based my comment on the PC package), I think I understood the elements of the 24|7 story I commented on just right!

Ghoonk - I understood TRA was regulating against price-based competition - and since when was giving away SIMs for Dhs75 with Dhs75 credit (Etisalat's latest scheme) a value-based proposition?

Price control policy link below.

alexander... said...

Ah! I get it now! Corrected the post to clarify the confusion on Emirates Business' story.

ghoonk said...

AED75 SIMs with AED75 credit? That's good for the consumer, right? du's got a doubletalktime promotion where you get double your credit back over 11 months if you just use and recharge your prepaid SIM with reasonable use

So, while there isn't a price war (which would be bad), there's still increasing pressure to deliver more value to the consumer. Still good for the consumer in the end.

Don't complain unless you want this place to go back to the good old days of 1 telco provider only. ;)

Keefieboy said...

I've been looking at the HTC Magic (now offered in Spain by Vodafone) and the iPhone (available from Movistar - Telefonica's mobile business: Telefonica are the spawn of the Devil and taught Etisalat everything they know about screwing customers). As far as I can tell, I can get a Magic from Vodafone for €49 on an 18-month €39/mo contract. This includes 'unlimited' data transfer within Spain.

Only thing now is, I can't decide whether to get the black one or the white one.

dot1ne said...

First, the Arabic support is puzzling me as there's no Android support for Arabic anywhere as of my long search so far not even reading Arabic. Some Arab developers managed to push in Arabic fonts to the system to enable reading separated letters(flashback to iPhone Arabic Support)

Second, HSPA? On HTC Hero, I'm connected using Etisalat's 3G package of 1GB bandwidth, but the device 90% of the time connects HSPA. Weird? Been doing that for month or so now?

7MBPS is 7 Mega BITS Per Second, not Mega Bytes. So 7MBPS = 0.875 MB = 896 KB. So if your download speed is 896KB per second as advertised then you'd be very lucky if Etisalat's promise could give you something close to even 70% of that which would be around 672 KB of download speed.

So with 7MBPS you'd get 672KBytes of download speed. That (in media style expression) speed could get your 1GB package done in around 1 672 seconds which is around 12 minutes. But in another media type(supporting) expression 1GB of downloading bandwidth at the speed of 672KiloBytes per second could get you to watch more than average 2000 minutes of youtube.

Another thing is, HTC usually ships with either 1 or 2GB external SD cards as storage. You think you can handle a file download of such a size? Talk about network timeouts and the error message "too big to download"...

Realistically that's a Good deal! But the question is, are they gonna' stand behind their words?

Now that they've completed the platform lineup (Blackberry, iPhone, and Android) is the support team really ready for such stuff? I remember every problem with my blackberry was solved removing the battery and restarting according to the tech-support team.

Uninfomed PR at Etisalat's side kills all the products... and with all the -ve talks everywhere and the famous #etisalatsux tag on twitter... there's no believe in Etisalat, but do we have another option?

alexander... said...

You're right there, my maths at fault not Kbit vs Kbyte.

That's just Dhs 75 per second. Amended the post!

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