47. Phones

In the 1980’s there was a lot of brouhaha in Britain about nationalising this and privatising that: Water, gas, electricity, telecommunications blah blah blah.  With nationalisation you run the risk of using up too much tax-payer money in a rudderless regime, and with privatisation you chance the fat cats exploiting the market to make more money.  So which is better, and really, when you follow the personnel pathway to the director’s office is there really any difference?  Either way you’re paying for the service.

Traditionally when one signs a contract, it binds at least 2 parties to an accord.  Both have a due responsibility to uphold their ends of the bargain so that the contract may not be broken.  When I agreed to join a mobile-network-provider over here I knew I would have to pay my bill each month without fail.  It is my duty to see to it.

Bad company! Go to jail and do not collect £200

From February 2008 until May 2011 I was with the UAE’s primary, government funded provider.  I won’t say who they are but I can tell you that their logo is green.  I set up my contract and after a month waited for a bill to arrive.  It never did.  I rang the good people at XXXXXXXX to quiz them.  I was told that I had to pay my bill immediately or they would cut me off.  I agreed, but returned to my foremost question “Yes I will pay, but can you please send me a bill, or at least tell me how much it is I have to pay?”  The person on the phone told me that he could not tell me how much it was nor could he provide me with a bill for reasons that were never explained.  The mind boggled.

This went on for 9 – yes, 9 – months.  I went to XXXXXXXX several times but they refused to give me a bill unless I provided them with a non-objection letter from my sponsor.  To this day I don’t know what that letter said, as it was in Arabic, nor do I understand why it was needed.  Simultaneously I was being sent harassing text messages telling me that my bill was overdue and if it wasn’t cleared immediately then I would be shot.

Eventually I was given my 9 months worth of bills; a month’s salary down the drain in the blink of an eye.  I stayed with this professional outfit until last year when I decided to join the 21st Century and get a Blueberry.  I was fed up with the green logo’ed firm and joined the UAE’s only other, smaller provider: XX.  The elite 250 package was sensational.  AED 250 per month standard charge and with that you get 250 minutes worth of free national calls, and astonishingly AED 250 worth of free international calls.  I also get 125 free international and 125 national text messages. For an extra AED 130 per month I get all the Strawberry services too.

I make as many calls today as I did 4 years ago and my bills are continually a third of the price than that of the previous provider.  In fact, I go over the free international minutes allowance frequently and then get bonuses of anywhere between AED 50 and AED 800.  It is the contract of dreams.

The network-provider that I used to use is one of the biggest in the world, the 15th apparently.  They are nationalised, a government funded entity that fear no competition.  In fact I’m sure the reason that their service was so poor was that there was little else to turn to.  They control all communications in the UAE apart from mobile phones, where there is only one alternative.

I am a strong believer in the privatisation of certain things, if there is money to be made then the service will be better; there is a sense of personal responsibility.  The network-provider I now use is a private company, of which the government own 40%.  A further 40% is owned by 2 UAE government owned companies and 20% belongs to public shareholders who are all government employees.  They get along by just renting the airwaves from XXXXXXXX.  The actual reception can be a bit dodgy in certain areas but it’s a small price to pay.  I would recommend them to anyone.

Today my phone got cut off for non-payment of bill when I still had a week before the contracted deadline.  Hang on a minute; did I just say that XX are a private company?

Sigh… That’s nationalisation for you.

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