FAISAL says …

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What dealers want

Faisal Sheik, Average Dealer and king of the Mobile Business Dealer forum (www.mbmagazine.co.uk/forum), just wants a level playing field for the independents and the chance to make lots of money.
I’m very disappointed with 3! After doing so many great things this year, how could they mess it up on something so simple. I mean, what’s the point of having a lavish dealer-conference, with exactly the kind of message dealers want to hear, great food (the jacket potatoes were awesome), great entertainment (Space Invaders!) and an excellent chance to talk to the dealer community when they miss out on the most important thing of the whole lot.

Yes, I am referring to the absent chocolate fountain! 3 is the chocolate fountain network! They always have a chocolate fountain! So why was it not there this year? Mark Alera, the dealer community is demanding an answer!

Anyway, enough of networks not delivering; let’s talk about networks missing opportunities. I’m referring here to that much-loved, highly respected part of our industry which is mobile phone unlocking.

For those of you with a puzzled look, this involves removing the network lock from a handset so that it can be used with a different service provider. Say you’ve got a Sony Ericsson W810i, which may be locked to Orange UK. By unlocking the phone, you’d be able to use it with any triband network SIM card, such as T-Mobile UK or Vodafone Italia.

Networks hate it. They see it as a threat to their investment. Their thinking is: “we’ve subsidised the handset to gain a customer who will generate revenue, so we want him to stay with our network..”

Many others often confuse it with unblocking (reprogramming of IMEIs), as the software solutions are often similar. Of course, unblocking is illegal, and rightly so, as an important weapon in the fight against phone crime. Furthermore, it generally invalidates the warranty on the handset, and so that means further headache. So unlocking suffers a tarnished image by association.

But let’s say a customer takes out a connection on T-Mobile with a free Samsung D900. As far as he’s concerned, that’s his phone – he can do what he wants with it as long as he pays his monthly line rental.

But let’s say he’s going abroad on holiday and doesn’t want to pay extortionate roaming rates. With an unlocked phone, he can just use a local SIM card and benefit from cheaper local pricing. It’s his choice, and one he should be entitled too.

By locking the handset, it could be argued that the network is infringing on his rights!

Like it or not, unlocking happens. And not only are customers getting handsets unlocked, but there are people making serious money from this neglected part of our industry. As the networks are not interested, it’s left to developers (software hackers to you and me) to reverse-engineer a handset to determine how to crack the network lock. They’ll then try to sell the software. These developers are technically very gifted, but ultimately they are hacking.

 Nokia has been interesting recently. It has got a new chipset for 3G handsets, launched with the 6630, 6680 and their N-Series. This has been impossible to unlock for almost two years now.

Recently, a Belgrade developer posted a notice on the leading industry forum advertising the fact he had developed a solution for all Nokia BB5 phones. He invited bids for 10 solutions he would make available with a three-month exclusive period, before putting the solution on general release.

As a company which specialises in unlocking, Fone Doctors submitted a bid. It was a desirable opportunity for us, as we had several thousand guaranteed handsets, we could unlock at a fixed price. However, the developer sold the complete solution to a Chinese company which is now asking for phones to be sent to them to be unlocked.

The fee for the solution is believed to be in the region of £1.5m!

This is serious money. In the UK, there are a few big players making six-figure sums every month from reselling unlocking solutions. This is all because the networks have missed a trick, because they do not realise the extent to which customers prefer unlocked handsets.

The demand is most definitely there. It’s now time for the networks to enter an open and honest debate about unlocking. Why shouldn’t they allow a customer to unlock his handset? Set-up an official channel for this, and you’ll open up a valuable revenue stream. At the very least, it will help weed out the cowboys. But for God’s sake please get your heads out of the sand.

 
 
DEAL DOSSIER
THIS MONTH’S TOP THREE DEALS

1- MDA Vario II on FlexT 50 with Web’n’Walk for £57.50 per month. Can’t get enough of these beauties.

2- BlackBerry Pearl 8100 on FlexT 35 with Web N Walk and Instant E-mail for £48.38 per month. The geek phone just got sexy!

3- The ultimate combo deal: Orange Raccoon 35 with 500 minutes, 250 landline minutes, 200 texts, free D900 or W850i, unlimited 8MB Home Broadband and unlimited calls from home to Orange phones and UK and international landlines … all for £40 per month??? Quality!

GRIPE LINE
THIS MONTH’S TOP THREE GRIPES

1- Orange finance department – great move to spend your 2006 budget by November. No need to keep anything back just in case – we’ll just cut our commercials at the busiest time of the year.

2- Popular handsets in short supply at Christmas shock! Who’d have bloody thought, huh?

 
3- Cutting The Link! We’ll miss it. Best of luck to all Link staff moving on …

Top Jaffa:
Lloyd Amako at OpenHand. Only problem with such excellent support is that you start to expect it from everyone else!