Faisal says… What dealers want

The unlocking trade’s modern day equivalent of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing is a posting by Dejan Kaljevic on the influential GSM Hosting Forum on Friday 13 April. The Belgrade-based solution developer (or hacker as some would call him) said he was about to release a solution for Nokia BB5 unlocking.

Let’s be honest — unlocking is hated in the industry. The networks tolerate it, because they can’t make it illegal, and it’s not popular amongst manufacturers. Yet for many smaller dealers, it’s an important part of their business. Fone Doctors is no different, and it’s possibly a bigger part of our business than connections. And it is a big money spinner.

Yet sadly, it is an area where standards vary considerably. As well as offering retail unlocking we have a trade engineering service, and it is quite shocking to see the condition of some of the phones we receive from other traders. Often, they have literally f***ed up the phone. It’s like a butcher to a piece of meat! It’s down to a lack of engineering skill, but also because too many of these think that because they can change a plug, think they are suddenly good enough to be mobile phone engineers. Half of these guys don’t’ even know how to work a PC.

This is the sorry state of much of the unlocking industry, and it is because there are too many traders not working to a good enough standard. Even consumers still perceive unlocking as a market stall trade. Two or three times a week, we’ll get a customer to unlock a phone, but convinced that it’s illegal. The recent article in the Metro newspaper where they wrongly stated that unlocking phones was illegal (they confused it with unblocking/unbarring) doesn’t help.

And we haven’t even looked at some of the developers and resellers. Here’s how it works. Solution developers will take a newly-released phone and try to reverse-engineer it to break the lock placed by the networks.
Many consider reverse engineering a fine art. Others will call it glorified hacking. I blame the networks. It is largely because the networks have ignored and tried to undermine this area of our industry, that customers too often end up short-changed. And they are the ones that have created this whole international development arena.

The networks have taken measures to make phones harder to unlock – and, in some cases, almost impossible. Nokia BB5 phones and some of the Sony Ericsson DB2020s come to mind. Until Dejan’s announcement, there was no genuine solution for Nokia’s BB5 range; and the DB2020 has only just been cracked, but it’s a tricky process. Anyone who has ever unlocked a Sagem handset will know how complex the trade is becoming.

That is why Fone Doctors is today launching a campaign for networks to change things. Rather than frown upon the unlocking of mobiles, the networks must wake up to the fact that it happens, that consumers want it, and that they need to be proactive in making sure that the consumer experience of unlocking is both more pleasant and better standardised. The unlocking industry needs to be reclaimed from the hackers, rogue traders and the meat-shop mechanics.

Rather than using hacker-developed solutions, manufacturers should release genuine unlocking solutions to be operated by qualified engineers. It sets a certain standard, but also gives a promise of quality to customers.

However, networks will be keen to make sure that they don’t encourage fraud and protect their investments. So there needs to be a sliding scale to determine charges for the consumer. For example, in the first three months of a contract the consumer should pay £100 for any unlocking code. This is something we should all push for to discourage fraud. Between 3-6 months it should drop to £50. Thereafter to end of contract it should be £20. And once the contract has expired, customers should be able to unlock handsets for a standard £10. A similar scale should be developed for PAYG handsets. To ensure pricing is maintained, the solutions should require logs to be purchased at trade prices, from central servers.

This should be coupled with a marketing push to educate customers on unlocking. Manufacturers need to offer training to those who wish to unlock handsets, but don’t possess the necessary skillset. This would open up a fresh revenue stream to dealers, and give our industry a much needed boost. But it really is time for the networks to get their heads out of the sand.

GRIPE LINE
TOP THREE GRIPES

• 24-month contracts. Forget us dealers for a second – it is wrong of the networks to tie in customers for so long in such a constantly changing industry.
• 18-month contracts. Two years is definitely too far, but if you want us to push 18-months, you need to reward us better when compared to 12-month packages. 3 offers an extra £10, T-Mobile gives as little as £20 extra. Be realistic, guys.
• Vodafone not allowing us to offer their 500 min, 100 text, Stop-the-Clock, 12 month contract at £35 a month. Your loss folks – you were on to a winner there!

DEAL DOSSIER
TOP THREE DEALS

• FlexT 35 with web’n’walk 12 Month – with MDA Vario II (£50), Nokia N95 (£125) or MDA Compact 3 (free). Great value.
• Orange’s great total communications package — Orange Canary 40 with 850 minutes, 150 Orange minutes, 300 texts, free Nokia E65 or Nokia 6300, unlimited 8MB wireless broadband and unlimited calls (from home to Orange phone, and to UK and international landlines) … all for £45 per month plus £10 a month to BT. Great overall savings and good margins.
• 3’s VideoTalk 500 for £15 per month (18 month contract) with free Sony Ericsson K610i. Great to push with 3’s International Caller bundle, giving 3,000 international minutes and 500 UK minutes for £30/month.

JAFFA CAKE
Nadeem at UnikSource, Shoaib at Cellular Links and Khurram at XPlus – among the few unlocking resellers who aren’t actually full of sh*t!

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