Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dropped calls, shmopped calls....

Early on Friday morning I called a friend. The call dropped and I had to phone her back. It happened again and in the end I had to make three calls to get a simple bit of information.
So I was quite thrilled when I was then assigned to cover the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's news briefing on dropped calls. Fantastic!
It was a cosy affair at the authority's headquarters in Sandton, heaters waming the icy air as the Icasa big wigs took the main table in front of a small gallery of journalists, industry experts and representatives from the cell phone providers.
After a really lengthy explanation, history and context - i.e people are generally really annoyed because their calls keep dropping, getting crossed or echoing - we finally got to the nitty gritty. New regulations now dictate that the companies who charge us so much for cellphone calls will now be fined heavily if their dropped call rate or rather "communication failures" rise above 3 percent over a six month period.
At first I was thrilled to bits. It felt like at long last we had a watchdog body that was going to tackle the big boys. Us little guys have been forking out for really bad service (yes, you pay for a full minute if the call drops after three seconds!) for ages now. But then I thought about it. Based on office chit chat with colleagues, anger-fuelled radio chat shows about the issue and general opinion, the dropped call rate we currently experience in Jozi has to be way, way, waaaaay above 3%! So now Icasa is going to step in and fine my service provider if their dropped call rate is higher than 3%, which judging purely by my own experience is undoubtedly going to be the case if they don't sharpen up in the next couple of weeks.
After the briefing I went slinking up to the councillor who was behind this new laying down of the law.
"So ... ahem ... if regulations state that the dropped call rate for service providers has to be less than 3%, do you know what the current rate is?" I ask her slyly.
Councillor: "Well, at our last meeting with them, which was in May, they told us it was standing at 2%."
JJ: "And you believe that?"
Councillor: "You must understand this correctly. THEY are telling us that dropped calls are at 2%. WE are NOT saying that."
JJ: "I do indeed. Actually I had two dropped calls on one conversation this very morning."
A little more chit chat revealed that another Icasa bigwig had been unable to make a single call the whole of Thursday.
I filed my story and headed off to the after-party social gathering that generally follows news briefings. I was in time to see staffers walking of with plates piled alarmingly high with food. More stuffed the sarmies and other finger food items into their bags. I got the last glass of juice on offer. Eish!


  1. so "echoing" is a service issue - I just thought it was the handset - hated making calls so much cause it happened so often I really thought it was the handset - feel like a true twit now

  2. Nope. It is the service provider, my friend. At least that's what Icasa says!