Old-school cell users have less evil in their life, and ski more
December 28, 2005
Twas a year ago, a sunny, snowy December in Breckenridge, a time of peace and forgiveness. Twas a time for myself and others like me to use the unlimited evening and weekend minutes available on our wireless plans to call relatives and friends and wish them a Merry Christmas. But we couldn’t, alas, for you see, we were simple folk, possessors of crude analog wireless telephones, state of the art when we acquired them – but suddenly they were archaic. Rather than hearing the sweet voices of our mothers or the dulcet laughter of children, we heard nothing but ceaseless beeping, a cellular Morse code for DENIED!We had all paid our monthly bills after agreeing to year-long service contracts with penal provisions for changes or termination; that wasn’t the problem. However, our evil wireless provider had taken our analog money and spent it all on the GSM network, but not a penny on the analog! New GSM towers and hardware sprouted everywhere, but when the analog equipment failed, it wasn’t repaired; it was simply forgotten.But the analog customers weren’t forgotten. They might be simple folk, but they paid their bills on time and so they were encouraged, as their calls were routed to India with their inquiries about the ceaseless beeping for which they’d paid money, to “transition” to GSM.
Why? Our Nokia handsets work just fine and best of all they’re paid for! But the evil wireless provider was shameless enough not only to take the analog money and spend it all on GSM, but willing and able without a whit of remorse to blackmail its analog customers into making the switch and charge them $250 to make the switch.But now it’s 2005, an equally sunny but even more incredibly snowy December in Breckenridge. The sweet sounds of mothers’ voices and the dulcet laughter of children can be heard in the crisp mountain air, but no beeping, for the analog is no more. The analog folk were simple and they were stubborn, and refused to be blackmailed into giving up their Nokias. And the evil wireless provider, in its insane lust for market share, needed them, needed their money, so it gave in. Instead of charging $250 for a new phone, it gave them new phones with cameras and internet connections and SIM cards for $20, just to keep their business.
But the wireless company was still evil, still shameless. It felt anger toward the analog folk for having to sell them $250 phones for $20. According to its third quarter earnings report, the evil wireless company had a “normalized OIBDA margin of 31.6 percent , a 270-basis-point sequential improvement,” Wall Street parlance for BORING. While it had “transitioned” 93 percent of its subscribers to GSM, ARPU (pronounced AR-POO) was down. A drop in the average revenue per user meant the analog folk had not only got cheap phones but were paying less for their service!So the evil wireless provider did what it did best, what it had always done to its analog customers. It sucked them in on price, then screwed them on service. The new GSM phones might be able to access the internet, but the evil wireless provider wouldn’t tell its analog customers how! It’s website and “help” line and the instruction manual that came with the phone would be devoid of any information, or would assume that the simple analog folk knew their POP from their ISP, which of course they didn’t.
The camera would work, but the evil wireless company wouldn’t tell the simple analog folk how to get the photos off the handset; and if they did, it would charge the analog folk $75 at its authorized dealers for a USB cord compatible with only one model of phone.So in the end, the evil wireless company remains, in its heart, evil, and the analog folk, even with their new phones, can only make telephone calls but no more, which is why they ski more than anyone. The call of the snow to come out and play requires no phone to answer, only that you hang up, now and go. See you there.Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.