Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Correction: Yes MTN do want to charge 471,000, but I made a typo

3gbThis not what I promised last week that I would write, but I needed to make this correction. In a post I wrote last month, I stated that MTN’s charge of 15 kobo per kilobyte and their unwillingness to let you use their internet package deals on your phone could potentially result in a charge of 471,000 naira. This could happen if you chose to use your mobile phone to access the internet on their network. A friend challenged on that declaring the very idea as unthinkable and that I must be mistaken. He went and did the math with the figures I presented and arrived at 41,000 naira. He was right, I did make a mistake, but my mistake was not my assertion. It was a typographical error I made in writing the blog – not in my arithmetic. specifically, I wrote:

“MTN charges 15k per kilobyte for me to access the Internet via my mobile phone. When that is multiplied by 3GB (314572 KB), it comes to four hundred and seventy-one thousand, eight hundred and fifty-nine naira, twenty kobo”

My mistake was I mistyped the kilobyte equivalent of 3GB. 3GB is 3145728 KB not 314572 KB. So do the math again. By not supporting the use of mobile phones to access the internet using one of their data plans, they really are setting you up for a 471,859.20 naira bill to get the same kind of service that they will offer with one of their data modems. You can break it down any which way you want. 1GB of data is 157,000 naira. 500MB of data is 78,000 naira. 100MB is over 15,000 naira. Come on!

Frankly, I do not understand why the data plans are not available via cell phones. It is still the same number of bytes. Of course, they get to sell fewer of those modems and data devices. There will also be more pressure on their network’s data services since the lower barrier to entry will also mean that more people (except me) will get online and they will see the kind of service complaints that AT&T in the US are facing due the number of iPhone users guzzling data on their network. In order words, it is more than likely that their network cannot handle the capacity and this is an artificial mechanism to slow the uptake of the service.

Mind you, this is only speculation. Maybe they have other reasons for discouraging users with phones like the iPhone, most modern Nokia smartphones or almost every Windows mobile from using their phones with the 3G internet services. As I said in my original post, you don’t get the sense of this restriction from their website. You have to walk into one of their centres or talk to their people to be told that you have to get the data device before you can take advantage of the packages. I would really love MTN to tell them that their people have misinformed me. I’m going to do my best to get this post into the hands of their customer service organisation. Let them write a rebuttal in these pages or whatever forum they want. However, if you read between the lines carefully, you’ll see that all the verbiage on their webpage is around getting the data card or the USB modem.

So the facts remain, if you must use MTN’s 3G internet service on the go for anything other than the most minimal of uses, then you have to buy either a blackberry or you need to get a data device and haul around a laptop rather than using your very data capable cell phone.


Picture is a screenshot from the iPhone/iPod Touch app Convertbot which I used to convert GB to KB.