MTC-Vodafone gets it!

29 Dec, '03

There is a passion for numbers in Bahrain, and I suppose in the rest of the world. Especially if those numbers are distinctive, unique and nice to look at. People pay vast sums of money for a nice number-plate, telephone number and even address. It’s become a roaring trade in Bahrain in selling and exchanging “sim-sim” or pre-paid mobile phone numbers and I heard for a “nice” number you would pay upwards of BD 1,000 (US$3,770). And Batelco, the erstwhile sole telephone and internet service provider on the island is renowned for “favouring” some customers with their special numbers. It’s like you owe them a life if they gave you a number like 9876543, and in most cases they will call in the favour.

The Batelco monopoly of decades has been at last broken with the entrance of MTC-Vodafone into the fray. They have started their operation in Bahrain today with several (Middle East) firsts like 3G and EDGE technologies, and they have already proved right on day one of their operation that they know the psyche of their Bahraini customers. What did they do you ask? Other than appealing to the technofreaks in providing 3G and EDGE services, they are bringing in one of the most famous TV personalities in the Arab world (George Qurdahi the presenter of “Who will win the million” program) to auction off 20 unique telephone numbers like 36500000, 36555555, 36599999 and others to the highest bidder tonight at 7.30 PM and all the proceeds will be donated to local charities!

This is what marketing should be like. Something Batelco NEVER did in their decades of being in this market.

What did MTC-Vodafone do?

  1. They understand that we are vain and will pay high prices for “special” numbers, so make them available to the highest bidder.
  2. They understand that we need to see “big business” much more involved in charities and social events on a large scale, rather than the usual donations of a couple of hundred Dinars and even with that paltry sum, they get their pictures plastered all over the papers handing over cheques to charities.
  3. They understand the technofreak as we have been hankering for “real” telephony services rather than the crap service we have come to expect from Batelco, ergo their still exclusive internet (locally called ‘intermittent’) service.
  4. They have adopted the slogan “we here you” which is nice. The issue is they selected this slogan right from the start of their effort in Bahrain, another slogan I really like is “choice is great” and they’re running people centric ads. Batelco only started their slogan “together we connect” a few months ago.. what the hell kind of slogan is that? Connect? Connect to what? They surely connect to our shriveling wallets thank you very much.
  5. They will apparently introduce very competitive packages. Right from the start, while Batelco has only started feeling the heat as they have started their campaign on reduced rates, university student packages, etc.

Batelco’s countering now is a bit too late. I don’t know a single person who will categorically say that s/he’ll stay with Batelco. Everyone is waiting for the rates and offers from MTC-Vodafone and just about everyone will jump ship if they can. The story will repeat itself once the TRA starts multiple internet service providers, land-line operators, long-distance operators and every other competitive telecommunications services against Batelco.

Time to sell Batelco stock!

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Comments (14)

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  1. Boben says:

    MTC-Vodafone gets it!

    How I wish something like that would happen out here (UAE). I think and hope its only a matter of time before someone comes and give Etisalat a run for their money…

  2. mahmood says:

    Re: MTC-Vodafone gets it!

    One of the most stringently applied rules of the world trade agreements is the opening of the telecommunications markets for its signaturies or aspirants. There is no way that the Gulf countries can just sweep that rule under the carpet as they have been doing with just about any issue. Therefore, I would hazard a guess that you won’t have to wait long before Etisalat has competition.

    If it were up to the governments (all of which own their telecommunications infrastructure in the Gulf) they would rather not have any competition at all. Why share the money? In effect, the tarrifs, charges and revenues of telecommunications could be regarded as indirect taxation in our countries, and they (the governments) will hurt from losing that revenue. But that’s the short term thinking… I bet that they would get much more revenue if they open up the market. It’s just logical.

    You won’t have to wait long!

    I’ve been waiting for an effective and competitive telecomms market in Bahrain since 1986 when I usually paid around BD 600 (around $1,600) per month then for running “Stray Cats BBS”, a text based precursor to the internet and that was just for a hobby!

  3. mahmood says:

    Stray Cats lives!

    No sooner than I have entered a reply to the comment from desermermaid, than I googled “Stray Cats BBS” and lo and behold it is mentioned in a newsgroup post dating back to 1993! That’s 10 years ago guys!!! Unbelieavable… you have no privicy when you’re online that’s for sure! I wonder if I can find a site that archived all of those things then, would be a real trip down memory lane…

    Here’s the link to the post if you’re interested.


  4. Boben says:

    Re: Solar Energy

    You’d think with the abudance of oil, electricity would be cheap out here like petrol is. Or maybe electricity is cheap compared to the UK, its just that we use much more of it to keep the AC going. Hmm…. I used to moan about the bills when I lived in London. I always forgot to budget for those boring old bills!

  5. Boben says:

    MTC-Vodafone gets it!

    You’re right about ‘indirect taxation’ with regard to Etisalat. The same goes for electricity costs here….. I can’t believe that this country could not harness solar power and reduce the amount of electricity that has to be conventionally produced. That would bring costs down……I’m still recovering from my summer AC bills!!

  6. mahmood says:

    Solar Energy

    Aparently on an academic scale research does exist, for example Dr. Waheeb Al-Nasser the Dean of Engineering at UoB is a member of the international community researching Solar Energy. Dr. Mohammed Qaiseroon the head of Physics at the same university is personally involved as well. Both however are flabbergasted as to why we don’t use it even for water heating in Bahrain where the sun is almost assured 365 days in the year.

    Generating electricity to drive appliances however is not done, and this should be persued. Maybe the abundance of oil in this area of the world precludes them from researching renewable energy sources.

    I have personally witnessed that in Saudi Arabia driving to Riyadh from Bahrain, emergency telephones on the road-side are solar powered and that’s a very smart thing to do.

    Still I don’t know much about this subject to comment however I agree with your general feelings that we should harness this free and abundant energy. Just needs a couple of people to go ahead and do it, or a corageous businessman to adopt it. I’m sure a market for this will be found as most of us pay about $380 a month for electricity if not more every month in the Summer which lasts about 9 months here!

  7. mahmood says:

    BD 54,700 raised so far for charity!

    According to the GDN more than BD17,700 ($46,950) was raised by MTC-Vodafone Bahrain last night by auctioning 10 most sought-after mobile numbers at the Mobile Fair at the seef Mall carp park last night. The highest bid was BD 5,400 for the number 36999999, followed by BD3,200 for the number 36969696 and three bids of BD 1,200 each for 36550000, 36551111, 36552222. On Monday more than BD 37,000 was raised by auctioning 15 numbers. Two more auctions will be held on January 7 and 8 at 7.30pm at the same venue.

    That’s US$ 145,000 raised for charity so far! Well done MTC-Vodafone!

  8. Dave says:

    Mahmood do you know if using solar powered equipment is legal in this country?

  9. mahmood says:

    Of course it is. there is a whole department at the University of Bahrain (Physics) which is researching it on a national level and have published a few papers on the subject. You might want to contact them if interested.

  10. Omar says:

    I would be very interested to write to Dr.Al Nasser on solar energy, could anybody please give me his e-mail address?

  11. Rayees says:

    We are welcoming the forthcoming mtc launch in K.S.A. You can easily exploit saudi land if you are providing european technology. Mobily technology is not much better. And theri standard is very law.

  12. Anonymous says:

    MTC will relocate it’s headquarters from Kuwait to Bahrain, the second choice was Dubai. All we need is about 10 like MTC to come to Bahrain and well experience a boom like we have never seen before, cos if you get ten of this caliber be sure there will be more on their tracks. Guys if you have cash buy land, build houses and buildings, or start a business cos I can see it happening.

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