Tag Archives Technology

Unlimited ADSL packages have come to town

Finally, there is some movement as far as the internet connectivity is concerned. Lightspeed Communications, which is partly owned by Jordan Telecom, has announced unlimited ADSL packages for the home and office at cheaper rates than the current bandwidth-limited packages offered by Batelco; details of these packages are:

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If you go to their site’s tarriff page you will see a bright orange star next to the “promotional rate” but the page does not explain what that star is. It is fair to assume that it indicates some terms and conditions attached to that offer, but in the absence of printed explanations we have to wait for an official response, but unfortunately no response was forthcoming.

Hot on the heals of Lightspeed though, Lightspeed’s supplier have started offering Unlimited access to their business packages with an appreciable discount too! I would not be surprised to find that Batelco will soon introduced either more reductions of tariffs for home users and/or new unlimited packages and that, my friends, will be very welcome.

Is Batelco feeling the competitive heat? There are now many competitors in the broadband business: MTC Vodafone, Lightspeed, Neutel, Kalam, MENA Telecom and 2Connect amongst others, so Batelco most definitely is feeling the heat and Batelco being Batelco is responding of course. They do take competition very seriously and if history serves right, they will only move to provide better, faster and cheaper services when they have to.

Lightspeed starts offering UNLIMITED ADSL packages ad

They have now, I believe that the charges they levy on broadband access (both residential and business) are still high and I am absolutely convinced that ultimately they will be forced to reduce their tariffs to be more compatible with world standards, and more importantly, be reasonable enough for the local market to engender good internet based innovations.

The numbers that the competitors are offering though do not seem very convincing, especially when you consider they essentially buy wholesale from Batelco and then resell it without having to invest in their own infrastructure but depend on that provided by both Batelco and BIX. This is legitimate business practice of course and done in true trader mentality. But the thing that I fear is that just like a lot of small traders, they over promise and under deliver.

Consider for instance the packages recently announced by Lightspeed (shown above); their capacity is based on a 1Gbps port purchased from Batelco (bitstream service a lot of Lightspeed’s services would run on) which they hope to generate enough interest to fill. At the moment their contention ratio on that pipe is promised to be something like 15:1, but insiders tell me that in order for them to make any money off this deal, their business model is based on providing a contention ratio of 30-40:1. This essentially means that if you buy a 2Mbps contract from them, when they reach their break-even point you will probably experience much lower speeds! By that time of course Batelco might well have released much more competitive packages, or other entrants would have come into the market with good financial strength to carry their plans through while you are locked into that “star” that we can’t seem to find the explanation of.

telecomms.jpg

The financial strengths of both Lightspeed and Kalam specifically give rise to some concerns. My sources indicate that both companies have not paid their BIX bill for months now and are under threat of stop-service. Lightspeed also had to downgrade its bandwidth capacity with BIX because it simply cannot afford the bill and this happened after it has been taken over by Jordan Telecom!

Lightspeed might have a bigger problem on its hands in a few months if it does not meet the “minimum customer connectivity clause” of the contract and if that happens, you can rest assured that Batelco will come down on Lightspeed like a tonne of bricks with hefty fines already designed in their contract. The repercussions – without the Jordan Telecom muscle – could very well be bankruptcy should they not take care of this particular problem.

Still, residential packages as they have offered could be their ultimate salvation. But they are sitting on a knife’s edge and they have to manage it very very carefully. If they sell a lot of these packages and they ultimately find they have a lot of unsatisfied customers due to the high contention ratios they will shoot themselves in the foot. Actually they would have shot off the whole leg. It’s that serious ironically because customers in 8 – 12 months’ time will have a much bigger choice than that currently enjoyed.

This is a similar situation – business wise, I am told, between Batelco and Kalam where the former who has been branded the latter as a “bad payer” with all the conditions that ensues on their relationship and ultimately customer base. There is nothing worse than falling foul of a business supplier. I hope they can re-capitalised (again?) in order to remove that particular stigma and be more creative in their offerings. We hardly hear of Kalam now.

There are also those malicious rumours doing the rounds that a telecoms company has not paid its employees for 6 months! I don’t know about the employees themselves, but had that been me I would have chucked that company in a long time ago and wrote the unpaid salaries off rather than keep with the headache of “will I get paid this month.” Telecoms companies are not alone in this boat of course, other major media companies do suffer from the same, uh, variable salary pay days just to keep employees (and their personal loaning banks) on their toes.

Which brings me to another question mark point here: Is it ego that is driving MENA Telecom or is it really good business sense? Why would anyone invest in a technology that has not solidified yet and why depend on a single vendor to take you down that path? Why invest such a huge sum of money in it without first testing the market properly or simply building a viable business case?

Why would it invest the huge sum of US$60 million in a market whose best estimates of broadband users is 60,000 and the vast majority of whom are on the Batelco 10 Dinar package per month?! What and where is their particular market? Please tell me! Unless they wish to take on Batelco head-on in the broadband business but then Batelco is operating on completely depreciated copper while MENA is going for the ultra new WiMax technology! If they do get even 100% market ownership of that “huge” 60k user-base, where can they make their money? I doubt very much that they will make it from VPN or DVB services. I can understand that a few business customers (and by few I do mean few) going for their VPN solution, but as we do not have any media infrastructure to speak of in this country, I would be kind enough to them to assume that they actually copied their business solutions from the Motorola WiMax brochure rather than have conducted proper market research! Could they please give the salesman who sold them that “solution” my number? I am in desperate need of as good sales staff. Still, they will be successful. They’ve got KFH to hold their back and it won’t allow it to fail. Industry watchers think that MENA might have gone bankrupt twice already save for KFH’s deep pockets.

So where does all of that leave us the consumers in this Jewel in the Arabian Gulf?

It certainly gives us more options, entrants are now coming up with nice packages but unfortunately they are not very well thought out business cases as we have seen from the above, but one could be forgiven for seeing a similarity in this and “birth pains”. Ultimately the good will rise because of innovative offerings while others will just naturally disappear from existence. This is the nature of a deregulated market and that is what we should expect more of.

What would really deregulate the market; however, is splitting Batelco into at least 2 businesses: one managing the wholesale which should own the infrastructure, while the other continue to offer the retail services. This will allow its retail operation to fairly compete in the market and with its own self. Rather than continuously being at loggerheads with the TRA for hiked prices offered to its customers and much more importantly allow new business entrants to come into the market and boldly provide new innovative services without having to worry that the rug will be pulled from under their feet at any moment.

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Kudos Batelco

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Batelco donate donates millions of dinars each year to a variety of community causes.

Since the beginning of the year, it has contributed over BD3m to various projects which include BD100,000 to Al Rahma Centre, BD450,000 to Al Noor Charity Association, BD800,000 to support Batelco Care Centre for Family Violence Cases and BD700,000 to complete its commitment, totaling BD1.5m, to the King Hamad Schools of the Future project.

“Batelco is more than pleased to continue offering support to the community we live in and work in; it is our way of saying thank you for their loyalty to us over the years,” said Shaikh Hamad
GDN – 18 July, ’07

Well done Batelco. That is 3/52.3 = 5.7% of your half-year profit or 3/136.4 = 2.2% of your gross revenue. Appreciable figures regardless of which metric and most definitely amplified by the projects it has financed and it is those people who will immediately see the contribution’s benefits.

I hope more companies follow this lead.

I hope too that these revenues prove that the lower the price of a good service, the more people will flock to you to buy that service, so it’s time once again for your to reduce the ADSL tariffs, increase speeds and scrap that bandwidth limitation. You can do it!

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Perfect employees to Bahraini broadcasters

You know how it is always difficult to get good broadcast or studio engineers? Well, okay, you might not, but take my word for it. Anyway, I think both Bahrain TV and Orbit should knock on the public prosecutor’s doors offering him a new and novel way in correctional activities. Let them serve their sentence in their own studios rather than prison!

Apprehended studio technicians and their kits - Al-Wasat Newspaper

You see, someone ratted a couple of guys to the Ministry of Information – that bastion of copyright protection – telling the ministry that an illicit operation exists in Bahrain which deciphers satellite channels and retransmit them to customers in their neighbourhood for BD5 subscription a month. Their operation has become so successful apparently that they started similar operations in Hamad Town and Muharraq too.

Now look at the equipment in the picture; this is professional kit! TBCs, frame synchronisers, amplifiers, etc which don’t come cheap and are sophisticated. I very much doubt if Bahrain TV or Orbit can actually compete with this operation and the beautiful racks of equipment you see here.

So the Good News™ in this story is this: these guys get BD50 a month and they are running such a sophisticated operation from their apartment; therefore, Bahrain TV and Orbit can use them as consultants too to reduce their overheads appreciably in both staff and equipment while hopefully upping their game as far as programming in their bouquets with the tremendous amount of monies they will save by emulating them and following their advice.

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Resurrected

Remember that crappy WD Passport 160GB that dropped about a foot and died on me completely?

Well, you will be glad to know that the data within the drive has been almost completely recovered. 120GB of it, by a company I dealt with in the States: First Advantage Data Recovery to the tune of US$1,400!

They’ve just sent me the directory listing and said that they will send me the data on an external drive today. Yippee!

Good News!™

The test results for your failed hard drive are in and have shown that the Head Rack Assembly is the failure mechanism. The Head Rack Assembly (HRA) is the latticework that supports the read/write heads; there is one head per surface. Attached to the back end of the assembly is a voice coil positioned between two ferrite magnets. Energizing the voice coil will drive the read/write heads to the location on the media for reading or writing.

drive mechanism

When this device fails, the drive will typically make a clicking sound. The only choice here is to replace and realign the failed HRA with one that matches it from a “donor” drive. This transplant procedure is performed in a clean room environment by highly skilled engineers. This procedure does not fix your drive for you to reuse but instead enables us the chance to acquire the raw data (sectors) from the drive. If we have a good sector dump from the drive and the file system is not affected, then we will be able to see the folder and file structure that you were used to seeing and recover your data. What is described here is the primary cause of failure, other issues may exist.

Needless to say, the second drive that went belly up on me, the MacBook’s internal drive is on the way to them as I write this.

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Calibrating the monitor

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Have you wondered why pictures look okay on your own monitor but if you view them on a web-page or on another computer they are completely different as far as colour and saturation is concerned?

This is due to the calibration of your monitor and the embedded colour profile within the image file. Calibration equipment can be expensive, but surely there must be a way to calibrate your monitor to be the same as displaying something on a web-page isn’t there?

Since I re-installed my OS due to a hard disk replacement, my settings have gone awry. The following picture, for instance, looks rich on my laptop’s screen with the flowers in red hot pink and the bee in bright yellow, yet when I look at it in Firefox once uploaded to Flickr the colours and contrast are definitely subdued.

I should re-look at the calibrations.

Anyone has a proper profile for the black MacBook? Please share!

Bee in flight

Bee in flight, originally uploaded by malyousif.

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Mahmood and the iPhone!

Mahmood and the iPhone!

Mahmood and the iPhone!, originally uploaded by malyousif.

Mahmood got his sticky mitts on the new Apple iPhone, Kris’ iPhone, which he only received yesterday direct from the States.

The phone functions of course does not work, we tried both MTC Vodafone and Fashelco‘s chips to no avail, but the function and the music and the movies and the WiFi and everything else is just, like, to die for (the last part done in Paris Hiltonesque voice please!)

UPDATE 25 Aug, ’07: The game is up, full SIM unlock achieved ->

It’s high noon, Apple and AT&T — we really hate to break it to you, but the jig is up. Last night the impossible was made possible: right in front of our very eyes we witnessed a full SIM unlock of our iPhone with a small piece of software. It’s all over, guys.

endgadget.com

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Fried MacBook

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This is not a very good day for me. Since I woke up things just conspired against me and me no likes it.

The latest is that my not-so-lovely MacBook just went belly up for no reason it seems. After struggling with it for the last 3 hours I hear the dreaded “click click” noise coming from the hard disk. The dealer (sorry Sofyan! pickup your phone!) doesn’t have a spare start-up Mac OS X DVD for me to try to start it up and run a Disk Repair. Now I’m off calling my friends to see if they can locate their original DVDs for MacBooks.. my brother (if he calls back) might come to the rescue.

So bloody frustrating… and of course I didn’t back up for a long time!!

Wish me luck. Until it gets fixed, I am comendeering my driver’s desk and computer to do my work (and blogging) on.

Damn!

andanotherthing: noticed that the engine in my car was misfiring, that is after it being in the garage for 2 weeks getting a major 40k service and bodyshop work, I notice it misfiring! They are replacing the ignition coils and I am stranded in the office without a car so I can’t even drive downtown to take the computer to the dealer to be looked at. Lovely isn’t it? 👿

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Batelco is feeling the heat!

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Batelco new ADSL package details

With the various schemes and announcements from potential competitors like 2Connect with their 30% reduction in tariffs for broadband changes when compared to Batelco, the mediocre and meagre offerings of MTC Vodafone’s 3.5G access and latest from both MENA Telecom and MTC Vodafone’s WiMax initiatives, Batelco surprised no one when they announced yesterday in their press conference that they are reducing the tariffs of business broadband by 25% while 2 new packages were introduced at a reduction for businesses with an unlimited threshold. That’s the good part, the bad of course is that they are still too expensive when compared to the rest of the world and there is a lot of improvement room left not only in price, but also for the speeds available, which, I am certain, will come along a lot faster now that competition is heating up.

I refuse to believe that these changes have happened to “help” the community, Batelco had ample time and resources to do that amidst the community passionate appeals for them to do so, they brushed those appeals aside, lifted their noses high and went ahead and did what pleases them. So the following seems rather strange coming from them, it is as if they have just woken up to the power of communications in general and are philanthropically and selflessly now contributing to the country’s development and global competitiveness:

“Information and communication technology (ICT) and e-services can complement the kingdom’s financial sector in accelerating Bahrain’s future economic growth,” he noted.

“To enable businesses and ministries to embrace the advantages of electronically delivered services, the availability and cost of high speed broadband connectivity is crucial.

“Batelco has, therefore, introduced new managed data services and reduced its prices for business broadband by 50pc.”

This will create the most competitive rates for high speed dedicated Internet access across the GCC, said Mr Kaliaropoulos.

“Online delivery of services and information by ministries and businesses, not only creates a sustainable, knowledge-driven economy but also creates high value jobs and encourages innovation in creating and delivering content via portals and fixed and wireless devices,” he said.

“Fixed and wireless broadband technologies introduced by Batelco and now, extremely competitive Internet access services, are crucial components for regional leadership in e-services.”

No Mr. Kaliaropoulos, what you did is respond to mounting competitive pressures, which a normal company is fully condoned in doing of course; however, Batelco, being effectively the sole operator in the country and the criticality of its product in the development of our economy and creativity, you should have responded without having to wait for the competition to knock on your door. Had you done so, you would have already realised the increased market size and profitability as you have already noticed in your mobile telephony offerings:

واوضح ان “المنافسة في السوق خلقت زبائن جددا ولم تؤثر كثيرا على الشركة التي فقدت فقط نحو 15% الى 20% من زبائنها، في حين ارتفع عدد مستخدمي النقال في البحرين من 300 الف الى نحو 620 الف مشتركا”.

“Competition in the market created new customers and did not affect the company too much as it lost only about 15% – 20% of its customers while mobile users increased from 300,000 to about 620,000 subscribers in Bahrain”

The question now is will the TRA play your game and allow you to offer these prices? I hope they will, but only to force you and your competitors to achieve better competitiveness through efficiency and strengthening the market size in order to offer even more reasonable reductions in exorbitant tariffs.

So thanks.

I want more competition, please.

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Bahrain leads Arab world in broadband penetration

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Depends on how you interpret “penetration” when it comes to Batelco!

But hold on to your horses, don’t get too excited yet:

TCCM for the Arab World
click for larger image

The TCCM shows the extent of connectivity of individuals in a certain country whether via fixed lines, cellular lines and/or Internet.

What about broadband I hear you ask?

The Arab World still lags behind developed countries in the penetration and use of broadband Internet and Internet access at large. For example, Bahrain leads the Arab World with a 5.79% Internet broadband penetration (total broadband accounts by total population). Still this is much lower than Denmark’s 32%, South Korea’s 29% or the United States’ 20%.”

5.79%, that’s it? For a country that is supposedly “wired”, this is what we have? What pittance. Of course, Batelco’s game is margin over revenue, not stopping for a second to consider that should they open up this market and uncap the stupidity they call “broadband” will most possibly unleash the creative juices and we might, just might, start using the Internet for commerce and entertainment as it should be used, rather than having to count the bytes as if this is still the telex age.

Let’s see how the “traditional” press spins this one out tomorrow; I predict a big bold headline in the GDN… hold on, it’s coming it’s coming; ahhhh:

BAHRAINI PENETRATION BEST IN ARAB WORLD

Dickheads.

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Gulf States left behind technologically

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And the most suffering one of those is Bahrain:

The United Arab Emirates led the way in adoption of information and communications technology, ranking 29th among 122 countries worldwide. Nearby Qatar was No. 36, Bahrain No. 50 and Kuwait No. 54.

But data from previous reports show the Emirates fell six places in two years. Kuwait dropped eight places in a year and Bahrain, plagued by poor education and innovation, plummeted 17 places in two years.

[…]

In Bahrain, where a huge Shiite Muslim underclass is dominated by a wealthy ruling Sunni minority, 80 percent of the government budget is consumed by about 50 families that own most of the businesses in the tiny island country, said Mukhtar al-Hashimi, dean of the School of Information and Technology at University College of Bahrain.

Bahrain has plummeted in the rankings since 2005 because of slipping education, research and development and judicial independence.

“In the Gulf, none of the universities really have a research center, where they bring their talented people to innovate,” al-Hashimi said. “The rich are becoming richer, the middle class is earning less.”
AP via Bismark Tribune

Education is without a doubt the most important catalyst for increasing wealth in a country; hence, improve and increase the numbers of the middle class which in turn adds tremendously to the stability of a society.

Look at India for example and the great strides they did over the last 30 years; their middle class now counts more than 250 million people, put in perspective, this is about the whole population of the Arab world! And what did they do to get to that stage? Primarily reform their education.

This is the thing that we must do too and now, there should be no delay in doing so. Scrap all rote learning and emphasize the sciences and maths and introduce specific courses in critical thinking. We must do this.

I think the majority of Bahrain already realise this, which is why students in private schools now number 27% of the student population and parents would not have bothered to pay exorbitant school fees if they did not believe that private education would prepare their children better for the future than local government schools would.

We need to revamp education and support the initiatives for its overhaul. Let’s concentrate on that and create the environment for it to flourish. We owe it to the future generations to bite the bullet and drastically reform the educational organisation, doing anything else will firmly close the windows of opportunity to future generations and our nation.

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