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Telestial News

October 22, 2014

THE END OF THE SIM CARD?

If you have been paying attention to the online tech news, there’s one story that everyone is talking about: how Apple just killed the SIM card. The news broke at the launch of their new iPad, the Air 2, which they announced would ship with an ‘Apple SIM’ pre-installed. This SIM can switch between providers, giving the user a choice of which service to use without them having to swap the SIM out each time. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all signed up in the USA, and more will follow around the world following the Air 2’s launch. It’s believed that this innovation will eventually lead to the SIM becoming obsolete. After all, if you no longer need a separate SIM card to pick up a signal from any given network, then you may as well take the microchip off the SIM card altogether and just make it part of the device.

People seem to be taking this possibility very seriously. Gemalto, one of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturers, saw their shares drop in price by a fifth since Apple’s demonstration last week. Here at Telestial, however, we’re not  ready to pack up our things and go home just yet. This technology is not exactly new, after all. Our SIM cards offer a choice of provider and will switch automatically when you cross a border. It’s the result of years of hard work, including our own technical innovation and countless agreements with network providers. And this is where we think Apple may run into a few problems on their way to world SIM domination.

First of all, the people with the most to lose from this new innovation, namely the network operators that currently provide their own SIM cards, are also Apple’s biggest distributors. Very few people can afford to buy a brand new iPhone direct; they would much rather spread the cost over a period of months or years as part of a phone contract. It’s a model that has worked well for both parties so far, with customers getting access to the most modern smartphones for a relatively cheap upfront sum. If Apple do plan to get rid of SIM cards altogether, they may find themselves at war with the very people who have helped them get this far in the first place.

Apple have skirmished with providers already, and for the same reason. In 2011, they were fighting operators on several fronts, including how the App Store would be managed and whether they could remove SIMs altogether in order to make more space inside the handset for functionality. Back then, the networks all came together to gently suggest that doing away with SIM cards was not something they were particularly interested in. Even Apple’s compromise, a smaller SIM (known now as the microSIM) was very slow to be adopted. It was not until it was clear that the iPhones were a hit and in huge demand that networks relented and began to manufacture smaller SIMs. This success carried over into Apple’s next change, the nano-SIM, which was adopted by the network operators with very little fuss at all.

It is not just network operators that need to be wary. Customers should also be on their guard, and for one very simple reason: Apple have never done anything that could be described as ‘cheap’. Being expensive is a part of their brand attraction  (and part of what has made it the most recognisable brand in the world). You know that when you buy an Apple product, it has been designed to the highest possible standards and the price reflects that. If Apple are looking to cut network operators out of the SIM equation, it seems very likely that they will step in to take their place in some way. How they plant to monetize this opportunity remains to be seen. They might levy a small fee each time a user switches operators. They could charge for access to certain networks in certain areas, or even add a fractional amount to each data session you start on their SIM card (the SIM is currently for data only, but this may also change). Whatever they decide to do, there is a huge difference in paying a premium for your device, and paying a premium every time you want to use it.

However this saga unfolds during the coming weeks and months, we at Telestial are confident that the humble SIM card isn’t going anywhere just yet.

October 9, 2014

OUTNUMBERED

There are 7.2 billion people in the world, and more are being added at the rate of two per second. That’s pretty impressive, though not quite as impressive as what we’ve been able to achieve recently. After all, it’s taken us 200,000 years to get here. Mobile phones have been around for only 30 years, and yet in the time it takes us to make a new person, we’re making 5 mobile phones. And for the first time ever, the amount of active mobile phones in the world has overtaken the amount of people. We have just been outnumbered: all hail our new Android (or IOS) overlords!

It’s not surprising that attitudes are changing. We have moved from a world where your phone was static, fixed in place either in your home, on your desk or outside on the street, to a world where everything is portable. The latest advancements seem set to move an object that sits in your bag or pocket (assuming it doesn’t, ahem, bend) to one that you wear about your person in the form of a watch or a pair of glasses. And while it used to be the domain of spies, criminals or cheating spouses to own a second or third device, there are now plenty of reasons why you might want to own another phone.

Take travel, for example. If you’re headed overseas, you might feel that the fee charged by your provider to unlock your current smartphone handset is too expensive when compared with the price of standard cellphones these days. You may wish to travel with something ordinary to deflect attention from potential thieves, or it may be that you’re traveling to a place where recharging your power-hungry smartphone may not be possible every two days, and you want something that will last a little longer. You may even wish to upgrade your phone in order to travel, taking advantage of all the useful apps that are now available, such as maps, online restaurant reviews or translation software.

Here at Telestial, we are happy to be contributing to the world’s overpopulation of mobile phones. We believe in offering the greatest possible choice of options to our customers, at affordable prices.

October 2, 2014

EU ROAMING CHARGES - GLIDING TOWARD A CHANGE In April this year, consumers in the European Union received some welcome news – lawmakers announced that they would abolish roaming fees in all 28 states of the EU by December 2015. This would mean that a traveler from France going to Spain, for example, would pay the same for making calls in either country, an initiative known as RLAH (roam like you’re at home). However, a new proposal revealed in Italy last week makes things a little less clear. For one, there’s no longer any mention of a fixed date for the removal of these charges, and instead, a desire to create what they’re calling a ‘glidepath’. While we’re not entirely sure what a ‘glidepath’ is, it brings to mind network operators as a flock of majestic swans, drifting downstream toward the sea in their own sweet time. Ironically, the reasons behind the push to scrap these charges and operating networks’ reluctance to do so are exactly the same. Former EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes wanted to use the change to encourage operators to invest in faster networks – but the operators are now saying that this expected loss of income would mean that they’re not able to make such investments. So what does this mean for consumers? It’s too early to tell, as nothing has yet been agreed. It does seem that there may be a move to a gradual phasing out of roaming costs rather than abolishment as initially proposed. There may also be a ‘fair use’ calculation, based upon average annual domestic consumption. Under these proposals, an amount of roaming would be permissible under this ‘fair use’ tariff, but once that is used up, higher charges will apply. Discussions are ongoing, but we will be keeping  a close eye on them. Don’t forget to check back here for all the latest news.

October 2, 2014


THE SAME STORY THE WORLD OVER

If you’ve ever felt your blood pressure rise upon discovering just how much you are being charged in roaming fees while you’re abroad, then don’t worry. You’re not alone. In fact, it seems to be the same everywhere you go. It’s certainly the case in South Africa, with 92% of respondents in a recent survey by travel company Travelstart saying that the roaming fees charged by their domestic providers are too high.

There’s a good deal of additional information about South African travel habits, such as the types of handset they use and what they use them for, and whether they switch their cellphones off when they fly (spoiler: 2% of them are very naughty indeed). Check out the article here.

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