WorldSIM Targets British Muslims For Low Cost Mobile Calls

WorldSIM Targets British Muslims For Low Cost Mobile CallsWorldSIM is offering a reduced-price phone service aimed at British Muslims who may be travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, their annual pilgrimage.

During the next month it’s estimated that 25,000 British Muslims will be making pilgrimage which falls over xmas and New Year this year.

As anyone who has travelled knows, roaming rates in foreign countries can be pretty horrendous – with charges being levied to _receive_ calls as well as significantly increased prices to make calls back home.

The WorldSIM offering is offering free receipt of calls with calls back to the UK costing ‘as little as’ 45p/min.

WorldSIM Targets British Muslims For Low Cost Mobile CallsUsing the Pay As You Go global roaming SIM card, users of the service are given a UK landline number to give out to be contacted on. We suspect WorldSIM has hooked up a VoIP service to transfer the calls Internationally.

Contacting the pilgrims is of particular value given the huge loss of life at last years gathering when over 345 Hajj pilgrims were killed in a stampede in Mina as they sought to complete a farewell stone-throwing ritual before sunset.


Hajj images courtesy of Space and Culture

DVD Recorders Drop Below £50

DVD Recorder For Under £50It’s amazing to watch the price reduction of consumer goods. First we saw the free fall of the VHS machines, then DVD players which got to the ridiculous level of £19.99 – with 10 DVD’s.

Now, of course, it’s DVD recorders. Three years ago DVD recorders were costing around £400. Today we were stunned to see that DVD recorders have already got to under £50.

OK, we’ve never heard of the manufacturer, Cello, but what do you expect for that sort of money. We’ve also got no idea what the quality of it is like, or how long it will last. That’s not the point. Here’s something that will let you backup your video material to DVD – either from your video camera, or other Firewire equipped equipment; from S-Video and if you’re really desperate, composite video, or TV.

Product Details


Recording Format
Recording Time
– HQ-1 Hr.; SP-2 Hr.; LP-3 Hr. EP-4 Hr.
Playback Format
– DVD±RW, DVD±R, DVD-Video, VCD, CD, MP3, CD-R, CD-RW.
TV Tuner
– For PAL I 05 Modulator Output: CH.21 ~ CH.69

  • Variable Speed & Zoom with Real-Time Playback
  • IEEE1394 (DV Input) for Camcorder, S-Video, CVBS (AV Input)

Rear I/O: Input
– Video: Composite Video, S-Video, TV Tuner Audio: R/L Stereo Output: Video: Composite Video, S-Video, YUV / P-SCAN, Audio: 2-CH, Coaxial One Key Recording
IR Remote Control
– 53 keys, 3V infrared Panel keys: Power, Record, Source, CH up, CH down, Play, Stop, Open / Close

  • NTSC & PAL Playback
  • 21-Pin Full Scart Socket with RGB Output x 1 15 21-Pin Scart Socket Input x 1

See the Cello R100B DVD Recorder for £48.99 at SavaStore

BT Change From Per Second To Per Minute Billing

BT Change From Per Second To Per Minute BillingAs of today BT is reshuffling its phone pricing structure. In a typical move of a power-crazed ex-monopoly, it’s giving with one hand and taking away with another.

The ability to get going on this was given by Ofcom when they lifted restrictions on BT’s UK landline pricing structure.

The ‘giving’
BT hasn’t had the take-up with its bundled packages that it had hoped. From today, subscribers of its Option 2 & 3 package will receive around a third price cut. The included-evening/weekend calls to landline packages will move to £3.95 & the all landline calls to £9.95. This is the packages that they’re trumpeting – shame that most people won’t benefit from it isn’t it?

The other part BT is drawing attention to, is the reduction in price of calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers – the sort of numbers most people have been forced to call to speak to their banks. Oh … and they tell us that they’ve reduced the price of calls to mobile phones.

Almost to add insult to injury, BT is offering all of their 16m subscribes 25p off their monthly line rental at the end of the year- TWENTY FIVE PENCE! We’ve just wasted that typing this. Of course, much to our distress, most broadband services (supplied by BT Wholesale) need to pay the line rental. Why should we? and how much longer can this be allowed to continue? Come on Ofcom.

BT Change From Per Second To Per Minute BillingThe ‘taking’
The majority of BT’s 16m customers pay per call on the Option 1 scheme. Sadly for them, things won’t be such a bargain. BT is changing their standard charging unit from per second to per minute – not something that we’ve seen since the wild-west days of early mobile phone companies, where the cowboy operators tried to extract the maximum amount of money from the suckers customers.

We think it more than sneaky that BT have given people Call Minder, their free phone answering service, then charge people a fixed fee (3p) or ‘setting up’ the call, then charging whole minutes. When many people get an answer phone, they hang-up because they don’t want to leave a message, or to try to call their mobile – in the meantime BT will collect the setup fee PLUS a whole minute charge, for a couple of seconds.

As to how much the minute will be – we don’t know. We’ve looked, really we have, pretty hard too – we’ve even tried to use their price list search – but to no avail. Isn’t it a bit of a give away that if you need a search engine for your price list, you’re possibly going to be confusing the customer.

Interestingly, for the first time, BT have listed Skype on their pricing structure on the press release. Welcome to the future BT.

If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, and fancy trying to extract pricing information, you can have a look at the BT Together site.

Virgin Mobile France Launches

Virgin Mobile France LaunchesBeardy rich bloke Richard Branson has picked up a baguette and waved it angrily at French telecom suppliers, accusing them of “ripping off” consumers as he launched his new Virgin Mobile service in France.

” In examining the French market we saw the bulk of people in France have been ripped off big-time,” table-thumped Branson at the media launch, before unveiling ambitious plans to recruit one million customers to Virgin Mobile in the first three years of operation.

Branson has teamed up with Europe’s grand fromage mobile retailer, Carphone Warehouse for the Virgin-branded venture, which will offer services through mobile phone operator Orange’s network.

The French market – long seen as one of Europe’s least competitive mobile markets – could prove highly profitable for Branson who said that pressure from regulators had gifted Virgin the opportunity to set up a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the country.

Branson’s Virgin Group were one of the early adopters of the MVNO concept in the UK, building the network into the UK’s fifth-largest mobile brand by customers, before exporting operations into the US, Canada and Australia.

France is currently dominated by its three network operators: Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR, all of whom have remained tight-lipped on the news of Virgin elbowing onto their turf.

They should be worried though, with Virgin’s rates set to undercut the competition with pre-paid services offered at a basic 0.42 euros a minute compared to the usual €0.48-0.55 rate.

Virgin Mobile France LaunchesTo further tempt Frenchies, Virgin will be offering free SMS text to subscription customers signing up for 12 month deals (although Orange can review this later if its network subsequently becomes overloaded.)

Marketed and distributed through Carphone’s 200+ Phone House Stores and Virgin’s Megastores music stores, Branson is hoping to create a buzz in the younger market that will filter up to the crumblies.

“The marketing is aimed at young people because older people will buy what young people are buying, but young people won’t necessarily buy what older people are buying,” he commented.

NTL Deal set to finally go ahead
Elsewhere, NTL’s bid for Virgin Mobile – which has dragged on for an eternity – looks set to be sealed this week.

NTL are expected to announce that the Virgin Mobile board has accepted a revised offer – first rumoured in December last year – that will see Virgin’s mobile phone services added to to NTL’s ‘triple-play’ packages of voice, broadband Internet access and television.

Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile France

Orange Get Animalistic

Orange Get AnimalisticUK Mobile company, Orange, is to abandon their numbered Talk plans to replace them with ‘types’ – Dolphins, Canaries, Racoons and Panthers.

We’ve covered this before when it first hit the news, but from Saturday it all starts to happen in the Orange’s shops.

OK … we understand that this is a PR-driven story, but given Orange’s past, we think it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Orange Get AnimalisticOrange has always been a pioneer in dealing with customers. This started with their name, which back in 1994, was extremely adventurous – as was tying it in with a colour and trying to associate it with emotion.

This combined with leading the field in customer service, gaining them significant number of users – despite the early problems they had with the quality of the actual mobile call service.

Orange Get AnimalisticOn a personal note – I’ve been with Orange since they started and was highly impressed in the early days. Over the years I found that the quality has gone south a little – people you speak to there are a little less helpful; the flexibility that made you glad to be with Orange and started to atrophy shortly after Wanadoo (France Telecom) took over in 2001.

Back to the story – Orange’s research has brought up that 68% of the British find mobile phone tariffs confusing. When they’re labeled 100, 200, 300 & 500, we find it baffling that people can’t understand what they getting.

Orange Get AnimalisticInstead we will be categorised as Dolphins, Canaries, Racoons or Panthers. Here’s the explanation …

  • Fun Loving Dolphins – Dolphins are fun loving, extrovert characters that enjoy the spontaneous and impulsive. Thrilling new experiences are always welcome
  • Chattering Canaries – Canaries love to indulge themselves with the small pleasures of life � relaxing hot baths, great haircuts, and maybe the odd facial
  • Dilligent Raccoons – Raccoons can turn their hands to many things, and will always show commitment to the hobbies and interests they settle on
  • Proud Panthers – Panthers are careful time managers, hungry to squeeze the most out of life. These cats aren’t afraid to search out and enjoy the unusual

Worthless nonsense or a world leading move? Only time will tell.

Orange Announce Daft Animal Pricing Tariffs

Orange  Announce Daft Animal Pricing TariffsWith a bonkers new naming strategy that suggests the creatives may have been on something stronger than caffeine, Orange have launched a new tariff that links customer behaviour with animal characteristics.

Backed by a whopping great £10 million advertising campaign running to the end of the year, Orange’s new pricing scheme comes in four, err, animal type packages.

The ‘Dolphin’ package is aimed at those who “like to text a lot,” The ‘Panther’ package is “for people who like all the extras” and offers inclusive 3G minutes, while the ‘Canary’ deal is for “people who love to chat,” and comes with Orange to Orange off-peak minutes.

Finally, the ‘Raccoon’ package is for grumpy hairshirt types who “want no nonsense basics” and demand a “tool, not a toy.”

Possibly recovering from a hurricane of flip-chart activity, Orange’s Neil Macgeorge, reflected on the lengthy brainstorming sessions which saw finger-clicking creatives initially mull over food types and fabrics as possible tariff names.

As the double skinny cappuccinos flowed, it was eventually decided to run with the animals idea as it – apparently – “really resonated with consumers across the board.”

We’re not entirely convinced that customers will appreciate being labelled a Racoon, but Macgeorge was on-message as he explained their philosophy;

“Over the past year we’ve been looking at the whole market and evaluating exactly how, when and why people use their phones. From that data, we then identified four clear behavioural patterns around which we’ve built our new packages.”

“Consequently, we’re shifting the way we sell services to customers and changing the headlines on the high street from complicated tariff tables to simple messages. We’re focused on offering packages which are designed to meet the different needs consumers have,” he added.

Orange  Announce Daft Animal Pricing TariffsInitially launching to Pay Monthly customers, the animal packages will be made available to Pay as you go customers later in the year.

Here’s some examples of how the pricing tariffs pan out:

For thirty quid (£30), a chattering Canary gets 200 any network minutes, plus 75 texts and 50 Orange off-peak minutes, while a cheapskate Racoon would get 200 minutes plus 50 extra fixed line minutes.

For the same price, Dolphins get 100 minutes and 200 texts, while Panthers can only prowl on to the network for £45/month, which buys them 400 minutes, plus 100 texts and 25% extra anynet minutes if they buy a 3G handset.

To keep the, err, animals grazing on Orange’s pastures, customers choosing to fork out for an 18 month contract will gain access to Orange’s newly introduced “Magic Numbers” deal.

Nothing to do with the indie-pop band of the same name, a ‘Magic Number’ is simply a customer’s most frequently called Orange number and under the scheme they’ll be allowed to make calls of up to an hour to that number and only pay for a minute.

To keep the herd from straying, Pay Monthly customers will be able to choose an additional Magic Number every six months.

Sony Ericsson at CeBIT

RealMusic Subscription Service Launched By Real

Real Launch RealMusic Subscription ServiceReal have announced the launch of its new online music service, imaginatively called, err, RealMusic.

Claiming to be the first online subscription service to offer radio, music videos, ringtones, downloads and user-generated content, Real are billing the subscription service as a “one-stop browser-based service”, offering music fans a simple way to “search, discover, buy and sell the music they love.”

Subscribers to RealMusic get access to more than 300 CD-quality, ad-free radio stations, hand-picked by Real’s global team of music editors, as well as artist radio stations.

Naturally, there’s been a lot of flesh-pressing and business card flipping going on behind the scenes, with “exclusive partner stations” like the Ministry of Sound, Carl Cox and GMG Radio (SmoothFM, Real Radio, JazzFM and Hed Kandi) forming synergistic partnerships.

Sadly for Apple Mac users, the service “is currently being optimised for Mac users. Please check back later.” How long you’ll have to hold your breath is unclear.

The service also provides on-demand access to more than 4,000 music videos from major and indie label artists, with related downloads or ringtones available on the site to keep users spending.

Real Launch RealMusic Subscription ServiceRealMusic will be creating a chart of the top ranking tracks and ringtones created, submitted, and rated by users, with an editorial team producing content and commentary on artists, music releases and videos.

“Music lovers are looking for new ways to create, discover and share music anywhere, anytime” insisted Gabriel Levy, Head of Music, RealNetworks Europe.

“RealMusic is the first comprehensive music service to give users access to radio, music videos, downloads and ringtones – plus the ability to play and buy original user-generated music,” he continued.

The site will incorporate advanced search capabilities, letting users shuffle through thousands of radio stations by language, country or genre, with subscribers able to access all of the available radio stations, downloads, videos and ringtones featuring their fave artist.

Approximately 20% of the digital radio audience listens online,” intoned Marco Menato, Vice President EMEA & Latin America, RealNetworks.

Real Launch RealMusic Subscription Service“This demonstrates that there is a strong demand for services that mix the way in which consumers access music, from downloading the latest chart hits and ringtones to sharing tracks from unsigned bands. RealMusic gives music enthusiasts all these options as well as the opportunity to effortlessly discover music to suit their mood,” he continued.

A subscription to RealMusic costs £8.50 ($15, €12.6) per month, with downloads expected to be priced at £0.99 ($1.76, €1.48) per track or £7.99 per album.

The RealNetworks’ TonePass ringtone subscription service is available through RealMusic at an additional cost of £4.99 ($8.85, €7.41) per month.


Napster Releases Subscription Figures

Napster Releases Subscription FiguresFor the first time since its UK launch May 2004, the online music store Napster has dished the dirt on its usage and membership figures for the UK.

According to their figures, Napster has now scooped up 750,000 registered UK members, notching up 55 million downloads and streams in 15 months.

The LA-based company also released demographic information about their subscribers, which revealed that 80 per cent of its subscribers are over 25 years old, 75 per cent are blokes and over 50 per cent have kids.

The company claims to be currently attracting 50,000 new members a month.

Reflecting the changing trends of the music buying public, Napster claims that one in five or their subscribers no longer buy CDs, preferring to buy from their online catalogue of 1.6 million tracks – the largest in the world.

Napster Releases Subscription FiguresThis represents an amazing turnaround for Napster who famously started life as the brainchild of an 18-year-old college dropout named Shawn Fanning in 1999.

Creating an online peer-to-peer file-sharing system that allowed computer users to share and swap files – specifically music – through a centralised file server, Napster immediately attracted the wrath of the Recording Industry Association of America who charged them with tributary copyright infringement.

In February 2001, a judge ruled that Napster had to stop the distribution of copyrighted material through its network and was forced to block over 250,000 songs using over 1.6 million filenames.

Things got worse in July 2001 when a judge told Napster it must block all files infringing copyright, effectively shutting the network down.

Napster Releases Subscription FiguresNapster folded in September 2002, but the brand was revived as a legal P2P service by the owners of the Napster name Roxio in 2003, quickly growing to become a major competitor for market leader iTunes.

Despite rival, cheaper services being launched by HMV and Virgin, Napster has said that it will not be reducing prices, preferring to concentrate on its subscription-based service.

This lets users ‘rent’ unlimited songs for a £9.95 ($18.5, €14.7) monthly fee with the penalty of losing access to the songs if the user’s subscription lapses.

‘We believe that the market is all about subscription,’ says Leanne Sharman, vice-president of Napster UK. ‘We’re seeing significant growth in that area.’

Napster UK

Superfast Broadband Access Via TV Cables

Superfast Broadband Access Via TV CablesTV cables could provide broadband Internet access speeds up to a trouser-flapping 100 megabits per second as early as next year according to Finnish broadband equipment maker Teleste.

The technology is claimed to provide punters with access 50 times faster than the average broadband speeds now offered to cable TV homes.

Although similarly nippy data transmission speeds are possible over fibre networks, these would cost a lot more for operators to build.

Superfast Broadband Access Via TV Cables“This is a cost-efficient technology, as we use the cable TV networks which are already in place,” Teleste’s CEO Jukka Rinnevaara told Reuters.

Teleste has said that it will bring its Ethernet-to-the-home product to the market early next year, giving consumers access to speeds of up to 100mbps.

The company manages to achieve the Billy Whizz speeds by fitting Ethernet – your everyday, cheapo technology for shifting Internet data over broadband networks – into cable television networks.

Teleste reckons it’s way ahead of the market, predicting that rival technologies won’t emerge until the second quarter of 2007 at the earliest.

Superfast Broadband Access Via TV CablesThe foxy Finns are currently running field trials with cable TV service provider Essent in the Netherlands, but are yet to reach the top speeds they predicts will be available to most homes in a few years time.

“Based on our research, 30 megabits per second is the absolute minimum in future homes,” Pekka Rissanen, a Teleste exec informed a news conference. “Just one TV programme would take 10 to 20 megabits per second of this alone. So, very fast we would reach a need for 30 megabits, and also for 50 megabits per second.”

Superfast Broadband Access Via TV CablesRissanen calculated the cost of connecting a home to the high speed ethernet-to-the-home technology could range from US$60.30 (~£35, ~€50) and US$241 (~£140, ~€200).

For some inexplicable reason, the company has splashed out a fortune for a bizarre, near feature-length futuristic 3D-tastic cartoon fronted by a talking monkey to explain their new service.

We’re not quite sure what the connection with the service is, but it sure beats listening to some swivel action suit blathering on via Power Point.


AbbiTalk: UK VoIP Operator Claims Challenge To BT

UK VoIP Operator AbbiTalk Challenges BTAbbiTalk, a West Sussex-based provider of Voice Over IP (VoIP) telephony services, is talking tough about its cut-rate broadband call packages, that offer customers extra telephone lines with discount local and UK call charges and no line rental.

Boldly claiming to be “giving BT a run for its money”, AbbiTalk claim that its customers will “generally” save £90 over the cost of using BT phone lines in year one and a further £110 in subsequent years (dependent on the package concerned).

Paul Perrin, director of AbbiTalk is – perhaps – getting a little carried away here: “Within 18 months, we believe most telephone calls in the UK will be free and the only rental payment will be for a broadband connection. Many international calls will also be free. BT is running scared, and we’re doing the chasing!”

Customers using AbbiTalk’s broadband service pay the installation charge for their chosen VoIP deal to gain access to competitive call rates: free calls to users of AbbiTalk and other UK and international SIP services, 1.2/min to UK BT phones and less than 2p/min for calls to the USA, Australia and China.

UK VoIP Operator AbbiTalk Challenges BTPrices start at £149 for “AbbiTalkBasicOne”, which provides one extra phone line, a unique number with Pre Pay phone account, an adaptor and a DECT digital cordless phone with digital answering machine.

Other packages include “AbbiTalkTwo”, which provides two phone lines with a single, unique number shared across both, a router/hub, digital cordless phone with digital answering machine and an additional digital phone and “AbbiTalkTwoPlus” which offers two extra phone lines, two separate numbers and two DECT digital phones with digital answer machines.

The top package, forgettably entitled “AbbiTalkTwoWF”, adds WiFi networking of the customer’s computer.

New customers can use their existing broadband connection to adopt the service, or plump for AbbiTalk’s own broadband.

UK VoIP Operator AbbiTalk Challenges BTNo line rental is charged and there’s no need to use a computer to make the calls as these are accomplished through the standard cordless handsets.

AbbiTek’s MD, Keith Gardner, got all historical in his statement: “VoIP is now widely recognised as the next ‘disruptive technology’. Historians claim that others were Bell’s original telephone, Marconi’s wireless, the internal combustion engine, etc., so big changes are on the way.”

“We have subscribed to this view for some time, hence our core business, Abbitek, focuses on VoIP services for enterprises. Through AbbiTalk, our customers can access the latest VoIP products. When configured, these enable us to deliver all the benefits of VoIP to domestic, small business and home workers: our simple and affordable packages have something for everyone. Initial reactions have been positive.”