Friday, June 29, 2007

Isn't it amazing that in these days of communication overload, major communication companies fail to communicate at all. Well, they fail to communicate the important stuff.

Let's take cellphones, mobiles, or whatever you want to call them. This should make communication portable and easy, right?


And ignorance is not bliss.

Linda was due in the Netherlands for a very short stay, so I sent her a number of texts about which train to catch after finding out that her 'plane landed early. I got no response, and she didn't arrive. I checked websites and found out there had been an accident on the track between Leiden and Hoofdorp, so all trains were delayed or diverted, which explained something. But I still didn't hear from her and assumed that her phone's battery was flat.

She eventually arrived about 1 o'clock, and I asked about her phone. In surprise, she said she had been texting me her progress regularly and was surprised I had not responded.

So we did a test and sure enough, no text on my phone from her. So we compared networks - I'm on Orange and Paul's on T-mobile so she sent the same message to both us. Paul got his, I didn't get mine.


Then I remembered accusing Susan one time of not responding to my SMS, and she assured me she had sent a long message back.


I have been getting text messages from South Africa, but interestingly enough, only from people on 083 numbers - the MTN network.

All the people I expect to hear from who have been unusually quiet are on 082 numbers - the Vodacom network.

OK, so I head off to the Orange outlet to report the problem. They're all very confused, they phone the technical centre who's equally confused. I can send, but not receive. How strange. They check out my phone with a fine tooth comb but all seems fine. Finally they say they will reset something, and I should put my phone off and then on again in about half an hour and see if that helps. But they will escalate the problem and if it persists until Wednesday or so I should go back.

It persists. In the meantime I find out my stepmother's father died - this through an email from my sister. It was late when I got it, but I phoned South Africa immediately and she said she had sent me a text about his fall but it seemed to her I hadn't received it as I didn't say anything when I texted her about something else entirely.

So yesterday I head back to Orange. Anyway the guy opens up my file and there is my query about no SMS. It seems that Vodacom has been blocked by Orange for serving up too much spam via their network.


Besides the egg on the face for Vodacom, there are some serious issues here.

Neither Orange nor Vodacom let their subscribers know in any way at all that there is limited communication between the two networks. I would expect at the very least that if Orange blocks an entire network (like nearly half of all South African cellphone users???) that they would at least send out a form text message to their subscribers mentioning this. They do it for everything else, your invoice is ready, your account will be debited with x amount on such a date, we have a new service available, see website for details, etc.

At best, they would pick up that you are texting a blocked network and alert you to the fact that you might not get a response.

It's been a while since I had a Vodacom phone, but I would expect there too that they would at least warn customers that their service to certain networks has been ...curtailed for reasons not entirely beyond their control. But no, they just issue a Message Sent Successfully, take the money and run. They don't say anything to anyone, causing a great deal of grief all around.

The worst is that this has been going on for a couple of months. How long I don't know, because I don't keep every text I get and cannot look back to see when the problem started. You would think two big companies like that could parley a little and resolve the problem? But nope, it seems that talking would involve the major focus of their business: communication.

It's not just the cellphone companies that do this, mind you. I've had ISPs block entire domains without telling a soul about it.

Anyway I've written to both parties. Let's hope they'll come to one.