A lack of cell savvy can ring up surprise
Nov 03, 2007 04:30 AM
Douglas Santala wants to change the way cellphones are sold in Canada.
He thinks the package and support materials should include a clear statement.
"This device is locked and cannot be used on a competitor's cellphone network."
Not knowing that Rogers cellphones were locked against use in Europe cost him dearly when he travelled there with his daughter this fall.
"Our policy is not to unlock phones," says Taanta Gupta, a spokesperson for Rogers Communications.
"We sell customers heavily subsidized phones that are designed to be used throughout Canada on our extensive network and on the networks of our roaming partners around the world – more than 200 countries, at last count. That's a tremendous convenience to the customer.
"Also, one of the reasons we subsidize these phones is that we expect to receive revenue from the customer for their usage, including when they roam abroad."
Rogers uses a technology called GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile Communications. This is the same standard for mobile phones used in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility both use a technology called CDMA, or code division multiple access, which is less compatible with international roaming.
GSM phones have a detachable smart card known as a SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module, that contains information about the subscriber. Users can exchange SIM cards while travelling and make local calls without paying roaming charges.
That's what Santala hoped to do when he bought two Nokia cellphones (at $228 apiece) at an electronics store. His 20-year-old daughter was doing an international exchange program at the University of Amsterdam, and he was going with her.
"My intent was to travel Europe and keep in contact via our cellphones, especially with the ease of changing SIM cards as I went from country to country," seven in all, he says.
In late August, however, while bragging to a friend about his Nokia cellphones and plans to change SIM cards in Europe, he heard for the first time about the Rogers policy.
"I went straight home and read all literature that came with the phones. However, nowhere could I find the word `locked.'"
Arriving on Sept. 3 in Amsterdam, he got confirmation that his phones were locked and could not be used with the SIM cards he had paid for in advance.
"We now had two useless pieces of plastic," he says.
He bought his daughter another cellphone in Holland and tried to keep in touch with calling cards. Later, he bought himself a new cellphone in Italy.
Back home in Canada, he wrote to me for help. This led to a refund offer from Rogers for the two phones bought in Canada, but not for the two purchased in Europe or the SIM cards.
Rogers gets very few complaints about its locking policy, Gupta says. European carriers are more flexible because they don't subsidize phones as heavily as companies do in North America.
Customers can get their phones unlocked by independent companies, but this has risks.
"While an unlocked phone would likely handle voice abroad," she says, "text messaging and data applications could be seriously affected, since unlocking a phone does not reprogram the phone's software."
Santala is happy with his refund, but wants to see changes in the way cellphones are marketed.
"At least provide large written product warnings," he says.
© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2007
“Roam abroad”: This means to travel overseas away from the country where you live.
After university a lot of people decide to roam abroad to experience the world.
Some students roamed abroad to study in a foreign country.
“Very few complaints: The means that people do not criticize or that not many people have something bad to say about something.
The food and the service is so good at the restaurant that they get very few complaints.
I have very few complaints about the film that I saw Friday night.
True or False: