Saturday, December 10, 2011

Skinny Mobile - Locking Out The Competition

If you think "Aren't there enough cellphones in NZ?" (with 4.6m+ for a population of 4.1m), then perhaps this news slipped past you last month:
Telecom is launching a budget sub-network for youth early in 2012. Skinny Mobile will run on the same network as Telecom XT, and will share behind-the-scenes services, competing with budget-friendly 2degrees. It's also a hurry-up to get Telecom's CDMA network customers onto the XT network (the CDMA network will be turned off 30th June next year). Apparently Skinny Mobile will launch shortly after Christmas at a large youth event - probably Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne, and maybe the Big Day Out in Auckland.
So, would you consider switching to Skinny or putting your kids' phones on it? Possibly not, becoz only yesterday Telecom announced it will "sim-lock" all Skinny Mobile phones!
Since the launch of Telecom's XT mobile network and 2degrees' network in 2009, users have been able to switch between all three mobile carriers simply by changing the sim card in their phone. But Skinny manager Paul O'Shannessey says it would sim-lock new smartphones for nine months: you could not switch phones to a rival carrier unless you paid a $30 unlock fee! This would allow Skinny to subsidise its phones. As well as making it harder to switch between carriers, sim-locking has the disadvantage for us that we couldn't use a local sim card to avoid high roaming charges when overseas.
Sim-locking's been tried before: Vodafone did it in 2008, to shore up its market share ahead of the launch of 2degrees. But it was warned off by Telecommunications Commissioner Ross Patterson (although it reserved the right to do it in the future). The Telecommunications Users Assn. calls this a backward step for competition. Its CEO Paul Brislen says the commission sent a clear signal that sim-locking was unacceptable, and he's alerted it to the sneaky Skinny scheme.
Yeup, if you pay good money for a product/service, it shouldn't come with provisos. Would you buy a Ferrari on which the maker's installed a governor that stops you exceeding 50kmph?! Limiters simply mean consumers will choose another provider...there are plenty available!

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