ndRe: Unicode, SMS, PDA/cellphones

From: Philippe Verdy (verdy_p@wanadoo.fr)
Date: Fri Jun 02 2006 - 14:41:51 CDT

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Keutgen, Walter" <walter.keutgen@be.unisys.com>
    To: "Philippe Verdy" <verdy_p@wanadoo.fr>; <unicode@unicode.org>
    Sent: Friday, June 02, 2006 3:42 PM
    Subject: RE: Unicode, SMS, PDA/cellphones

    > my opinion is that the mobile telco market is very competitive.

    (this part is out of Unicode topic:) I think it is not. True competition exists only for new subscribers, but the main difficulty is effectively in comparing offers. The lack of fair competition is visible in the price you have to pay when you call someone from another operator andwhen you phone fromabroad or in an area where your operator is not accessible. Or where you phone to someone from a fixed phone or a IP phone. The roaming charges are really excessive.

    > The phones are compatible and when you switch provider, you just get a new SIM card, when you buy a new phone you just put the old SIM card into it.

    This is (partly) true only for the basic phone service. This is wrong for all extra services. In addition, most phones will not work on other operators if you swithc the SIM smart card, because it is extremely often locked by the origin operator that sold you the device at a reduced price. The phone usage restriction persists even at end of the minimum 2 years contract.

    > It seems to me that part of the software is in the phone, part in the SIM card.

    That's wrong. The SIM card does not contain software. It just contains a restricted memory area for storing the subscriber identifier in ROM, and some non volatile area for storing your phonebook (if youdon't store it in the phone itself, and a few user preferences for the GSM network to which the SIM card is bound.

    And finally the built-in firmware remains "customized" for the origin operator, that has put limitation in the software features implemented so that it will not support the mobile services of another operator, that uses a different technology.

    The truth is that they use different closed standards (covered by lots of patents and licences) that the other operator does not support on its network.

    Being "able" to send SMS messages from one network to the other is not afeature of your phone, but only a transfer service implemented by the operator you use, that converts SMS messagesfromonenetworktothe other, using lots of tricks to make it work.

    But the differences are even more visible for all more advanced mobile services, including MMS, WAP/Web accesses, and even complicated by technical limitation in the various phones.

    Even when not romaing when using your mobile phone, bought from your operator with your subscription contract, it will often give you access to mobile services that are integrated in the operator's menu, but do not work as intended on your phone. This is recurrent andwell known since long for the format of ring tones, image formats, video formats, application formats (.net or Java). And it remains true in the plain-text area when you try tonavigate on these mobile services (SMS included): the characters are often not supported, or the text is incorrectly decoded.

    Supporting the plain-text interoperability is the first step that network operators (and phone manufacturers) have failed to implement correctly. This is a miserable situation, and prooves the absence of serious researches in this domain. Without this basic interoperability, don't even dream having phones that even do work for more advanced mobile services.

    The truth is that whatever your mobile phone service providers are saying, their service is poor, and mobile services are still not a stable market with fair competition (in addition, this market is really overpriced given those facts, the poor service it effectively provides, and the various tricks used by operators and phone manufacturers to keep their current market captive).

    The lack of true interoperability is THE problem but unfair commercial practicesare also common, and regularly discussed in courts with many suites around the world, and very huge fines at least in Europe against network operators for their commercial practices. Are operators changing things? Not really. They continue to defend their position in expensive and excessive judicial procedures, and finally report those charges to you, the subscriber!

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