Khaled rambles technology, tea/coffee, consumer rights and other interest from Saudi Arabia

March 21, 2011

Hopefully Good News for Gitex Saudi Arabia 2011

Filed under: Events — Tags: , , , , , — Khaled A. @ 1:48 pm

When was the last time I talked about Gitex Saudi Arabia? Probably back when I posted that Gitex Riyadh isn’t recognized by GITEX.

So what’s special about this year’s Gitex Saudi Arabia? For starters it won’t be in April but on 16 – 19 May 2011, right after my birthday… It’s still an “all in one” event combining:

These 3 events will be held at the “new” Riyadh Expo Center (gowalla link). Let’s just hope it rains because the new building is well made and can handle a few rain drops.

Oh. Guess not. From the last day of Riyadh Book Fair.

Anyway back to the “good news”.

I got my hands on the floor plan for Gitex Saudi Arabia 2011 and I was shocked at what I found… or did not find. Here’s Gitex Riyadh 2010 floor plan:

Dominated by STC and Mobily, the biggest telecom companies in Saudi Arabia.

Now compare it to Gitex Saudi Arabia 2011 floor plan:

Just what is going on? Has STC and Mobily finally started to think that it’s better to spend money on improving infrastructure and services than marketing and wasting valuable floor space?!

I am actually looking forward to visit Gitex Riyadh this year!

November 10, 2010

Firmware Update for Novatel MiFi 2352

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Khaled A. @ 9:00 pm

I finally found it after months of frustration, I can say this: this addressed a lot of issues I had with my MiFi 3252.

Novatel doesn’t post the firmware on their website so I had to dig around and finally found MiFi 2352 Firmware version 5.26.2. I put a copy of the file right here: 20418796 MUU MIFI2352 NVTL GENERIC_Pkg. Just download the zip file, extract the executable, connect the MiFi to your computer via USB and run the exe file. Yes it’s Windows only but that’s why we have VMWare and Parallels Desktop.

Novatel MiFi 2352 Firmware Update [Saudi TechView].

August 8, 2010

Blackberry services is back

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , , — Khaled A. @ 11:20 am

That was fast. From Engadget:

It took two long years for India to (allegedly) tap BlackBerry traffic, but Saudi Arabia may not have to wait nearly as long; the Wall Street Journal reports that RIM has all but agreed to set up a local server in the country. While we’ve no details yet on what the deal entails, an unnamed Saudi telecom official said negotiations are already in the final stages. Sorry, RIM, but it looks like Saudi Arabia called your bluff. We imagine the company will deny any potential for government snooping in short order… and both Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates will start planning their own attempts to wrest away control. We’ll let you know where this house of cards falls.

August 3, 2010

Just like that, Blackberry services banned in Saudi Arabia by CITC

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Khaled A. @ 11:19 pm

So it wasn’t just the “Blackberry Messenger” that will be banned in Saudi Arabia. According to this the CITC has expressed concerns about the BIS for a year and asked the local carriers (STC, Mobily and Zain) to “look into” the concerns and provide an alternative for 3 months! The three months end next Friday August 6th.

Someone pulled the switch and f***ed it up for everyone.

No, not Conan.

There are almost 1 million blackberry user in Saudi Arabia and they only got one official statement about the ban less than 3 days. So 3 day notice? This is unacceptable! The CITC should have issued a longer warning period like the UAE TRA who announced the ban 2 months in advance!

The carriers, STC, Mobily and Zain did not warn their customers in the last 3 months as well. Both are at fault, CITC and the carriers.

And what will the customers do now? a 3 day notice is not acceptable especially for what is considered a business device. UAE Etisalat will offer free phones to Blackberry customers including iPhones!

Lastly, STC PR denied the ban 2 days ago which is obviously a lie. I never believed STC’s stupid lies anyway.

Sorry I am rambling but this idiocy is frustrating.

March 28, 2010

From STC: 100 megabyte fiber? wait, MEGABYTE?

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Khaled A. @ 3:33 pm

This is downright ridiculous. Another press release with STC lying to their customers once again (example: STC announcing they are the first to have HSPA+ and we saw no HSPA+ devices from them until now!).

But first I have to show you this press release: STC Customers enjoy the Benefits of the 4G/LTE Network. This press release is probably from the future sent via the TARDIS. 4G/LTE plans from STC is behind Mobily and Zain. Now back to topic.

STC’s latest announcement (STC’s English news site hasn’t been updated since 2009) was titled “STC provides its customers with the highest Internet speed in the region (100 megabytes) through FTTH technology”. The press release talked about “package which secures the highest Internet speed 100 megabytes/second through the Fiber to the Home technology FTTH technology.” Yes, 100 mega bytes per second, so it’s 800mega bit per second.

The press release claims “for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa”, “for the first time” is something STC loves to say even if it’s not true. But these services are only available in 3 neighborhoods in Saudi Arabia and only one in Riyadh: An-Nakhil District in Riyadh.

UAE’s Etisalat launched their fiber to the home services in October 2009. It was initially available at 30mbps but it covered over have a million homes in 2008! STC only connected one neighborhood in 2009.

Wikipedia have a list of FTTH countries. Only UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon are currently listed from the Middle East, no Saudi Arabia.

Please, STC, fix your weak DSL infrastructure and provide customers with better service. Mobily is already installing Fiber in a lot of neighborhoods in Riyadh!

Press release can be found here.

February 25, 2010

Horrible STC DSL and Mobily iPhone 3GS problems

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Khaled A. @ 1:43 am

For over an hour I have been staring at my Linksys DSL modem status. The DSL connection is “Up”, Downstream is 8190 Kbps, Upstream is 486 Kbps and QoS is UBR which I assume is UBER which is supposed to be good (since I’m offline I can’t even go and check). Everything seems to be okay yet somehow the gateway interface is “DOWN” and has been down for almost 2 hours.

The fact that DSL connection up means that the signal should be good, yet somehow I cannot “dial in” the beloved STC Afaq DSL servers. That’s the only assumption I have: STC’s servers simply can’t handle the load and they should buy some servers already!

Why did I reboot the DSL modem in the first place? Because the Upstream was only 100Kbps and it made accessing the web slower. That’s it: I won’t reboot my modem even if the Upstream was 1Kbps. It’s not worth being offline for that.

Now we have Mobily: the iPhones in some parts of Riyadh are having problems connecting to Mobily’s cell towers. iPhones simply lose the cell network and stuck on “Searching”. So now I can’t even use the iPhone to connect to the Internet, leaving me offline for this night.

Update on Mobily: disabling 3G fixed it. Thanks Tom Merritt!

I will probably post this by the morning and hopefully Internet connection should be back.

Offline Update 1: Down for 3 hours.

January 11, 2010

STC & Mobily wrongfully claim to be the first HSPA+ carriers (Updated)

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Khaled A. @ 10:03 pm

Update: Last time I ramble uncaffeinated! fixed facts! Sorry Mobily.

Both the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) and Mobily has announced yesterday that they are the first to offer HSPA+ (Evolved HSPA with download speeds up to 56Mbit/s!!!). They announced the same thing in at least 2 different Saudi newspapers: AlRiyadh and Al-Eqtisadiah simultaneously!

Here are STC’s “news” articles: on AlRiyadh newspaper and Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper (Arabic links). The two articles are identical, in fact they are most likely a press release by STC. STC claims to be the first in the country, however…

Mobily had the same thing: on AlRiyadh newspaper and Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper. In addition, the news was also announced in Saudi Gazette English newspaper. The first part was identical to the Arabic press releases however it did include some info about the new Mobily Connect modem promotion. Mobily claimed to be the first in the region, makes no sense because…

STC was wrong!Both were wrong!

At least one telecommunications company had HSPA+ with 21Mbit/s available in the region. Zain Kuwait had HSPA+ since September 2009 (Kuwait News Agency link) and is called e-GO. Isn’t Kuwait party of the “region”? So why is Mobily claiming to be the first in the region when Zain Kuwait clearly had it first and who is bringing it first in Saudi Arabia? STC or Mobily? Both claim to be the first. Zain Kuwait actually released an HSPA+ device (Kuwait News Agency link). I found nothing about Zain Kuwait updating their network.

The Big Question

Two major Arabic speaking newspapers (AlRiyadh and Al-Eqtisadiah) published conflicting articles, each claiming to be the first. Why didn’t the newspapers verify the information first? How can the readers take them seriously?

Image source: www.sequence.cc/SMS_main.php

December 31, 2009

SMS Rumor: Thugs posing as health officials strike

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — Khaled A. @ 3:42 pm

As I said earlier, STC’s free SMS is only helping spread rumors like this one at Arab News:

There are concerns bogus Health Ministry officials are visiting homes with the intention of robbing residents. Citizens and expatriatwes have been circulating warnings via SMS messages about the con men, although the Ministry of Health has denied the rumors.

As if that not enough, someone started another rumor: “STC free SMS are valid for the first part of a multi part SMS” and referenced Al Eqtisadiah newspaper as a source. Al-Eqt was quick to respond to this rumor, denying it in this SMS they sent to everyone whoever used their SMS news service:

توضيح من جوال الاقتصادية: يؤكد جوال الاقتصادية عدم صحة الرسالة المنسوبة إليه والتي تم تناقلها عبر الرسائل النصية حول التصريح المنسوب لشركة الاتصالات السعودية بأن الرسالة النصية يتم احتسابها في حال تجاوز حجمها رسالة واحدة،وقد تلقت الاقتصادية بيانا من الاتصالات السعودية يؤكد مجانية الرسائل النصية والصوتية ورسائل الوسائط بغض النظر عن حجم الرسالة داخل الشبكة وذلك طيلة فترة المكافأة التاريخية والتي أطلقتها الشركة بعنوان ويتواصل الشكر. وللمعلومية فإن رسائل جوال الاقتصادية تبدأ بالرمزaleqt5005.

December 28, 2009

STC: one month of SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Khaled A. @ 1:25 am

STC continues to brib… I mean “thank” their customers by offering a month of free SMS/MMS. This came after a month of free calls. Oh yeah, many customers are saying that they got billed for their calls for the last month.

I will say it again: STC is still having problems with their billing system (from the complaints I see on twitter). Arab News talked about it in September and November: people still receive a bill way higher than their bill’s ceiling credit. CITC refused the original promotion only to back down from their decision.

stc-free-messages-1-month

Here is what’s bothering me: STC continues to turn a blind eye to their billing issues. They probably paid so much money for the new billing system and are too stubborn to admit that they have problems.

They call their offer (in Arabic) “استمرارا لمكافأتها التاريخية غير المسبوقة” which translate to “Continuing their historic, unprecedented rewards”. Yes, dear customer. We messed up your bill so much that we will grace you with a reward. STC should just admit it already, say that they are sorry and that they are making it up for their customers who did not abandon them.

By the way, %40 of mobile phones are now Mobily numbers.

And here’s something interesting: Al Eqtisadiah (The Economist) Arabic newspaper had a fascinating article about STC’s free SMS “promotion”. They had some observations: people are abusing the SMS system, sending idiotic messages such as “achoo, I sneezed”. Hoaxes and rumors are also being started using these messages. Don’t forget: a lot of Spam! The following video comes to mind:

The flood of SMS has apparently affected an important service that customers are paying for: Mawjood Extra. This service sends an SMS when you missed a call. According to Al Eqtisadiah many customers receive their Mawjood SMS after hours of the call. This “offer” is effecting the quality of service for many customers.

November 21, 2009

Updated: STC bribes billing system victims with a lot of free minutes

Filed under: General — Tags: , , — Khaled A. @ 3:54 pm

Update: I called STC’s 902 support, the guy was trying to avoid telling me what I wanted to know but in the end he said “you can call for 48 hours and it’s ok”.

STC‘s billing problems have been going on for a long time.

Now STC has announced that they are offering one free month of phone calls starting today November 21st. Mobile (Jawal) and landline (Hatif) can call each other for free. Prepaid (Sawa) is not included.

stc-freee

I have some issues with this promotion:

1. It was mentioned only on STC’s Arabic news page while the English page had nothing.

2. The “press release” claims that it is a historic promotion and no telco has ever done anything like it. Most likely false, then again, not every telco messes up the billing system the way STC did. STC also said that they are “rewarding their customers”.

3. The billing system is still not working, people had their data usage jump from 400MB to 1TB! Arab News is probably the only Saudi newspaper that talked about it: “I’m sick and tired of this chaos. My bill limit is SR500. I received a bill after 4 months of delay for SR2,000. How is that logical?”. STC is trying to cover up their chaotic billing system by bribing customers.

4. This offer is actually limited. You have only 24 hours of free calls (1440 minutes). Assuming an average of 0.35SR per minute, that’s only 504SR! Remember: people were overcharged more than that! In this article someone was charged 2,000SR and their credit limit was only 500SR!

5. You know I’m picky about websites, especially for giant companies such as STC. So here’s an example of bad design: This image linked in the news post is named “freee” and it is actually a BMP file with a JPG extension. That’s annoying!

Many customers were over charged more than 504SR and STC until now did not issue their usual detailed phone bills. They also never announced that they had a billing problem. What I want from STC is: admit and apologize for their mistake and issue honest bills!

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