Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mobile phone network providers can rob you in the name of SMS recharge

I could not stop with local calls analysis article when the SMS tariff was even crueler on us. Here I present you my findings on how easily a network operator robs you, sad part you don’t even know notice it. As I did in my last post I use my own network provider Airtel for the purpose of analysis, and I’m deeply sorry to them for exposing their meanest tariff policies.

Straight away I give you all the SMS tariff plans available for Chennai customers from Airtel. Following table is a screenshot from their website. Link - https://pay.airtel.com/online-payments/prepaidResponse.do

SMS recharge tariff as listed in Airtel website
Now for the analysis part, here plans Rs.18, Rs.49 and Rs.92 are standard & straight forward, the actual amount you pay is equal to recharge amount. So what about the rest – Rs.26, Rs.36 & Rs.61? They are vampires feeding on your talk-time. Previously the content in the bracket was “1st SMS of day charged @ 49 Ps” and now they are going to charge you for the second SMS also, yes they are greedy.

Why I call them vampire? Let’s first find who still uses SMS recharges after the advent of Whatsapp, hike, viber or any other messaging app. Mostly student who can’t afford a smartphone and low income group. Both these groups depend on small recharges from Rs.10 to maximum Rs.50, which they get as pocket money or it’ll be the maximum amount they can spend on phone, end result? After processing fee and service tax they get talk-time about 83% of what they spent as money, so for Rs.10 they might get 8.3 INR as talk-time and similarly for Rs.50 – 41.5 INR or even below that. And the daily deduction on first 2 SMS goes from talk-time not actual money so when they debit 49 Ps they are effectively debiting 59Ps!

With that let’s get to how much you are going to pay effectively, for streamlining I equate talk-time with money though they are not. For calculating effective money spent we will make an assumption that we send at least 2 SMS every day, and so you’ll be charged 98 Ps (49ps per SMS) every day. Multiple 0.98 with cutter duration in days you’ll have the additional amount details, add that with recharge amount you have effective amount spent, relax I have gone that tough job and tabulated it for you.
Sounds like picking standard, straight forward cutters is smart

Shocking? Oh yeah you are spending more money on all the three vampire cutters to get lesser number of SMS quota than the standard cutters offers. Unless you are going to use the entire quota for national SMS which is smaller for standard cutters, given that this is rare we can conclude that they are robbing.

Now for additional dose, blackout days! Friendship day, Diwali, Pongal... its time for predator networks to charge more! Have you ever asked this question? - If cutter validity is for 28days, if Diwali falls in that period then for that one day the plans won't be applicable. So, should TRAI intervene here and gets us our 1 rightful day instead of truncated 27days? Mustn't the cutter be extended by one day when a blackout day falls in cutter period? why no one cares about this? raise your voice oh mighty customers!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why you should choose tariff based on call log?

The article will analyze the tariff plans and tries to help end user find the best way to pick a plan. This will not be a discussion on why or how such charge is fixed but discussion will be on available plans. I’m going to use my network –Airtel for analysis so this will benefit me. To explain my model I’m going to further simplify by choosing only Prepaid- Local call rate cutters for Chennai circle for same period.

Plan cost
28 days
28 days
28 days
28 days
Table 154.1 Local Calls Tariff Listing

Naturally from this table you can see that the best plan is Rs.85 as it offers only 30 paisa per minute, while costly plan is Rs.23 as it’ll cost 60p per minute. But this interpretation seems very vague and this is what your network provider wants you to think – “The more you spend on cutter the more you save on talk time”.  But is this correct, how to decode? Let me help.

Catch: The use of the unit minute can be confusing so I’ll be replacing it with the unit call. Why? Because your network providers charges that way (per call basis), let us say your first call duration is 1min 20sec and second call duration is 1min 40sec then effectively they add up to 3 min so you must be charged for 3 minute, but every call is charged individually so you end up paying for 4 min. Actually this is not cheating given that you have accepted for terms and conditions, so any duration from 1 sec to 60 sec translate to 1min according to our service provider and to simplify this mess we are going to call this 1 call.

To decode the tariff we have to develop a tool that take tariff plan and calls made as input and provides overall cost as output. Welcome to Overall cost, we will henceforth use this term to point the total spending on the calls for the tariff period. To make our analysis streamlined we compare ‘per minute’ cutters and keep Rs.23 aside which is ‘per second’ cutter.
Overall cost (Rs.)= Tc + (Cm X Pc / 100)
Here, Tc is Cost of tariff which is the first part. Second part is call cost for individual calls, where Cm is no. of calls made in last 4 weeks i.e., period of tariff under analysis (ref Table 154.1); Pc – Paisa per minute from tariff plan. With this tool I’m creating projected overall cost for every tariff with different Cm and tabulating them for comparison with talk time measured in INR.

Table 154.2 Tariff comparison for analysis
The number of calls is in blue font and every tariff column carries its own font color, overall cost is in laurel green square(in INR). As highlighted in Table 154.2 only when you cross 461 call in 4 weeks i.e., more than 15 local calls a day and 10 more on weekend you reach the generic assumption of “The more you spend on cutter the more you save on talk time”. Furthermore you can feel the profound effect of the call cutter only when you reach 1000 calls in 4 weeks i.e., more than 35 local calls a day. Here you can also note that Rs.69 cutter is never beneficial and I have highlighted this point with green; Rs.85 drops in overall cost before Rs.69 and is costlier than Rs.46 till then. Rs.69 is a dummy addition and we have to choose either Rs.46 or Rs.85 to have good benefit.

With the above explanation I have made it clear that if you make less than 400 calls in 4 weeks Rs.46 is good, if you make more calls Rs.85 is best. Think again we have left Rs.23 from analysis and trust me it is difficult to compare; you can throw it away when you make many calls. But what if you make less than 200 calls? Rs.23 offers flats pay per second plan. Let’s analyze this with Rs.46 as this is the only contender, as one is p/s and other is p/m we can’t tabulate overall cost. Being an average caller I’m going to use my own call log as input – roughly 100calls in 4 weeks with 20% continuing even after 5 minutes, 40% ended before 40 second (say 30 second), 40% in second minute(say 1.5min).

So for Rs.26  = 26 + 20(300s*.01p) + 40(30s*.01p) + 40(90s*.01p)
And for Rs.46= 46 + 20(5*.30p)       + 40(1*.30p)      + 40(2*.30p)
Results?  Overall cost of 134 for Rs.26 and 112 for Rs.46, hence Rs.46 suits you if 60% of your calls cross 2 minutes.

Hence, If you are mundane caller or missed call party Rs.23 looks better.
If you are normal and 60% of your calls reaches 2 min mark then Rs.46 looks good.
If you are tele-calling animal Rs.85 is sexy.

For long I haven't published this though I made such analysis long back, Freakonomics gave me some confidence to push this into internet.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Walk with Freakonomist

I'm crossing off the long pending, strongly recommended book 'Freakonomics' from my 'Books to read' list. This book was first published in 2005, in the sense its published a decade ago and I still find the content fresh and very much related. I pick books after reading blurb, then I will choose to read if I find the preface and introduction interesting. I found this book to be unique at every level.

'The book doesn't carry any unifying theme' which is repeatedly accepted and quoted in the book which I find awkward. But Why should one have an unifying theme? because every other book has one. Both the question and answer is present in the book itself, such is the book. It is fulled with questions that are not asked by everyone and statistical answers(not empirical), this will amaze the ordinary being, as Mr. Confusion I found them legit.
The book is actually collection of papers by Steven D. Levitt, economist, it is co-authored by Stephen J Dubner who has brought out this in novice format. The Notes sections which can be dumbly renamed as references has 18 pages all pointing to economics papers. I have a revised version printed in 2006, it has bonus material which adds 200 more pages in addition to original content. Bonus material is exciting to read, this has excerpts from their blog at website: Freakonomics, here they address all the challenges and reviews for the book. Of course they are really different as they have identified themselves as Freakonomist. The arguments and counter arguments in this blogs are a good read, which I can't publish here, feel free to follow the link.

As quoted already this book doesn't have a theme but it is classified into sections of related questions. The star of all question is "Where have all the criminals gone?" to which their controversial reply - 'they are aborted as fetus'. While different sociologist and economist tries to answer the question with answers like innovative policing, tight vigilance etc., Levitt sights the Roe vs Wade case as reason. He explains that woman makes best decision on 'if she can bring up the child to be a good person' and hence an abortion makes sure a probable child growing in a rough neighborhood will not become a criminal. The answer has raised wide variety of emotion but I find it as the most convincing answer.

Other question that I liked is How school teachers cheats?, How tax payers cheats?, what makes them pay?, How your real estate agent exploits you? and there boring discussion too on Why Sumo wrestlers cheat or how? Ku Klux Klan mystery and How naming a child can impact its growth - which I find annoyingly long.  On parenting part except the naming stuff there are sections for us to learn from, like which is likely to kill children -swimming pool or gun?

There is one more question that made me studious, why do drug dealers still live with their mother? answer is they don't earn enough. While explaining this he tells us a small story on how Sudhir Venkatesh helped him in getting the data and how he got those data. I was drawn to this topic so much that I watched few videos on it where Levitt goes on to compare drug dealers organization structure with McDonald. That he explains as men at the top enjoys all the comfort and money while foot soldiers/ waiters in McD's case gets minimum wage not enough to sustain their life on own. All the data used in the research and theory are from USA, what were you expecting from an American economist? So does that mean its not worth reading in India? are you kidding? this inspires us to ask our own question and answer it.

Best part and that I can personally relate to is when Dubner had 'rancid chicken in French roast, Manhattan' and wrote about it in their blog. Which is very much in line with my own rants about Dominos and its cold pizza, if you want to know googling 'dominos' with 'shiva' or 'scribble' will throw up awesome results pointing my blog *quenched* thank you readers. Without the influence of Freakonomics I have asked such questions in the past, but now this has given me enough confidence to publish my research on them. You can expect them to be published soon, so what unusual question you have in mind? can you share it? can we author a book on it?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

If pen is mightier than sword then it could be gun

Fortnight back we had a t-shirt design contest in our office hosted by a very famous blogger. The contest was to come up with an awesome slogan that'll influence the readers to write more, yes we are blogging evangelist. It doesn't just end there you have to pick a plain t-shirt image and embed the quote in it, of course that's how it is design contest else it'll be slogan contest. 

And my entry was a reflection of how I tend to use blog, obvious I broke the very first norm of contest hence I was hardly appreciated. But I was not demotivated exciting part was not winning but designing, and hence I share the designs with you guys. I love to be quoted as millennial, its almost like someone calling my Lt Gen - We just don't do things differently we do it with poker face.

So I was talking about how I use blog, lets review my reviews - they are mostly critical. In the sense I’m more of a critic than reviewer (Remember Anton Ego of Ratatouille – that sort of thing). So I came up with the slogan "Blog to Flog" and now for the design part I thought of using sword to materialize the word flog, but sword is bit old. Millennial, Poker face, mightier than sword... yes it must be gun.

Coats of Arms - Critics
Pengun < the new name that I'm giving to this self made critic logo, a gun with pen nib in place of muzzle. My enthusiasm towards this design has led me to make Coat of Arms for us Critics! Explained as : grey 0 % represents rotten egg, yellow star with sparse yellow dots in right bottom represent how tough its to get rating from us. And then I thought why not try to make another t-shirt? then I put this in a t-shirt and changed coats of arms color to make it more appealing.

Here are my entries, 2 entries were allowed per participant.

To me both the entries where awesome, especially 1