Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Features of the week:
At the inception, it was in vogue to have more mobile handsets around, but these days, call forwarding, a Value Added Service (VAS) feature across mobile operators reduces the burden of carrying several phones around all the time, reports REMMY NWEKE.
IN the first six years of liberalizing the nation’s telecom sector, one thing that has assumed a fashionable daily feature of most Nigerians, is adorning themselves with as many mobile phones as possible in order not to miss any call except where they are ready to call back.
This attitude was attributed to the inability of the first national carrier, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) to meet the demands of the people due to monopoly for over 40 years. Thus, the advent of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), over eight years ago, propelled most Nigerians now to have several mobile phones from different networks, simply because they want to keep in touch at all times and invariably save their own call credits as well as due to unreliability of networks.
Another significant aspect of the GSM advent has been the gradual unbecoming to carry all or more than two phones at once, and because they were already known with the different mobile numbers, as they found succour in call forwarding, which is in-built on their mobile handsets.
Call forwarding or call diverting as mostly used in various and modern handsets is a telephone feature on almost all telephone networks in the country today, which when activated permits any incoming call to a called party, which could be otherwise unavailable, not reachable, busy or even switched off in some instances, to be redirected to a given mobile or telephone number where the desired called party, that is the call recipient, is situated.
Today in Nigeria, the forwarded line could ring as many times as three times or as set time of one to five minutes, depending on handset manufacturer, before initiating call forwarding thereby re-routing the call, even as some inform the caller that his call is being forwarded through voice prompt or screen display.
Therefore, experts and mobile phone users agreed that diverting calls could increase one’s availability to a caller. The main alternative is an answering machine or voicemail, unfortunately, most callers do not like to leave a recorded message, suspecting that the party will delay in returning their messages, even as they would not have immediate access to the called party, in addition that retrieving such voice messages at times prove difficult.
Equally, it has been discovered that human touch could improve contacts, moreso personalized, hence, sales experts, for instance, believe that personal contact makes a relationship better, especially in a developing economies like Nigeria, no thanks to the current wave of economic meltdown sweeping across the globe.
Nevertheless, the traditional wired answering services were reportedly expensive, hence, people have their calls forwarded to a call center, so the client could reach an operator instead of an answering machine or voice mail.
Some services offer international call forwarding by allocating the customer a local virtual phone number which is forwarded to any other international destination, especially when the offices are closed on weekends or holidays.
A virtual telephone number or “virtual number” is a telephone number without a directly-associated phone line. Usually, these numbers are programmed to be forwarded to either a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, or to a different phone line, fixed or mobile.
Virtual numbers are sometimes used in conjunction with mail forwarding services to create a “virtual office” in a remote location. For instance, a company may purchase a virtual phone number with area code 01234, together with a mail forwarding service in Lagos, to give the impression that the company is located in Nigeria, when in fact it may be located in an entirely different country or continent. Toll-free phone numbers often are virtual phone numbers.
Consequently, virtual numbers are principally appealing to technology companies due to technical support for their services, which gives the feeling that the company is local and service companies such as call centers. Often, calls to toll-free support numbers in most countries of the world are actually connected to somewhere in India, especially from the United States, as a means of outsourcing.
Before now, the Universal Personal Telecommunications (UPT) numbers, Personal Numbering and Non-geographical telephone numbers in the United Kingdom (UK) are probably good instances of Virtual Numbers. Also, Vonage, SkypeIn (worldwide), Grandcentral of United States (US) and Flextel (UK) were prominent implementations based on significantly different business models of Virtual Centres, according to experts at Wikipedia Online, an open source encyclopedia.
However, with the present state of economic downturn, it has tremendously forced a lot more people to cut down on certain expenses including telephone bills by looking inward. While some still very much use their answering features, most telecom consumers in a poor country like Nigeria, have since turned home telephone numbers into liability which could be avoided by using one of those mobiles to connect other ones, that could still be left at home, after all, if a subscriber with multiple phones is attacked by robbers, tendency is that they would first of all take away all the handsets no matter how cheap they could be in the market.
But with call forwarding features, telecom consumers could without doubt forward all incoming calls to another phone, with definition of how they would want them to be forwarded. Take for instance, with most phones one could get to the tools’ settings from where you can choose phone with an outline of call, call divert, call barring and network.
By clicking on call divert, another options of voice calls, data and video calls as well as fax calls await you, but because most people would prefer to divert voice calls, it is advised that voice calls be picked, followed by the display of “all voice calls, if busy, if not answered, if not of reach or if not available.”
Thus, depending on the needs of individual telecom consumers, industry observers advised that if the need is to leave the phone at home, “you can pick on all voice calls” so as to forward every call to the mobile that is handy, basically the primary line.
Whichever that is chosen from the displayed option, the next step is either to activate, cancel or check status. And if the choice happens to be ‘all voice calls,’ another option of channeling the diverted calls to voice mailbox or to other numbers is available. To ‘other number’ is mostly useful for those who wish to have a given number permanently forwarded to another or precisely to primary line.
Hence, it was not surprising that an international businessman, Ogbuefi Stan, once found this as a solution to his challenges of carrying about five mobile phones, for the five GSM networks in the country, namely Zain, MTN, Glo, MTel which he replaced with ZOOMmobile and lately Etisalat, especially across the borders, but ready to pay the roaming charges. This is apart from other Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators existing in the country presently.
Ogbuefi Stan, was exposed to the benefits embedded in call forwarding when he traveled home last Xmas break and wanted to travel light, for fear of misplacing his expensive handsets. So, he was advised to make sure that there are credits on each one to be left behind in the city of Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of South-East and then divert all voice calls to the one he prefers, especially the network that has optimal service at Ideato, his home town in Imo State.
Luckily, he recently bought a dual Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) mobile phone, so he had the option of inserting his most anticipated networks available at Ideato on the phone after diverting the other three – Glo, MTN and Etisalat, thereby traveling with Zain and ZOOMmobile.
All through the duration he spent in the East, his phone was always on and he never missed any call until his return to Onitsha. That done, he soon was expected to travel to South Africa and having been there last quarter, where he even bought an MTN’s SIM, Ogbuefi Stan did not bother to approach any network operator for roaming purposes and repeated the call forwarding experiment on the international leg by embarking on the journey with his South African MTN’s SIM and Glo.
Generally defined as a term in wireless telecommunications, roaming refers to the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered with its origin traced to GSM and CDMA technologies.
So, according to Ogbuefi Stan, every other phone number belonging to him was forwarded to the MTN South Africa including the Glo he was traveling with; having remembered that the last time he was in Cape Town, late last year, the South African MTN was helpful in reaching his family members. The accompanying Glo was useful to reach out while still at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos and even on arrival back home to arrange for his pick-up.
Before departing via Lagos, Ogbuefi Stan, had once again loaded all his numbers with approximated N2,000 credits each and by the time he came back there were still some good amount of airtime left of the one week sojourn abroad. Remarkably, he received nothing less than 20 calls with pretty minutes on voice calls, 10 of which were diverted from his local phone numbers left back home in Nigeria.
For most of his callers, they never believed that he was not in the country except when Ogbuefi decided to announce his location and that he forwarded the local phone numbers to the one in use in South Africa and from then onward, he never again worried about roaming charges by some network operators and attendant registration hiccups, which runs into thousands of Naira.
May be, next time when you travel outside your immediate environment, you can give call forwarding a trial and avoid the risk of carrying several mobile phones around all the time.
Although one major fear that needed to be allayed here is that most calls forwarded is billed to the individual who forwarded his calls in most networks in the country and not the caller. So, when next you call and see ‘calling forwarding’ please do not terminate the call.
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