October 14th 2014 started off just like any other day. I dropped my kids at their various schools, passed by a Petrol Station to buy airtime and while at it, I play the piki piki ponki game of trying to decide whether to buy Orange or MTN Airtime. Eventually Orange takes the day. One thing for sure, Orange has always been my preferred data provider even amidst all the allegations that have been levied against them of cheating customers on data bundle usage. Those who know me know how spiritedly loyal I can be (ask KCCA). Fast forward, I head to my office, proceed to activate 200Mbs of data on my Orange line which still had 26Mb of data due to expire in a short while.
Having set up the hotspot on my phone enabling only USB access to my Mac, he fumbling then starts as I don’t seem to get access to the internet for about 5 minutes. The next thing I see is a message from Orange at 7:29 am “Your internet bundle has expired. Internet access ….” I could hardly believe my eyes. I then consoled myself with the thought that being a pre-programmed message maybe it was referring to the previous day’s bundle that had 26Mbs left. I was expecting to start consuming my freshly loaded 200Mb. To my shock, the fumbling continued and on checking my data status, I got the message “No valid package.”
A call to Orange support follows at 7:41 am and I am greeted by a one Patrick .O. After explaining what transpired, he advises that I had actually used up my data. This sent me reeling in shock. I recalled all my 16 years spent on the internet, how as one of the pioneer internet techies in Uganda I had learnt from first principles to use bandwidth in the most lean manner. The first ISP I worked for had a 64 Kbps data link that was shared among close to 600 customers and the Office LAN. Such lean access made me grow up as a natural miser of bandwidth. Now this guy tells me how I had used 226Mb in five minutes?What was I downloading? For starters;
I don’t play videos online save for when I am using some kind of fixed free internet.
I have optimised my phones and Mac never to make any reckless downloads without my permission
I am always careful to keep my Orange Phone switched off when I ain’t using it for data access in order to avoid ‘false data usage triggers’
Apart from Gmail, WordPress, Whatsapp, Tweetdeck and occasionally Facebook, I dont have any other applications that are likely to be bandwidth hogs
So, Patrick O takes me for a fool not to know when I have got my money’s worth yet the records on my Orange Account should be enough to show him that I am a consistent user of their bundles on a daily basis? In otherwords I am so much of a fool that I am like that chap who went to a petrol station, paid for a full tank of fuel and after driving for a mere 50 metres, the tank was empty. On heading back to ask the Pump attendant what the problem was, he was told; “You have used up all your fuel.” [duh!!!]
Orange Telecom, where do you school these support personnel of yours? Or is it that they are a reflection of the average levels of understanding of IT in Uganda? Patrick .O proceeds to advise me to send an email to customer care and wait for 24 hours for the problem to be resolved? In this day and age? What is a tech company doing replying to emails after 24 hours? So if I have no alternative, how do they expect me to send that email now that I am too scared to use Orange Data again? I was only lucky to have a ‘connected’ friend link me up to someone ‘upstairs’ but what would an ordinary consumer do? Just accept their fate and curse on the sidelines?
Recently my son touched the bathroom taps when he has a slight wound on his hand and received a mild electric shock, since then, he has boycotted touching those taps, I now understand his feeling and thats the same way I feel too about Orange as I rant.
It has been alleged that Ugandan Telcos are hiding behind the veil of Internet bundles to cheat unsuspecting customers and I am a living testimony to that, courtesy of Orange Telecom. Many users keep complaining and information has been passed on to the Uganda Communications Commission to this effect but the trend continues.
Many are the questions regarding how the traffic is computed to determine the actual data usage and this will remain a subject of debate until we call a spade a spade.
As I wind up the article, Orange has refunded my 200Mb, and assured me that I visited the site akamaitechnologies.com and that is where I lost all the data within a minute. Wow!!! I didn’t know the speeds were that crazy on their network. That would be a download speed of slightly more than 3.5 Mbps. Possible but not practical here in Uganda.
I am grateful for that action but at the same time shudder to imagine how many other subscribers have lost their hard earned money to telcos. If you dont live in Uganda, you may wonder, what the heck anyway? 200Mb of data valid for 24 hours costs US$ 1.5. In a country where a significant section of the population is earning less than Two dollars a day, it matters a lot.
To the other operators, you too are equally culpable, many are the stories that have been shared about similar challenges. I leave you with Exodus 20:15.