Monday, January 19, 2009

Time vs Content

A "Subscription" can be either Time-Based or Content-Based. Let's take a closer look:

Time-Based Subscription:
- You are charged a Weekly or Monthly Subscription fee. Eg. RM 5.00 per week/month. This is also known as Renewal fee.
- You may or may not be charged for receiving the contents. Eg. RM 1.00 per sms
- There are reminders sent the day before your subscription expires
- If you do not send "STOP ALL" to the shortcode, you will be continuously charged the Renewal fee and the content charges.

Content-Based Subscription:
- No subscription fee. No renewal fee.
- You are only charged for each content received. Eg. RM 0.30 per sms.
- If you do not send "STOP ALL" to the shortcode, you will be continuously charged for the contents.

What is a "Subscription"?

Subscription, in the general sense, is a purchase of products or services over a period of time, eg. a yearly Reader's Digest magazine subscription, a monthly Newspaper subscription, e-mail newsletter subscription (lifetime). However, in the SMS industry, a subscription is a CONTRACT AGREEMENT that allows content providers to send CHARGEABLE SMS to your mobile phone, UNTIL you STOP it. Once you subscribe to a Subscription service, you are allowing the content providers to send a limited/unlimited ammount of chargeable SMSes to your mobile phone.

Some common SMS Subscription Services are:
- 4D results - Usually RM 0.30 per message, 9 times a week (RM 10.80/month)
- Ringtone - Up to RM 4.00 per message, 4 times a week (RM 64.00/month)
- SMS Contests - Up to RM 2.00 per message, daily (RM 30.00/month)
- News - MalaysiaKini is RM 5.00/month
- Jokes, stories, horoscope etc.

MCMC defines a "subscription service" as, where a mobile phone user agrees to receive chargeable content on a regular basis. There are 2 types of subscriptions services:
(a) Content-Based Subscription
(b) Time-Based Subscription

Caveat emptor

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is a "Shortcode"?

In Malaysia, a "Shortcode" is a 5-digit number used as a destination number for SMS. There are 3 types of commercial shortcodes:

(a) 2-series shortcode (2xxxx): These are telco-marketed shortcodes. Contents from these shortcodes are branded as a telco product.The marketing and promotions of the contents are funded and managed by the telco. But in actual fact, the contents are usually from a 3rd-party Content Provider (CP). The contents are usually chargable to the end-user depending on service type and content type.

(b) 3-series shortcode (3xxxx): Maxis calls these "External Content Providers", but they are available for all telcos (Maxis, Digi and Celcom). The owners of these shortcodes are 3rd-party Content Providers. CPs have a better revenue share on the 3-series shortcode platform, as all marketing and promotions are done by the CP themself. The contents are usually chargable to the end-user depending on service type and content type. However, there are clear guidelines regulating CPs using these 3-series shortcodes.

(c) 6-series shortcode (6xxxx): Any shortcode starting with 6 are Bulk shortcodes. The messages sent out from these shortcodes are non-chargable to the end-user. Most of them contain promotional material or information. It can get quite annoying if you receive many of these messages in your phone's inbox. Also known as SPAM SMSes. The only way to block these messages are to complain endlessly to you telco. Ask them to notify the sender to remove your phone number from their database. However, do note that some banking services use the 6-series shortcode. If you block the shortcodes, you may not receive the banking contents (eg. banking TAC, promotions, notifications, mobile banking).

In the picture above, if you REALLY send "ON DOA" to 37777, you are participating in a subscription service where you will be charged RM 0.50 per SMS until you cancel the subscription. More info on subscription next.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The SMS Industry Players (ii)

5. Content Providers (CP)

Content providers are partners with telcos in providing services and contents via the telco's platform. These content providers/aggregators sell their services using the telco as a connection and billing platform.

Examples of content are: 4D results, football goal notifications, flood alerts, traffic information, java games, ring tones, wallpapers, screensavers, etc. These contents are usually chargable to the receiver and the telco + content provider has a revenue share.

Examples of our local content providers are:
- NextNation
- MNC Wireless
- M3tech (AKN)
- Macrokiosk

How to become a content provider? Visit the following links from the telcos:
- Maxis
- Digi
- Sorry, no links for Celcom at the moment

We'll be talking more on content providers and their roles in this industry later.

6. Mobile Phone Users

You and me. We are the general public who view their advertisements on TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, Internet, and we send in SMSes to the shortcodes. We are the ignorant folk who get scammed because we "missed out" the fine print, or neglected to check our phone bills. We are the victims of rogue pirates who bill our mobile phone accounts without our 'consent'.

We complain to the local press, we vent our frustration on blogs, we write to the relevant governing agencies, we demand refunds from the telco, we curse the content providers and we warn our friends not to get conned.

Its time to have our voice heard.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The SMS Industry Players (i)

1. Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)

The governing arm in regulating all things communication and multimedia.
They implement policy objectives and enforce regulatory frameworks. In other words, they come up with the rules and ensure everyone follows them. Also known as Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM).

In the 21st century, the role of this commission is increasingly important, as technology advancements are accelerating and multimedia is no longer a bonus, but a daily requirement. Their scope is huge, as the scope of telecommunications (radio frequency, wireless comm, fixed-line networks, data services, communication protocols, consumer relations, etc.) is huge.

They are currently busy with the latest successful implementation of MNP. Go here for more info.

2. National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC)

The NCCC is a body formed under Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) to handle complaints. Although it is under FOMCA, NCCC is an independant NGO to handle consumer complaints. Its promotional tagline says "Now Everyone Can Complain".

Their Consumer Claims Tribunal functions as an independant body to hear and judge on any consumer claims/disputes made under the Consumer Protection Act 1999. The Tribunal has authority to make judgements on any ammount less than RM 25,000. Read more about the Consumer Claims Tribunal here (B.Malaysia).

3. The Police (PDRM)

If you feel a crime has been committed, please make a police report. However, I discourage this channel, as I will explain later on Subscription Requests.

4. Telcos (or Celcos)

(a) Maxis
Malaysia's most popular mobile network, with 11 million customers. Merged with TimeCel (017).

(b) Celcom
Claims to have the widest coverage in Malaysia, Celcom is merged with TMTouch under the umbrella of GLC Telekom Malaysia.

(c) Digi
The yellow-man is our favourite advertisement. Digi seems to me the most different of the big-three Celcos. Their work etiquette, their language, their services, their marketing. Their adverts are especially creative, and some are terribly lame.

(d) U-Mobile
"Pay for what you use". This new comer to the market is very aggressive in marketing their products. With a nice number (018...), a niche billing mechanism and continuing the aggresive marketting, they may lure some customers over.

SMS Scams?

I first heard of SMS scams somewhere in 2007 through Jeff Ooi's blog. A follower of his blog since early 2007, I especially enjoy his tech related postings, thoughtful summaries and creative writing style.

Jeff has got a series of postings on the SMS scams, which shed light on unscrupulous activities. Truly a hero of the underdogs (read: victims), the consumer, Jeff has a permanent link on his main page with Dr. Halim Shafie's picture entitled, "What's Up Doc?". I hope Jeff doesn't mind that I reproduce the pic here and link it back.

Do read some of his postings for background and people's grouses. There are some insider information too, but I'm not too sure on its accuracy.

What is SMS?

SMS is a great breakthrough in mobile communications and Malaysia ranks 6th in the world for SMS traffic. Who would know, a basic text messaging tool called SMS could have gained world wide popularity with 2.4 billion users (source: Wiki)

The idea of SMS was 'invented' in 1984 by a Finnish guy called Matti Makkonen who received the Economist Award for Innovation for this contribution in 2008. Thats 24 years late for an award... better late than never.

Generally, SMS messaging is broken down into:

1) MO - Mobile Originating - A SMS sent FROM a mobile phone. This is the message typed/sent by a mobile user.

2) MT - Mobile Terminating - A SMS sent TO a mobile phone. This is the SMS message that you receive on your mobile phone.

In a simple manner, when I send an SMS to my mother, I compose a MO. This MO is delivered to the telco, which then sends an MT to my mother.