Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to the Future, Baltcom, and other stuff

Baltcom is back on your mobile
Baltcom, the guys who gave us... Baltcom (as some incorrigibles still call the Tele2 mobile service) is going back into the mobile market as a virtual operator by year end in order to offer a quad-play package to its customers, who can already get digital cable TV, voice telephony and internet. It looks like Baltcom 2.0 will be operating on the Bite network and offering both postpaid and pre-paid (Golden Fish 2) services. HSDPA will probably come with the Bite network, so we may even see a quad point five service, high speed wireless internet to a nomadic device (a portable HSDPA modem attached or WiFi linked to PCs and other gadgets).
Anyway, good luck, as I am starting to lose count of the MVNOs buzzing around the Bite hive.

Avoiding the scammers
Baltcom has been on the market long enough and probably won't run into the scam that was pulled at a cost of several thousand LVL on Master Telecom, the new postpaid MVNO. People with "respectable" and apparently clean company papers and records came into sales points and order up to 20 postpaid SIM cards. They then proceeded to sell these on the street as "prepaid" cards at a big discount. Gullible fools bought them and made calls until the limit usually put on new postpaid corporate customers was exhausted and the card ceased to work. Often the sum that was used for calls was less than the price the poor sucker paid for the card, but, in any even, Master Telecom got stiffed for the costs. Other people simply took the "new" operator's best offer, called for what they were worth, then gave the finger to paying the bill. Unfortunately, Master Telecom's management say they are going to go after these people and get their money back, putting the deadbeats on a list of poor credit risks and fraudsters for the foreseeable future.

Vitaly shows up
Vitaly Rubstein, a top manager at www., the mobile content, e-mail and social networking portal whose contacts I had lost, fortunately showed up at the Lattelecom conference on change management on September 21. We had a very interesting talk in which Vitaly pointed out that was building up a strong social networking site mainly for young Russians. In Lithuania, the "one" group claimed 1.2 million social networking users, mostly Lithuanians (the Russian population there is small). Anyway, what Vitaly had to say was an interesting answer to my question in the earlier post on the planned Russian-oriented FivePlus MVNO as to whether young Russian Balts really needed a "Russian" service and social network. Apparently they do.
Vitaly was also challenging a remark by Swedish internet entrepreneur and guru Ola Ahlvarsson that was the most succesful (relatively speaking) social networking project in the world (725 000 users out of a population of 2.1 million).
Also chatted with Lauris Liberts, the founder of draugiem, who said the next move would be to start a multi-user game service where, apparently, draugiem users will be able to play with or against each other. Look for it in a month or two. With draugiem open to people of all languages and nationalities, Lauris also believes he will pass the 1 million member mark in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, one's Vitaly says that Lauris made a mistake by not simultaneously launching a draugiem for Russians in Latvia, leaving the field open for his guys. Make more mistakes like that Lauri, is that what Vitaly means :).
All in all, an interesting day.

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