Monday, January 17, 2011

Amigo versus Bite, the unfucked version

That's a pretty harsh title, but it describes what I want to present here in English on my personal blog. The story of the latest war of the gagoons as I translate the curious Latvian phrase gāganu kari got severely fucked up in the LETA/ editorial process, either by a technical or editorial failure. The essence of the story, abot how two mobile operators got out the long knives in Latvia over what was a comparison of  differently derived ARPU (average revenue per user) figures from 2009 got the hatchet. The story was reduced, without explaining the core of the problem,  to  a tale of one side suing the other after the other denounced the former to the Latvian Consumer Rights Protection Centre (CRPC). The date for that event seemed very important, not the core of the conflict.

Amigo, the brand under which Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT)  subsidiary Zetcom operates, came out with an ad saying that ARPU for Bite Latvija was LVL 8.86  per month, and only LVL  3.56  per month for Amigo. Which is why Bite's claims of having a "zero tariff" (which they do, on their own network) was wrong, and one should choose Amigo, which charges 1,5 santims per minute on its network as the lowest tariff for prepaid customers calling "friends" ( a limited circle) on the Amigo network (runs on the LMT net).

ARPU is only indirectly related to specific consumer tariffs, it is more an indicator of corporate health (if reasonably high) than anything else. Low ARPU can be interpreted as a bad sign. Excessive ARPU, compared to the market, is a signal of poor competition. This is what I tried to explain in the story. This is what vanished from the text, along with some Bite and Amigo tariff figures. There was also a bit of what the Brits would call a cockup with emails between the editorial process and me, so I basically had to run the story out very fast, without restoring the deleted/butchered?  parts.

I also explained in the story that ARPU comparisons only make sense among operators with a like set of services (including income from roaming, mobile internet, whatever, that doesn't affect the ordinary customer). Amigo, as Bite rightly pointed out, is making an incorrect comparison. For this, as I dod get across in the lead of the story, Amigo/Zetcom is suing Bite and asking it to retract its statement that it is wrong to compare different things as if they were alike. Well, maybe in Latvia you can find a judge for that...

In any case, this simply continues the rather bizarre tradition of courtrooms and consumer protection agencies as marketing battlegrounds for Latvian mobile telecoms operators. Last summer it was LMT' s pre-paid Okarte against Tele2' s Golden Fish, each represented by Gumby-like characters in TV commercials. That bogged down the CRPC for a while. This one will keep the lawyers busy. The sum of it all is that someone has to step aside with their leaking winter boots (footware is tha main consumer problem brought before the CRPC) and wait for the corporations to finish their fight.