On mobile phones in Poland

This is different from my usual posts about programming, GPU, etc. so you can skip this if you are not interested in mobile plans.

Recently I’ve decided to change my phone. I have Nokia n900 which was good and promising phone. I was using it less and less as a smartphone though – its browser had problems dealing with web pages and there were not many applications for it. Even computer-related conferences publish application for Android and iPhone and none for n900. My ties with Maemo community are very weak now – I haven’t logged into my Maemo accounts for months. So I have decided to go with the crowd and buy Android device. This meant some changes and two recent posts by Russell Coker, one about international calls and another about changing format of SIM card struck the chord so I have decided to write this post.

I had to get new SIM card because my new device has microSIM slot. Unfortunately only one mobile company in Poland changes them for free – in other you need to pay for new SIM, up to 50PLN+VAT (about 15EUR). So I decided to try to switch mobile providers – I would need to pay less when I sign new contract than when I am the customer (yes, I also think this is stupid policy; keeping existing customer vs. acquiring new one,..). One can keep phone number while changing mobile providers in Poland so I was less hesitant to try new company. I am not very social person, so I do not need many “free” minutes – but I wanted to have large Internet quota. I was visiting sales representatives of all mobile providers and was telling them:

I do not need many minutes – 60 per month is enough. I do want large internet packet though – something like 500MB to 1GB. Oh, if you have some plan with more minutes which can be used to call internationally I’ll gladly take it.

I was telling this in Polish, my native language, and all the sales people were also Polish – so there should be no language barrier. There was. I was getting responses like:

We have wonderful plan for you. You’ll get 200 minutes, and because you are moving your number to our network you’ll get 30% more minutes. Internet – oh, you need to buy this additional internet package which contains 200MB. As for international calls, we do not have anything like this so you will be paying maximum rate per minute allowed by EU. Are you ready to sign?

And all of that for 2-3 times more than what I was paying. There was one plan with international minutes, but this was very expensive and only for companies; I would need to buy phone for the company, not for personal use. So I decided to stay with my current company. As I was renewing my contract I even got new microSIM free of charge.

It seems like Polish mobile providers are still living in the past thinking that all customers want just one thing: more and more minutes. Even though some companies are now parts of international networks (we have Orange and T-Mobile) potential customer rarely sees advantages of being customer or international company. I was using Orange when I was in Switzerland. The plan I was using had 1GB of internet access and minutes for EU, USA, and Canada. (Funny fact: calls to Poland did not use minutes included in plan and I had to pay for them additionally so it seems that Poland is not part of EU according to Orange Switzerland). There are some signs of change though: Orange Poland recently started offering plans with included minutes to EU and USA – but only for landlines.

In summary, answering Russell Coker’s questions:

  1. New formats of SIM cards are for the mobile providers to charge customers for changing their SIMs or forcing them to renew contracts.
  2. People do not call internationally because many plans do not offer cheap international calls. People who have many international contact tend to use VoIP or similar solutions, avoiding paying telecoms.