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Old 08-31-2010, 01:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Misleading BlackBerry (Verizon) claims for Africa-Tanzania

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Verizon salespeople and even Verizon global support people believe their own propaganda that their BlackBerry devices work in places like Tanzania. There is even a map posted on the Verizon website (with a disclaimer) that lists both telephone and data service in the main cities and tourist destinations. But don't believe it. Your BlackBerry worldphone may work in the capitals of Europe, but you should be very skeptical about service claims in the developing world. It is bad enough that you can't use the devices for emergency service. When you do get some level of service, the dropped calls and outrageously expensive roaming charges can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

These false claims are actually potentially dangerous. Based on Verizon's claims, my teenage son traveled with family to a volunteer project in Africa, equipped with my old Worldphone, which was a winner in Europe. The idea was that BlackBerry Messenger and perhaps email capability would at modest rates provide him with security in case of illness or other problems. Instead, the smartphone became his biggest source of angst because it would not work, we could not reach him, and we could not fix it---because the service doesn't exist or barely exists. We had several Verizon global service people on the line trying to force service, with no luck. Data never happened. We were forced to try calling over and over again. The few times that we did get through cost us hundreds of dollars to exchange information that we thought would be communicated digitally. I followed 5 weeks later with my Storm---which again never worked. I thought for certain I could work the options menu and drive service. These phones work on the tarmac in Paris, but they are a total failure and misrepresentation in Africa.

Here is the issue. Verizon and BlackBerry people go around the developing world cutting service deals with local companies. But the base level of service necessary to support a BlackBerry is sporadic, at best. (Think how much criticism ATT&T gets regarding service in the U.S.) By the time the local system has to connect with BlackBerry international servers, the technology is overwhelmed. Finally, BlackBerrys are virtually non-existent in the developing world except with select, highly supported business people. The Verizon "global phone" is a great idea if you define global as the major Western countries and other capitals of the world.

It is not always easy to figure out all the advice you read in the travel forums, but this is the recommended route for a country like Tanzania. Local coverage does exist---local people depend on it. Cell phones work near the top of Kilimanjaro! Seasoned travelers buy a cheap cell phone when they arrive in Tanzania from one of the hundreds of shops that sell phones throughout the country. You buy a local SIM card for pennies. Then you load the phone with locally purchased minutes (actually you load in shillings that get spent at various rates). Calls throughout the country are very reasonable if not cheap by Western standards. Using a local number is the cheapest way to make international calls. Your family can reach you easily enough. The phone is so cheap that you give it away as you leave the country. If you need Internet, there is plenty Wi-Fi coverage in public places and hotels. Some people bring small computers. There are Internet cafes with cheap rates in every major city and even at some postal facilities.

I wanted to believe the hype that BlackBerry/Verizon technology could deliver in an up-and-coming country like Tanzania. Bad and costly mistake. Verizon should be more responsible. The rest of you can just be smarter than me.
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Old 08-31-2010, 02:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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You had an obligation to check the Verizon (or any carrier) supplied coverage maps before sending your child on an adventure like that. Don't simply blame the carrier for your lack of due dilligence.

Tanzania is up and coming?
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Old 08-31-2010, 05:25 AM   #3 (permalink)
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LOL. This is why you need a GSM carrier if you travel overseas. CDMA service with a dual or tri-mode phone are not a good substitute. I'm sitting out in the mountains of Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan and my T-Mobile 9700 works as masterfully.
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Old 08-31-2010, 09:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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NJBlackberry. Oh I checked and double checked with both Verizon and the best travel forums. One leading forum moderator seemed to endorse how his BlackBerry had worked but then backed off the coverage when we had problems. The solution of buying a phone or taking your own and switching out the SIM requires some facility with cell phones. I always thought we would have cell phone backup with the BlackBerry. The very sporadic cell connectivity of the BlackBerry in heavily towered areas is what brought the whole plan down. Hey--everybody's alive and okay. Just don't take a BlackBerry to Africa and expect it to work. DC/DC seems to be in great shape with his 9700. I wonder if he is getting an assist from Uncle Sam's desire to provide good coverage. "Be careful out there."

I trust your question about Tanzania was one of curiosity and not one of prejudice. Thirty years ago, Tanzania was one of many countries caught in the late innings of the cold war with Russia and China on one side and us and Europe on the other. Tanzania leaned left. The people were immensely paranoid and blamed all their troubles on South Africa and the U.S. They were envious of neighbor Kenya which had a booming economy. It was actually nerve wracking to travel in Tanzania where the border guards were threatening and the people unwelcoming. Fast forward 30 years. The founding president was one of the only ones in Africa to retire from office and leave a working government behind. Kenya has all kinds of political unrest. Tanzanians enjoy a growing economy and a stable government. The people seem comfortable in their own skins and consequently are welcoming and friendly to visitors. Tanzania is a great destination these days---a country that is moving forward and defying the Western jaded image of Africa.
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey First Class. Here's a tale for you from ancient history---from before the Russians blundered into Afghanistan. In 1978, I traveled from India, across Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass and into Kabul. As the old bus left Peshawar, there were plenty of empty seats. But as we moved into the pass, I noticed that the bus was full and people were climbing up top. I got really worried because my pack was up there. So at a later stop, I climbed up top to join several men who seemed happy to have company. They were dressed in turbans and local robes. And they had cartridge bandoliers as well as rifles. I sat at the front with the main fellow on some bags. He knew all the men in the Pass, and soon he and I were conversing without a common language and I was waving to his friends, all of whom were heavily armed. In those days, the stories were that locals could make rifles from scratch out of metal from old trucks. Clearly, these were people you didn't want to take lightly. When we arrived at the top of the Pass, the bus emptied. I said good-bye to my new friend with a warm handshake. He disappeared into the crowd. Not too many minutes later, I dug my travel wallet out of my bag and discovered about $20 missing--a small fortune in those days in local currency. He didn't have time to pilfer the travelers checks. I probably enterrupted his work. But that's what friends are for.

Like I said, be careful, be smart, trust your training and chose your friends wisely. And thanks for everything you are doing. After 9/11, I helped create a scholarship fund for children of Marylanders who died in the towers and planes. I remain haunted by the memory of a lovely teenage girl who had the saddest face I will ever see. Her mother celebrated her birthday the night before and was then a flight attendant on the plane that hit the Pentagon. A good guy coach and father of two from Baltimore who had a meeting at headquarters in New York. A young mother with twin middle school boys at home. Another mother with an unborn child. All of these families and children and thousands more were given a seemingly unbearable life sentence. Maybe it is as simple as accomplishing your mission and looking after your mates. But for many back home, it is still very personal and anyone who helps to be sure we are never attacked again on our own soil deserves honor and respect. Thank you.
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:08 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pocketcity View Post
Hey First Class. Here's a tale for you from ancient history---from before the Russians blundered into Afghanistan. In 1978, I traveled from India, across Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass and into Kabul. As the old bus left Peshawar, there were plenty of empty seats. But as we moved into the pass, I noticed that the bus was full and people were climbing up top. I got really worried because my pack was up there. So at a later stop, I climbed up top to join several men who seemed happy to have company. They were dressed in turbans and local robes. And they had cartridge bandoliers as well as rifles. I sat at the front with the main fellow on some bags. He knew all the men in the Pass, and soon he and I were conversing without a common language and I was waving to his friends, all of whom were heavily armed. In those days, the stories were that locals could make rifles from scratch out of metal from old trucks. Clearly, these were people you didn't want to take lightly. When we arrived at the top of the Pass, the bus emptied. I said good-bye to my new friend with a warm handshake. He disappeared into the crowd. Not too many minutes later, I dug my travel wallet out of my bag and discovered about $20 missing--a small fortune in those days in local currency. He didn't have time to pilfer the travelers checks. I probably enterrupted his work. But that's what friends are for.

Like I said, be careful, be smart, trust your training and chose your friends wisely. And thanks for everything you are doing. After 9/11, I helped create a scholarship fund for children of Marylanders who died in the towers and planes. I remain haunted by the memory of a lovely teenage girl who had the saddest face I will ever see. Her mother celebrated her birthday the night before and was then a flight attendant on the plane that hit the Pentagon. A good guy coach and father of two from Baltimore who had a meeting at headquarters in New York. A young mother with twin middle school boys at home. Another mother with an unborn child. All of these families and children and thousands more were given a seemingly unbearable life sentence. Maybe it is as simple as accomplishing your mission and looking after your mates. But for many back home, it is still very personal and anyone who helps to be sure we are never attacked again on our own soil deserves honor and respect. Thank you.
I'm glad to hear about all you're doing for the 9/11 victims, and it sounds like you had a great adventure here in Central Asia. Please understand that I do not take my work here lightly, and I always bear in mind what I'm fighting for, so do not attempt to put any sort of guilt trip on me. You won't get one. Perhaps you should come back here and experience what happens in Afghanistan on the anniversary of 9/11?

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with your poor choice in BlackBerry service for your son's world travels. I help a lot of people in my village with their BlackBerry devices, and the organic CDMA ones always cause the most problems, so I stand by my initial advice and will always suggest that one go with an organic GSM carrier if they plan to travel abroad.
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Old 09-01-2010, 10:07 AM   #7 (permalink)
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No inferences intended. I meant to say that for many, what you are doing goes way beyond "support the troops." The last thing I meant to do was to tweak a nerve. I'll sign off and stick to the phone talk. Good luck. Most people don't know how important luck is in your part of the world.
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