Portable Chaos

Our cellular communication experts answer your questions.

I live in the center of the country and have a small business selling peanuts. What I would like to do is call a friend and say "Helloooo! What's happening?" How do I do that?

An excellent question - and one that seems to be on the minds of many of you out there. Well, we're happy to say that we have good news for you today. Among the vast array of services that the communications service providers (cellular companies, for short) are offering these days in the mobile phones of the third-and-a-half generation of Holocaust survivors, the national revival and the telephony - you can take your picture, video events, send a fax, see the time, get e-mail, watch TV, navigate, surf to your virtual identity on Facebook, listen to the radio, tape conversations - well, now, thanks to the unflagging efforts of Communications Minister Ariel Atias, we are delighted to announce that nearly all the companies now also provide a service of client-to-client conversation.

But which client? And what conversation? If in the past, in the era of the telephone, you could pick up the receiver and dial the number from memory or from the Bezeq phonebook, today - in the telephony era - things are a lot simpler. To enjoy the optimal service available from the companies and the attractive special offers, you have to decide from the outset which package appeals to you most: Business? Student? Soldier? Surfing? Free-fall? It's also important to note whether it's a land line, cellular, or Internet dialing, and which company you are connected with for the purpose of cutting off and rerouting your permanent number.

It's completely up to you, of course. You, and only you, will decide who to call, where to call from, and why. But you have to weigh carefully how many agurot you will pay after the first minute of the "Ahalan" and whether it's profitable to wait for an answer. For this purpose the cellular companies give you a range of possibilities to choose from, including whether to move with your "Ahalan" from MIRS to Cellcom and from Cellcom to Orange and from Orange even to the land line and from there to cable, even as your "Ahalan" interlocutor is moving along the opposite course - an occupation that will undoubtedly add spice and meaning to your life. Starting this week there is also a new innovation: If you call a number that has moved to another company, you will hear a brief sound at the start of the conversation, informing you that you don't have to take any action.

In short, user simplicity and friendliness are today's keywords. By the way, why not take advantage of the surfing package and find out online whether it's worth your while to upgrade your device as part of a package of benefits in which the price of the device will be deducted from 25 percent of the airtime of outgoing calls (for those who talk more than 300 hours, between midnight and 6 A.M., whichever comes first)? Also worth checking out are the goodies you get with a student package, even if this entails enrolling in a university and paying tuition.

As for calculating the cost of a call, that, too, has become a matter of fourth-generation child's play. Nothing could be simpler: If you pay NIS 14.9 a month, you will be able to pay only 49 agorot a minute, or you can pay NIS 99 for 220 minutes. Another company will offer you 200 calls and free text messages for a month in return for NIS 135, or NIS 70 for 100 minutes and an Internet package. But before that, you should find out where you stand regarding your 36-month contract and whether there is a reduction on downloading a Sarit Hadad ring tone. Here's a tip: Go for the business package (hey, you sell peanuts, right?). It gives you real-time reports about trading on the FTSE 100 Index in return for a certain percentage of your cash flow, and/or the option to purchase another device in the event that the first one falls into the toilet, in the "two for the price of one and one more" special.

While you're at it, check out the benefits that are available. Cellcom, for instance, offers free fireworks, books of Hebrew fiction and children's books, the second one free (according to whichever is cheapest). Or two items of clothing for the price of one (should your first sweater be damaged by sparks from the fireworks) in return for a dialing code and the presentation of a text message at the checkout counter (speaking of which, you really should check out the unbeatable combo of fireworks plus "Nehama the Louse" plus two pullovers for the price of one pullover).

Still, it might be worth waiting another two weeks with that "Ahalan." Because in the competition that will be unleashed among the cellular providers after portability stabilization, it might be worth joining the career army to take advantage of the soldier package, in which you pay more but get an oven mitt as a gift.

This week I went to my cell provider in order to move to a different company, and then I was offered a new and more attractive package, because it turned out that I was overpaying for the one I have now. What should I do?

That's what's so heartwarming about telephony simplification - it always turns out that you are actually overpaying for your present plan. Our advice is to switch your calling plan and return in a month, at which time it will turn out that you are "paying too much" for the new plan, and so on and so forth. True, you will never reach a condition in which the company will pay you - they will always add some minor clause that ups the price of the plan - but the monthly self-portability to the customer service center is good exercise.

Since I am serving in the officer candidate academic studies program, I signed up for both the soldier package and the student package, along with the "target number" track and the family package. I was bowled over to discover that I was paying four times as much a month.

As an academic, you should know that two negatives add up to a positive, and two packages are self-canceling, plus a fine. But take comfort in knowing that you're paying a lot less than you would for the free surfing package.

I called the company so I could be one of the first to take advantage of the portability reform (I was also one of the first to buy a mobile phone, one of the first to buy an iPhone and I am also one of the first in every Web site reader talkback). Amazingly, the line was busy and I heard that all the cellular service centers collapsed under the load.

Yes, there was a general collapse, caused by relentless calls from dozens of journalists who wanted to check relentlessly whether the cellular companies were collapsing under the load. Try calling again in about a week, or before the publication of the Winograd report, when they find themselves another topic.