ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How friendly is Charo Charo?

B-Mobile has a service called Charo Charo, which offers prepaid customers discounted rates when calling their friends and family. It's pretty simple to set up, and there are no hidden fees. I thought I'd give it a try. Here's how it works: First, you fill a form (downloadable here) with a list of up to 8 of your friends' phone numbers (you can only include B-Mobile and fixed line numbers). Then you hand the form over to the friendly folks at Bhutan Telecom, and you're set...

Or so I thought.

Apparently there's a glitch somewhere in the system, which means that getting the discounted rates depends on the way you call your friend. Sounds weird? Keep on reading...

There are two ways to make local calls from mobile phones in Bhutan: with and without the Bhutan country code (975). If you choose the first method and just call using the local number (e.g., 17001700), you will get the low Charo Charo rates. However, if you use the full international format (with the +975 at the beginning of the number, e.g., +97517001700), the system will charge you the full rate - no Charo Charo discount. And this full number, with the +975 at the beginning, is the one that usually shows up in your phone's call log when you receive a call! So when you use your phone's log to return a call to a friend in your Charo Charo list, you will not get discounted Charo Charo rate. That's not very user-friendly.

My recommendation: If you decide to take advantage of the Charo Charo service, add your friends to the phone's address book manually. If your friends are already in the address book, check to see that their number does not contain the +975 prefix. And don't use the numbers shown in the phone's call log, since they are usually prefixed by +975.

It would be nice if BT would let its customers know about this issue. It would be even nicer if they fix it.

P.S. To make sure you're getting the discounted rate, check the short billing message that you get after ending the call. When Charo Charo is in effect, the message will mention "Family & Friends".

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