Lebanon’s Phone Registration Procedure Needs To Be Rethought

My iPhone 5 fell in water almost a month ago. I didn’t know, so it sat in a puddle absorbing all the moisture it can get until its screen went bust.

We don’t have certified personnel for the iPhone in the country who can fix it and I’ll be sure they’re providing the best possible material. The man I took my iPhone to wanted to switch the screen to something that looked fishy, cost $200 and didn’t even work that well. He blamed my phone.

That same screen would cost about $300 in places around Beirut. So I decided to follow my instinct and send my phone to my family abroad for an out of warranty replacement, which is what happened.

The phone was brought into the country by an old man I barely knew and who had no idea he should register the phone at the airport. I figured it’s not a big deal, I’ll just take my passport the following day and head out to the nearest telecom center to get the procedure done.

That wasn’t possible. My passport didn’t work because I had been in Lebanon for more than a month since I traveled last. Obviously, dragging the 85 year old man who brought in the phone to one of those centers was out of the question. So what was I supposed to do to get my phone working on our networks?

I was lucky enough to know an exchange student who had been in the country for two weeks. So he did me a favor, fetched his passport and registered the phone for me. The process, advertised to be easy and seamless, took half a day and several car trips around Beirut just for something that should be second nature to anyone who gets a phone: the device getting reception. I have no clue what I would have done hadn’t the exchange student been available.

It is said these procedures are to prevent illegal smuggling of devices, provide another source of income for our government and basically make our life “easier” when it comes to phone purchases. But is that happening with phone prices taking a hike and the procedure having many parts of it that are apparently not thought out?

What if a relative sends you a gift from abroad with someone you don’t know at all and that person doesn’t register it. Are you supposed to take a trip to Syria just to get your passport stamped in order to get your phone to work?

I checked the online brochure the ministry posted back in May to see if there was a workaround on the matter. There was none. If you purchased a device online, you’d have a way to get it registered after paying the exorbitant taxes and using the customs’ receipt. But you’re basically out of luck in case you don’t have a recently stamped passport at your disposal.

Buying a phone and getting it to work by inserting a sim is apparently too simple for a country like this. But it’s all okay as long as we keep providing revenue for the government.

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Mobile Phone Purchases in Lebanon To Be Regulated Starting June 1st, 2013

The day we have all been dreading is upon us.

Are you one of those people who ridiculed that $1500 price tag for the iPhone 5 when it was released as you should, bought one on your own from abroad and had a friend bring it over with them and bypass our ridiculous custom fees? Well, you lucked out.

As of June 1st, 2013 that option may not be available to you anymore as part of a new decree to fight phone counterfeits on the Lebanese market which do not possess a true IMEI number (link). Your phone number will have to be registered to your phone’s IMEI number in order for you to get service.

So unless you’re a tourist coming into the country and roaming, you’ll have to pay custom fees on your phone in order to have its IMEI registered and use it on Lebanon’s dismal phone networks: alfa and touch.

What will become even more complicated is you selling your used phone to someone when you want to buy a newer one. If you want to do so, you’ll have to have that phone’s IMEI unregistered to your phone number first, a process they say will happen through texts with your mobile operator or online.

When you buy your new phone, you’ll have a period of 3 months to register it with your carrier. In order to do so, you are asked to keep your purchase receipt.

You can only change 3 phones in 6 months. I can already hear millionaires weeping in sadness.

These new regulations, if applied, are absolutely absurd. A few questions at the top of my head are the following:

  1. Is the best possible way to fight counterfeits across the Lebanese market making it a nightmare for every Lebanese out there to buy and sell mobile phones, a process that should be very straightforward?
  2. Does it make sense to enforce regulations on phones across the board this way when some major smartphone companies, as an example Apple, have yet to officially release their phone in the country and customers have to purchase them at near-black market prices?
  3. What if someone bought their phone abroad as a personal purchase and want to use it here? Do they seriously want us to worry about something other than have the LTE frequencies match and the phone be unlocked? Are we supposed to pay custom fees on every single electronic purchase we make just because it’s the best way to fight those knock-off iPhones and Galaxy S?
  4. How reasonable is it to ask for the nearly 2-million Lebanese who are in possession of phones that don’t even need to be smart to go register them based on a number most of those Lebanese don’t know exist? What happens to those who fail to have their phones registered on September 1st, 2013 – 3 months after the regulations go into effect?
  5. Did anyone  go over the intricate details of this and ask themselves if it’s remotely plausible? How many countries across the world apply this? A google search pointed to India only.

This feels oddly extensive of another decree that took place a few months ago (link) that required Lebanese to go register their phone numbers. Big brother seems to want to watch you even further.

How about we look up to countries where the telecom sector is flourishing and see the steps they’re making in fighting those fake phones and sustain their networks first?

Even so, does a decree on this magnitude even sound reasonable in a country that can’t even manage to apply a simple smoking ban?

Pottermore Registration

[EDIT] I have successfully registered in Pottermore. 

For an early look into Pottermore, click here.

I have yet to gain access to the Pottermore registration interface (blame it on Sunday oversleeping) but I figured I’d post about the process to facilitate it for those who, like me, will attempt to gain access in the next six days.

When you access the Pottermore website, you will find a riddle for you to answer. Today’s riddle (or clue as it was named) was: How many breeds of owl are featured on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Multiply this number by 49.

Once you get the answer, which in this case was 245, you have to use it to access a new webpage that will give you access to the magic quill.

To access this new webpage, you need to write down your answer at its end, meaning: http://quill.pottermore.com/245 (tomorrow’s answer will be different, so the addition naturally changes as well).

Once the new page loads, you’ll have to locate the Magic Quill, which for those of you who don’t know, is sort of a book where the names of every wizard and witch is written so they can be invited to Hogwarts once they turn eleven.

Once you locate the Magic Quill, you will be invited to start your journey – literally.

Once you “start your journey,” you go through a series of registration steps where you have to fill out your name, email, age, country of residence, etc…

If the person wanting to register is below 13 years of age, they only need to provide a first name and their guardian/parent’s email address.

Once the data input is done, you are presented with a list of famous magical people, including your name.

Then you’ll get to choose a username, which is not a free process apparently: they give you a selection of five usernames to choose from. Hopefully you’ll get to change that later on, but I doubt it.

Then, after selecting your username, a confirmation email is sent to you in order to activate your registration.

When done, you will be prompted with a new page telling you that you will receive the email telling you that you can test Pottermore in the coming few weeks.

Good luck everyone.