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The Prepaid Cycle and How Prepaid Credit gives your SIM Card access to the Prepaid Network

So you’ve decided to sign up for one of Digicel’s Six new Plans to take advantage of the new Cross Network Calling Rates as explained in Digicel’s New Rates make Credit Last longer despite no Postpaid Options announced which came into effect on Monday July 1st 2013. Ditto too for LIME users who subscriber to their new Talk EZ Plan as per Kelroy’s article LIME Jamaica Announces All Network $2.99 Prepaid One Rate.

Congratulations! You fell for the oldest trick in the book, as despite the lower Cross Network Rates and the resulting lower On-Net Calling Rates, you credit still isn’t really lasting longer. Despite the advertisements, Digicel has cleverly made sure that if you choose the Brawta Plan, the Gimme 5 Extra Plan and The Double Bubble Plan, the Call Rate jumps to JA$10.00 per minute.

Those plans are naturally more popular among Millennials (ages 18 to 28) as they mostly Text and use IM  (Instant Messaging) and rarely Talk as noted in my article How to activate Digicel VIP Text and get Free Texting on Digicel or LIME phone as IM gets more popular.

Adults, who are mostly Baby Boomers (ages 29 to 45), noticing that the Calling Rate’s suddenly gone up, will naturally opt for the three plans that have a lower Voice Calling Rate, that being the JA$2.99 Plan (all with per second billing), the JA$2.49 Plan and the JA$2.89 Sweet Plan (per minute billing). Unlike Millennials, they mostly talk albeit they do IM, mostly on Blackberry’s mainly because they’re so durable as concluded in “Android smartphones may be king in 2015AD, but RIM Blackberry quality shines”.

lime-jamaica-299-talk-ez-rate

LIME, a Full-Service Telecom Provider, can afford to lower its Talk EZ Plan to JA$2.99  as it means that they can increase their Mobile User Base over the next three years. The lower rates has already resulted in an increased amount of defections from Digicel to LIME, thus allowing LIME to make more money from the increased traffic which helps them to justify further Mobile Network expansion islandwide, their long term plan.

Their main bread-and-butter, Landline and Fixed Line (both Mobile and Landline) are their main sources of Revenue, providing some 80% of their revenue. This is the main reason why Digicel is gunning for LNP (Landline Number Portability) along with MNP (Mobile Number Portability), which is slated to come on stream by May 2014. Until then, a trend towards Dual-SIM Smartphones will start to develop as predicted in Trend towards Dual-SIM Smartphones developing in Jamaica as MNP Approaches.

So now that you “tek con” and “caan do nuttin’ bout it” ‘cept maybe go Postpaid (no sah, dat a gi dem too much a mi money from me bank account!) what can you do to actually make you Prepaid Credit last longer, you ask? First, before I begin, you need to get a bottle of Malta, as you’re gonna need to build some brain muscles as this is gonna get very technical. In order to make your Prepaid Credit last longer, you have to know how to Prepaid Credit Works.

Your Prepaid Voucher – 411 on Technical Customer Care Speak

First get a Digicel or LIME Prepaid Card. That’s the first thing; it’s not a Prepaid Card but a Prepaid Voucher, the actual name used by the Customer Care agents for either LIME or Digicel. More technical stuff as credit is composed of (2) parts:

  1. Voucher Number

  2. Serial Number

  3. Expiry Date

The Voucher Number is composed differently for each Telecom Provider. In the case of LIME, the Voucher number has 14 digits and the Serial Number is 14 digits. Digicel’s Voucher number has 13 digits and the Serial Number is 12 digits

Next thing is to realize that after you’ve topped up using your Prepaid Phone with the Prepaid Voucher that there are several types of Prepaid Credit that differ according to Voucher Value, Voucher Number and Serial Number. The Prepaid Credit will also give you different amounts of access time to make calls on the Prepaid Network, known as Airtime as is shown in the Table thus:

Voucher Value (JA$)

Airtime (Days)

Serial for Digicel

Serial for LIME

100

21

11

14

200

28

12

14

300

35

13

14

500

42

15

15

1000

120

16

15

2000

150

17

15

The reason for Airtime is, believe it or not, you Prepaid Voucher isn’t designed to last forever, as like any date it has an Expiry Date, usually set for 120 days. However, upon activation on your Mobile Phone, the Airtime becomes Active and you credit last as long as stated in the Table above based on your Voucher Value.

How to top-up your Prepaid Phone – Online, Electronic and Voucher

Believe it or not, the Phone Number is not a permanent assignment on your SIM Card. It’s a logical assignment that’s created in a Database. The only number that permanently assigned to your SIM is the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identification) Number, which is assigned to every SIM Card ever made for every GSM (Global System Mobile) Network on the face of the Planet Earth. The IMEI (International Mobile Equiptment Identification) Number only identifies the UE (User Equiptment) which may be a Modem, Mobile “Feature” phone or a Smartphone

So whenever you’re making a phone call, the Telecom Networks are actually are using the IMSI, not the Phone Number as explained in Trend towards Dual-SIM Smartphones developing in Jamaica as MNP Approaches to connect to each other, as that’s really the only number that’s unique. By right, they can use anything to identify your phone number for you Mobile Instruments, even your name, instead of the cumbersome system of number that suddenly exists today.

For the SIM in your UE, in this case a Mobile Phone to access the GSM Voice Network, you must top-up with Prepaid Credit. When you top-up, just like assigning a phone number to your SIM, the Telecom Provider’s Switch takes the Voucher Credit and assigns a preset Voucher Value and Airtime dependent on which Voucher Card you used to top-up your Mobile Phone.

The Various Telecom Providers have various methods of replenishing Prepaid Credit, which can be broken into three (3) distinct methodologies:

  1. Voucher

  2. Electronic

  3. Online

The various Top-up methods are the same for both Telecom Providers and would actually require a whole article to deal with specially, as each one has it particular advantages and disadvantages. So folks, remind me to get cracking on that article, as I got a lot to rant on that!

For now scope out these links as it relates to how to Top Up on either Digicel or LIME straight from the horse’s Mouth:

  1. LIME Top-Up Method

  2. Digicel Top-Up Methods

Now you understand that this concept takes a little getting used to; the Credit and the Phone number are NOT on your SIM card, but logically assigned in a massive Database at the MSC (Mobile Switching Center) on the Telecom Provider Switching Network. This Database is accessed by what’s colloquially referred to by the Network Engineers as a “Switch” as it switches Voice Calls from Mobile phone to Mobile Phone. Details I would love to get into, but that’d take me even deeper into Telecom Network Switching, so I’ll cut myself before I start rambling!

You also become a part of what’s known as the Prepaid Cycle as believe it or not, Prepaid Credit is recycled and it’s tied to the lifecycle of your (Subscriber Identification Module) Time to drink the First bottle of Malta, as you’re gonna need a Brain Blast, Jimmy Neutron Style to understand this next bit.

The Prepaid Credit Cycle – And You though the Krebb Cycle was Hard

The Prepaid Cycle

As mentioned above, Prepaid Credit is recycled once the Prepaid Voucher is Expired or in the Expired Stage of the Prepaid Cycled. Say what? The Diagram below should give some insight.

The Prepaid Cycle, which is shown above, is the various stages through which you SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) goes through after being activated via Credit Top-up via the various means detailed above. The different Stages are explained as thus:

  1. Pre-Active Stage – SIM Card still in the Box, no number has been assigned to it as yet

  2. Active Stage – Activated by the Customer Care Agent at the Store using *122#. Voucher Credit usually added at this point

  3. Inactive Stage – Voucher Credit used off by customer but Prepaid Customer still has Airtime. Customer often tops up hence most Prepaid Customer are actually stuck in bouncing between Active and Inactive

  4. Deactive Stage – No Voucher Credit added after Airtime has Expired. At this point the Prepaid Customer is blocked from having access to the Prepaid Network except for Emergency Calls 119, 112, etc and 100 for Customer Care

  5. Expired Stage – If in the Deactive Stage for more than 120 days, the SIM Card is deactivated and the phone number is disassociated from the SIM Card and is free to be reassigned to a different SIM. The SIM then goes back into the Pre-Active Stage.

Long and short of it, folks, if you’re Prepaid, stay on the little Treadmill in the right of my graphic showing the Prepaid Cycle by topping up BEFORE your airtime runs out. Fairly simple stuff, gentle people! At this point you deserve yet another bottle of Malta!

In my follow up article, I’ll explain the best Top-up Methods for each Telecom Provider and how they work. Toodles!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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