Nepali Times Asian Paints
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SINGAPORE-For a Nepali visitor, the Nokia Connection 2008: Share More, Experience More event held here recently, was like finding oneself in handphone heaven.

Coming from the country with the most primitive cell phone service in Asia where nine out of ten calls end up with "The number you have dialled cannot be reached please try again later", the three days spent amidst state-of-the-art phone gadgetry showed just how far behind we really are. I thought my current 6300 was very functional until I saw all the new stuff engineers at Nokia have come up with it.

It's not just the phones that are now mobile, Nokia with its E71 and E66 is trying to enable you to take your office around with you wherever you go. "It's for people with a mobile lifestyle," Chris Carr, the vice president, Sales, Southeast Asia and Pacific of Nokia told Nepali Times.

Indeed, the machines come with easy-to-install push mail and real-time access to internet, email, calendars and contacts. The phones give an entirely different meaning to entertainment with a one-touch access to GPS maps of the city you are in, music and media sharing. All in a gadget that is not much bigger than my 6300. It seems the only office items you can't carry around in your mobile these days is the photocopier and the coffee machine. But I wouldn't be surprised if Nokia is working on that too.

We went on a little demo tour around Singapore in Nokia's wi-fi bus and tried to find our way around with the surprisingly accurate GPS. Pretty soon, you may even be able to find the nearest trash can to toss your sandwich wrapper through the GPS on your mobile. This is super spic-and-span Singapore after all.

But throughout all this, one couldn't help wondering when these new services would ever come to Nepal, where just making a simple voice call is a Mahabharat. And the service is deteriorating: automated messages telling you the number you are trying to reach is unavailable even though you dialled the number one minute ago, SMS's that get repeated 20 times, SMS that get to the destination the next day, SMS's that never get to their destination at all. One just wonders how many relationships have been wrecked and business deals cancelled because of bad connectivity.

Frustrated by the network which seems to suffer from extreme mood swings, I looked for help on the NTC website. Big mistake. The website flaunted services which assured a smooth mobile experience and was filled with propaganda of unfulfilled services. For the past eight years we have heard: "Cell phone services will be normal by next month." The communication gap between Mero and Tero mobiles actually deserves a whole different article on its own.

But despite all of this, there is no doubt that Nokia will find buyers for these phones in Nepal even though its main focus is mainly entry-level phones below $100. Nepalis are a stylish lot and the new Nokia gadgets are sure to catch a few eyes.

Agreed that not everyone can, or will, use all the functions those phones provide but they will definitely be a status symbol to carry around in the hip holster. So what if our network is third grade, look at the bright side: at least we have one.

Nepalis are also a forgiving and tolerant people. That is why we have endured this shoddy service all these years without chukka jams and tala bandis outside Nepal Telecom. Regardless of hearing that irritating recorded voice saying "the person you have dialled doesn't exist" we will continue to try to reach our friends.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)