Viva Le Tricheur! Cheating Reptiles

Viva Viva Viva, they need bringing to heel and NOW! For those far afield, Viva is an arm of the Saudi Telecomms Company operating in Bahrain and around the Gulf. In 2018, Viva purchased a smaller 4G Internet provider by the name of Mena Telecoms, which was previously owned by Kuwait Finance House. Having been a very loyal customer of Mena since its inception more than 15 years ago, the real troubles began when Viva took over. It is a bit like the Hong Kong-China issue, whereby Mena’s independence is being/has been eroded away.

We as a family, company whatever, DO NOT WANT A VIVA subscription, In fact we do not want anything to do with VIVA, but we were forced into it due to ‘Take Over Action’. To my knowledge, nobody, not a single subscriber was offered or indeed challenged Viva to opt out of an existing contract if they chose, for whatever reason, but mainly because they did NOT want to be associated with Viva. Well I did! I was however reminded that the contract is still with Mena, albeit controlled by Viva. Viva will continue to meddle and niggle until the end of those contracts and no doubt eventually decide not to allow anyone to renew a Mena package, instead require customers to switch to a more expensive Viva package. It is not rocket science to assume that Viva’s ultimate goal is to wipe anything related to the name Mena off the face of the earth. After all, the KLM/Air France link up is tenuous to say the least and for Air France to survive, it will surely have to become less French. The psychology of Viva now is really that already. They certainly do give the impression that Mena ‘doesn’t exist’ already.

Furthermore, Viva’s behaviour was predicted many moons ago, in these very columns and blogs on Facebook.

In this post it is Viva who bear the brunt of this hideous fiasco which is allowed to persist in Bahrain.
Once Viva acquired Mena Telecom, it was suspected that the latter’s service will suffer, whereby there might be covert activity to hamper Mena’s access or indeed steal array positioning to better Viva coverage and hamper the Mena signal further. All designed to frustrate Mena customers. Already those who live by the sea, such as the Amwaj island, suffer backside arrays simply because Viva prefer to point them at more dense areas inland. The service in this area now begs the dustbin it is so patchy. This very activity was confirmed by an insider, who is contracted to install and maintain arrays. His words were; “Yes of course we do that, it is our prerogative and you should mind your own business”.  Charming Indian fellow at that.

What was not expected was the speed at which the degradation materialized. Within the first week, Mena signal strength degraded. Many times, the Internet went off altogether. The engineers apologized and put it down to network upgrades and that all would be better soon. It wasn’t! Slowly but surely, the network has degraded to the extent that now, it is off more than it is on and that means up to 4 or 5 times a minute sometimes. Not all of that is deliberate with some outside antennas being the new Huawei omni directional device which simply drop out 4 or 5 times a minute sometimes, as they hunt for stronger (or weaker) frequencies. One cannot imagine how bad it is for an internal receiver. (More below).

It is also suspected that with the advent of 5G, within one year, we will see select customer areas have their 4G network deliberately degraded, just as Zain and Viva did with 3G. Batelco did not do this as far as I am aware. No proof is forthcoming, there is no Wikileaks in Bahrain.

For many months now, on making endless calls and registering complaints about this extremely poor service, tickets numbers are ‘deliberately’ not shared by SMS with customers it would seem. This way the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has no evidence when presented with complaints. Not that they do much or appear so customer sympathetic anyway.

After yet one more call to the Mena agent, advising that I was about to cut the line permanently as I had heard nothing for over 1 week, today: 22nd August 2019, a Viva rep. called. Normally we deal with Mena and prefer, because the Viva guys always seem to have an excuse or some edge and never appear to be quite halal. We were not disappointed. The rep’s rapport’ was straight forward: “We will not fix your system unless you sign a new contract”. The end, Amen! Well, don’t beat about the bush there Viva, say it like it is and get to the point. They want to hold you to ransom and at their mercy for another 2 years. It was a recorded call too. Blatant to say the least….. Can you believe it?!? On top of that, it is highly unlikely that Viva will indeed improve the ‘Mena’ reception, again cajoling and haranguing one to change to the more costly Viva. One imagines that the agent’s statement is deemed a ‘threat’ or that if Viva are allowed to do this, it is indeed illegal, but who is going to challenge them?

Oh what a lovely way to induce loyalty with its customers. In the house, we are still on contract until November, bills always paid on time, not much animosity. Viva on the other hand are obsessed with contracts and manipulation, it drives them with venom should anyone dare to challenge their ethics. Worse than those childish Europeans who now throw tantrums for the British Brexit. Fear Viva, fear them muchly for they will imply you are a low-life cheat trying to do ‘THEM’ out of a 2 year commitment should any issues arise. Trigger happy to impose travel bans too for as little as Seven Dinars, a monthly subscription fee. That too cannot be legal, but somehow they get around it with nothing less that a phone call one assumes.

For a while at its inception, Viva took the nation by storm, boasting the ‘Fastest 4G Internet’. Because they have a fibre light pipe linking Bahrain, straight out through Saudi, so their statement was somewhat true! But now it’s just BS. Others had to use either Batelco’s minuscule gateway or struggle with satellites and shared underwater community facilities. In fact, they still do, but clearing, downlink forwarding and distribution has improved from the Gulf generally and we can almost watch an HD Youtube video now without it stalling, except at weekends and late at night.

We speak here of Home Broadband, but of course mobile coverage is almost one and the same. In this area, Mena has/had the strongest reach with the others nowhere near as desirable or optimal. Fibre is being rolled out, but the areas are extremely selective and one is left wondering if politics or religion doesn’t play a large part in which areas get what. In particular the Northern new development areas should have had cables laid when it was just sand a little over 3 years ago. But no, deemed too expensive for Bahrain Telecommunications (Batelco). 10 years of asking, 10 years of ignoring. Now it will be much more expensive to install cable since the area is now built up and has roads, God Bless! Good planning there then Batelco. Even so, when the country is covered in fibre, there is ONLY ONE company offering a Gateway at the end of it…. Sing along now; “Oh chokey chokey chokey. Although it is thought that at least one other company has a licence to lay it as a result of other take overs. But…..why would they bother though and go to all that expense? Batelco are forced to share their cables with all other companies.

There are other entities in Bahrain which could offer super fast MPLS gateway facilities (Multiprotocol Label Switchingto the nation, out to say London or Europe, bypassing the Gulf bottleneck, where IP protocol rejoins the World Wide Web and extremely efficiently at that, but…. and there always is a ‘but’, in Bahrain…. It is highly unlikely for the time being that a wide spread commercial licence will be re-issued under the current government mandate. Tch Tch! Telecoms is keenly watched by the authorities for what they bring in or more to the point; push out! Watched they may be, but only from a current affairs point of view. They are not at all watched for their modus operandi from a customer’s point of view.

In this story, it is Viva who bear the brunt of this hideous fiasco which is allowed to persist in Bahrain. Zain, used to get a very rough ride, but they are pussy cats by comparison these days. Indeed, the corporate psyche and structure between Zain and Viva is completely different, as again it is between those companies and Batelco. Batelco is still the sweetest by far and quite possibly the most efficient by far, not to mention the most approachable in general.

Having experienced Viva’s Marketing and PR personnel in the past, their cocky, dismissive superiority is more than evident, and no doubt reflects the attitude across the entire company. Obviously, so cocky they probably don’t have a department monitoring negative press and even if they do, nobody appears to care. Already it is now over 3 years and we have another on going dispute which Viva cannot win since their own lawyers dismissed the case as ludicrous, but still we get billed electronically 3 or 4 times a day sometimes. Nobody not a single person in any department was concerned or able or willing to deal with our complaint, other than the ‘Call out the Dogs’ department buried somewhere deep in accounts. The fact that we had no service or no device was totally irrelevant.

After contacting the TRA and eventually in seething desperation, sitting in the VIVA building, a management representative nonchalantly descended to see us, bored out of her brain listening to our woes. Albeit a lovely girl, she informed us that she would go back upstairs to ask Management once more, but she knew the outcome; ‘So many people try and cheat us, they sign for a package for 1 or 2 years and then stop paying after a month or so’. She happily suggests we are among those deviants. Is anyone surprised customers fail to pay when Viva fail to offer what is advertised.

The young lady returned very shortly after and informed us that there was nothing we could do as she reiterated; we are considered ‘cheaters’, we must pay 1 year’s subscription despite us having not a single microwave byte over the house, or indeed a device to receive it. In fact, Viva made ‘us’ take the device back to their office the first day because it did not work. They should have collected it. There it stayed and there is where it all began. They already made $200 advance out of us for absolutely nothing. If in Europe, the States or UK, a lawyer would have a field day suing their ass for creating unnecessary stress and trauma threatening court action and sending the hit squad in, in the form of NCS (debt collecting agency) which they do. Incidentally, NCS know no manners and go straight for the jugular without trial. It has certainly raised my blood pressure and perhaps I could claim that it was Viva who stressed me so much I had to have heart surgery during Ramadan in 2017.

5G now, but let’s face it, the three main mobile providers and one Internet provider (The rest share), never got their act together with 3G, never mind 4G. It is not much short of a joke really and don’t hold your breath, 5G will be worse.

It is 2019 and in some areas of this tiny Island of Bahrain, smaller than the Isle of White, these telecom companies present a system not fit for purpose. Shocking, when one can pretty much visit anywhere in Bangladesh and 4G coverage is superb, yet it is referred to as a 3rd World Country and least developed (although it has just risen above that label in 2019).

The blue light means no signal and this flashes as least 3 times each minute and sometimes stays alight for 10-15 seconds. All 3 lights should be yellow/green.

Viva’s new Huawei omni- directional receivers, designed to roam the various frequencies within the cell to eliminate drop-outs, actually cause them. These are not well thought out for Bahrain, where there are tower restrictions. Hence every few seconds, your receiver will hunt and rather than sum, they appear to subtract, leaving the user with no signal.
No problem if you are just browsing, but if on a P2P or watching Television, your signal stalls, often as many as 3 or 4 times within a minute as mentioned. As we approach 2020, this is shameful for a so-called developed nation.

Besides, anything Huawei, is mere cheap plastic all singing – all dancing temporary toys as everything Chinese device generally is. More expensive Ericsson networks built like tanks will surpass anything Chinese.

There must be enough discontented folk/customers to raise an army, all meandering around Bahrain, thoroughly sick to death of this Viva’s and other telecom companies constant underhand modus operandi. Where do they get this attitude from? Viva’s Saudi nemesis and mentors no doubt. Elsewhere in the civilized world, they would be taken to task by the courts, never mind a barrage of Social Media fire which the main stream media will pick up. Unfortunately Bahrain has NO MAIN STREAM MEDIA of any worth.
Imagine if we all descended on Viva’s door step at the same time demanding retribution, the management would just sit on the top floors and throw contents of piss pots over us. Their arrogance is astounding.
Depressed customers, feeling totally helpless as no recourse is available to them, while incredibly arrogant Viva continue to run rough shod and manipulate an extremely passive nation which allows them to do EXACTLY as they please. Furthermore, you are on your own buddy, as the nation quivers with reluctance to challenge.

The few that tolerate my rants will know that I have maintained that the Viva Modus Operandi at management level is nothing short of scam low-life Time-Share mentality. Customers are merely an inconvenience for this privileged conglomerate. No shame! Viva etiquette is now well established among their employees, who no doubt need the job, so go with the flow, fearing any remote sympathy for customers detected will probably be met with termination. There is absolutely Sweet F.A. we as the people, the customers, the payers can do about it! I can blog as much as I like. The anti Viva Facebook pages are full of it, but bad PR seems irrelevant to them.

Of course, many Middle Eastern companies coddle their indifference, never fearing any backlash or comeuppance. It is a Bahrain trait and mindset, whereby lip service is paid to the nation, but individually little faith or acceptance of knowledge or qualification is considered, so who is to argue and we are all friends anyway. But the underlying under estimation is there. Hence Bahraini prefer to be treated medically outside of Bahrain for example, yet there are ‘some’ perfectly good and very talented doctors here. One must assume the telecom companies think the same about their customers. Their tricks and testy behaviour never ends. This latest escapade is yet one more predictable element. ‘Ah, nobody qualified to challenge us, so forget it’ they think! Well I am qualified in the field and I will challenge in anyway that I can. I am also an accredited journalist, recognized by the government of Bahrain. Among other things, new laws state clearly that journalists now have freedom and cannot be prosecuted for naming and shaming when holes have been dug. One hopes that more will highlight now that they are not receiving any advertising revenue this days, which always prevented any critique.


The following could and should set a serious precedent and affect each and every one of us who pays a mobile phone bill. This post is a bit of a follow on to my last year’s epic;  BEWARE OF GEEKS BEARING GIFTS.


How many of you just pay your phone bills without ever checking them thoroughly? Mind you, I have asked that question before without much impact at all.  How many of you have paid hundreds of Dinars/Dollars to telecom providers for so called ‘data’ which you had no idea you were using?  Some of you have even encountered travel bans because of it (reference Bahrain).  I have a very close friend who tells me that his wife is currently paying off a hefty $1,500 (600 Dinars) bill in bits monthly all because she didn’t realize that her mobile was set to ‘DATA’  switched on.  I know of another Bahraini lady in absolute despair because she has a BD 3,500 bill ($10,000) for roaming charges which she had no idea about.  Silly lady you say?  Yes, she is, but she is culturally and naively innocent in many ways.  She has no idea how telephones work from country to country, no idea that roaming is what it is and she just carried on sending pix and Whatsapping.  Duh!!  By default, most Post Paid customers are automatically ‘roaming’ enabled, whereas Pre Paid most have to activate it.  Another lady I know has a hefty bill from just visiting Dubai, where like inter Europe, it should be near a local call, but it is in fact beyond premium.  She was not knowingly using data, but didn’t have a clue about ‘switching roaming data off’.  She didn’t even know she had to,  or where or how she could do that with her phone.       It’s all as slippery as a Soprano’s plot.

Well, any testy lawyers who might happen to read this, me thinks there is a little gold mine in the making if you wish to pursue the cases of what must be thousands of customers who have been duped, with grossly outrageously inflated prices for data which nobody asked for in the first place.

Which is exactly the crux of the issue; you as a consumer never asked for it, never signed a contract to accept it.  In fact, you probably had no idea you were being charged horrendous rates, thus in the eyes of any credible, moral, legitimate law these charges are fraudulent; it is as simple as that.  In America now, this issue has just been legally addressed and T-Mobile will be ordered to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars of ill-gotten profit to its subscribers, simply because none of them asked or signed for the service, product or data.  It is not a ‘loop-hole’ it is blatant scamming.  I for one expect this to snowball and the fallout could be stunning, just as Brazil’s 7-1 defeat (predicted by me  exactly) by Germany.

However, big business and no doubt media worried about its advertising revenue have apparently closed ranks and publicity is scarce still.


Déjà vu Last year I wrote (and blogged) of a case where in just one month I had been charged over BD 400 by telecos who had billed me just for apparently ‘receiving’ erroneous premium rate text messages and making weird calls, none of which I asked for or indeed subscribed to.  Many were never received in the first place and absolutely no calls made,  but listed on the bill.  Sadly, not a single person appeared to care or respond to my missives, so like always the corporations get clean away with it in Bahrain and elsewhere, except with me.  I fought the issue tooth and nail and Zain kindly refunded over BD350 (just under $1,000) having thoroughly investigated and logging that it was not my IMEI number.

The former Lightspeed very reluctantly refunded about $100 never accepting that it was their fault.

Batelco refused outright to refund BD 9 ($23) which would surely have been BD 900 had I not caught it in time. The so-called investigator even lied to me telling me that they had checked and that it was indeed my IMEI number, yet not a single SMS was actually received on that particular phone, all of it being a scam.  In the end, I ordered the Visa gateway to block any transactions from my numbers, so tough on the scammers and even tougher on the mobile phone companies who claim up to 40% of the SMS revenue.

Now out of the blue,  last month we received a bill for near $400.  Batelco told me it was for ‘data off package’.  It was a Samsung S4 that had been switched off for a few weeks (while I was away in the States) and on re-charging, unbeknownst to any of us, automatically switched “data on – wireless off’.  Within hours, Batelco sent an SMS warning that our ‘credit limit’ was approaching.  Who knows, perhaps the phone did some automatic update for just a few megs.  These few megs off package are set at an extortionate rate, which is beyond reality and the Telecoms Regulatory Authority should wake up and smell the roses and get this hideous rip-off sorted.

So what anyway?  I really don’t care Data on or off, why should we care, we don’t have a package.  For 15 years, or more this number has been a constant $5 a month, (BD 2), nobody making any calls on it ever as it is only a relay phone to receive office callers on the land line.  Now suddenly the telco wants BD145 for data which should not have been available on that number in the first place.  As I advised the Call Centre agent. He said;  ‘But you don’t have a package on this phone”.  My response was just that; ‘You are absolutely right and obviously not a lot gets past you does it?  We never signed for any data on this number and have ‘never’ asked for any and furthermore, we don’t want any data, so whatever scam you are working at whatever stupendously high rate, it isn’t going to work on me’.  In effect the T-Mobile ruling will prevail and set the precedent and hopefully worldwide.   If you don’t ask for something, don’t sign for something, don’t want something, how the hell can a telecommunications company charge you for it and get away with it?   It cannot be legally justified whichever way one looks at it.

There is no such thing as a ‘free phone’ , free laptop, free TV either.  The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority do nothing about it, the government is not interested and there are just no advertising morals, let alone standards, so all this marketing scam goes on unabated.  It is all just a ploy to hold you hostage for  up to 2 years on jumped up contracts which include the price of the device – trust me.  No matter where you are,  incompetent and deluded dudes calling themselves ‘Marketing Specialists’ rule the roost and get clean away with it, giggling away at the deceit.   Hundreds of thousands go alone with it, because it is an easy way to get hire purchase.


I P a lot!

Another pathetic revenue scam is; telecos claiming some sort of  ‘difference’  between voice traffic and data.  In the past this could be somewhat justified but not since the advent of IP routed traffic on data trunk highways.  It is ALL DATA now.  You’ve all heard of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and most of us use Skype.  There is no difference.  It is all ONES AND ZEROS. Everything is routed by a matrix and your telephone number is really nothing much different from an IP address.  Once the infrastructure is in place,  and it is, it costs no more to link to Los Angeles from Bahrain as it does Riffa to Isa Town.  This applies to anywhere else in the developed world.  Even outside of that, the delivery method might be slightly different, but taking a call at the North Pole for example, the technology and method is EXACTLY the same nowadays.   In fact, look up another blog of mine on ‘Bandwidth’ and test for yourself.  In general, Skype has clearer calls than over your mobile phone.  If your network speed it slow, then sure it might break up whereas it does not, or should never break on a mobile network, but mobile voice is so muffled in general.  It does not have to be because these networks have bandwidth coming out their arses, but they just can’t get past the monopoly and 3 khz doctrine,   so why should phone manufacturers concern themselves with hi-fidelity microphones and speakers?

Zain and Viva are playing the HD voice card with 4G, when all could have easily done much better with 3G, but they are all too anal and it is endemic across the world, except perhaps America as was.  However with the imported British Telecom and Cable & Wireless mentality in more recent years, with the likes of T-Mobile, nothing creative or abstract is ever considered, until a competitor does it first, then they copy.  In recent years, competitors have been non telecom schooled geeks who actually force progress on these dinosaurs holding the world to ransom.  Across current telephone networks set to operate as they are, there is no such thing as CD quality voice.  Whatever HD is supposed to represent it is all big time BS.   For a start, the very cheap all singing, all dancing Chinese switches which seem to be growing ever popular outside of Europe run at a piddly 8 bit – 8 khz highly compressed format.  This is standard Huawei format.       By comparison CD quality , which is NOT high definition, is of course 44.1. khz – 16 bit.   The higher the bit rate, the higher the sampling frequency,  obviously the higher the quality.


Back to this 145 Dinars and any one else out there who has been burned; sure they will take my number away and hopefully take me to court eventually to try and recover this amount. This is when the fun will begin and we all need to get together to make it perfectly clear that;  No signature, no request, no need, then no money honey either!  ‘Off’ being the second word!


UDATE 3: 24th NOV. 2012:  Zain Bahrain investigated deeper and responded to my requests to check the IMEI numbers of the erroneous calls made and the bogus SMS we supposedly received and responded to.  Bingo!  Not us.  A mighty BIG thanks to Ruzaina and indeed Khalifa who with great pains, sifted through the mess and removed all charges.  That is not the end of it though, they are still determined to get to the bottom of this.   Bahrain Telecommunications (Batelco) supposedly investigated for a few minutes and came to the conclusion that I/we had made the calls and responded to the the SMS thus closed the case.  Lightspeed removed the charge after a huge battle, but are still convinced I/we made the calls or sent the SMS.  AMEN…..or maybe not.  Read the story below.

UDATE 2:  4th NOV. 2012:   Zain Bahrain just confirmed – so far 2 of my mobile numbers fraudulently charged.  A total of 95 scam SMS supposedly received and replied to during the last month,  plus calls to Madagascar, which defeats Lightspeed’s assessment that I was physically responsible for the calls. (See below Scam 1).  Total value of the theft now amounts to not far short of BD 200 (Over US$ 500)   This is is so serious now, it is a war. 


Geek warning!  (See update 1:  03 Nov 2012 below). Today’s blog is about you and me getting fleeced daily by criminals using perfectly legitimate telecommunication channels.  For good measure, I’ll throw in Jimmy Saville’s name  – the Briish disc jockey who is thankfully being posthumously … um…. buried for  fixing his jimmy where he shouldn’t have. A distasteful man who I well described, if not warned about 40  odd years ago. Owz abaht that then..?  Unlike a Pakistani marriage, the two subjects are not related. I know, I normally rattle on about media corruption or corruption in the media and the occasional telecom rant, but bear in mind telecommunications is everything media, it carries media, it is a medium, so in this case, the two subject are related.

To get your hackles up and battle dress on, let me inform you that you and me are paying through the nose for thin air and legally being ripped off big time by crooks manipulating our everyday communication systems.  My household (IP based) telephone has been hacked with someone making extraneous calls and nobody wants to admit it.  It never rains, it pours and our mobiles have been raped too.

Here’s a scenario; you’ve just received a massive phone bill demanding you pay a stupid amount above what you normally pay per month, or you’ve just topped up your credit on a prepaid system only to find

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As I have said before; calling granny on your phone is very different these days to the good old times of waiting for little mechanical or digital relays to  physically connect your calls on hard lines. Nowadays, what the geeks call 4G is not only different-to-air radio frequencies, but a virtual matrix and done by mirrors in the ether and we are nothing but little IP addresses (INTERNET PROTOCOL); which is why you can move a thousand miles away from your roots and still take your old loved and cherished telephone number with you – or indeed change providers/operators – or if they would let you and we had suitable phones, send text messages to a land-line handset or box (which nobody does yet as greedy telecos don’t think there is any money in it).

For sure, scamming has been going on for years and long before the Americans starting getting twitchy with huge telecom switch providers like the Chinese Heuwai , Geggyboy was not waxing so lyrical about it or indeed the caliber of those installing it.  Just ask any of the Batelco technical boys on on the platform. They are sick to death of me bleating about this or that.  I get shouted down loudly by many in the biz, dispelling my theory that any IP based system can be easily hacked at customer level, but they respond by saying that it is ‘unlikely’ and that I am a bit of donkey not knowing what I am talking about.  It is sort of like the default reaction when you hear the name ‘Geg Hopkins’ or you are unfortunate enough to meet me for the first time and have to endure my gesticulating.

All well and good, but my theory is that it is a doddle for the initiated to quickly hack a network.  For sure the FBI

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The original article has been removed – now updated   (Draft 5 – 30th June 2010 )

With number portability about to be unleashed upon the nation of Bahrain, I am busy doing a multi piece on Telecommunications Companies in all their glory – so  WAIT!!

Talking about putting the cat among the pigeons, being able to strap your favourite, long time held, number to any of the providers is going to really set off a typhoon of incentives one hopes.  Imagine, you have a great ‘3333xxxx’ number, which you don’t want to lose but you don’t happen to like the provider; then simply port your existing number to a competitive carrier.  Of course, there has to be a catch coming for sure, nothing in telecoms is done without it being a potential honey trap; like  if you want a ’33’ number for example but you are not a Viva subscriber, then we might have to pay big bucks to get one from the original provider – or –  will all providers be able to issue any string.  Hmmmmm!  Deep and meaningless written like that, so read on.

As for the ’33’ thing; this post was all about ‘start-up privilege which as of June 2010, still exists, but if number portability hits Read more