Making Phone Calls from Ops

We've been approached by a telecomms firm that is looking to put together decent, money saving packages for people deploying overseas. They are also keen to sponsor the site!

Being a bit of a war dodger, I haven't deployed anywhere serious for a while so I'm interested in getting some up to date information. What is the current situation with regard to making phone calls from Afghanistan, Iraq, etc? Are people using phone cards, mobiles, local sim cards, the internet?

Cheers for any information/thoughts
Well, I don't know if this is relevant to what they are offering, but if you are on a ship you get twenty minutes conversation time a week on your paradigm card, but the service is quite w*nk: even allowing for the problems of the ship's satellite comms fit, half of the time you get cut off, often two or three times in twenty minutes, and even when you are connected the sound quality is such that you only hear every second syllable. This is not limited to on board ship either. You can use the paradigm card in many countries and the Falklands, but even ashore you get sh*t service and voice quality. It is also a ball ache to sign in: If you include the phone number, the PIN, the ID number and the options, you end up inputting a number chain some 22 figures long and this can take up to 3 minutes, so thats over 1/6 of your time taken up just making a connection, and bearing in mind you have to do this every time you get cut off. The worse thing about getting cut off is that the first indication you have is when you have no answer from the other end: no dial tone or anything, just you effectively wittering to your self for a minute or so before you know that the connection has gone down.
I am fairly certain that paradigm is tri service.
I used Paradigm's phones at SLB, and had problems at the beginning with the card just not working. Paradigm's customer services were useless, and it was almost 7 days before I could make a call. Subsequently I used an Iridium phone and as Berni says the quality was not very good.

I didn't take my mobile, having used one on Saif Sarrea - not much talk, loadsamoney, but many people found mobiles the best option. On the other hand, Paradigm worked well in Oman.

The internet worked well, if a little slowly, at SLB, but the nanny software seemed to have been set to Nazi level - you couldn't access Silverman's or similar sites, for example, because they sell knives! Similarly, my attempts to order some socks from one site that also sells combat clothing was blocked - because some miltary sites promote violence, apparently!

A reliable source of either local SIM cards, or cheap deals on a UK one would be good.
Agree with the above and the internet, at both Al Amarah and BAS t'internet was a good way of speaking to people at home via MSN, but for browsing the web it was pretty arrse as the nanny system was a little over-zealous.

As for the phone system, I think alot more could be done. 20 minutes a week is shocking all things considered. As previously mentioned, alot of this time is spent putting in pin numbers and validation codes etc... can get a bit tedious and infuriating after a while. One MASSIVE bug bear is the 1 minute warning, that completely cuts you off from the call then leaves you just 15 secs to wrap up the call.... this has caused me to smash the handset back on a few times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks a lot to everyone for their input. Has anyone any experience of using alternative phone cards on the Paradigm system? Is it possible or do you have to buy additional ones from them. Any comments on cost or availability would also be useful.
Bad CO said:
Thanks a lot to everyone for their input. Has anyone any experience of using alternative phone cards on the Paradigm system? Is it possible or do you have to buy additional ones from them. Any comments on cost or availability would also be useful.
on my tour (04) you were given your 20 minutes free but any top up was via paradigm cards only and IIRC £20 got you about 40 mins. However the caveat is that with the issued card your twenty minutes was 20 mins regardless of the hardware used for the call. You could use the fixed phones in the portacabins or a paradigm sat phone.

If you were using top up cards then you got the £ Value not guaranteed minutes so £20 lasted a lot longer on a fixed phone than it did on a sat phone. Fine if your in SLB or BAS but crap if you're in a camp in the sticks and the power is off for 2 weeks so sat phone is all you have.
I've been using call2 . com to call UK landlines from South America.
You use the website to type in the number your calling from and the number you are calling. It then calls both phones and connects them. I thought this was quite clever / innovative when I found it. I've used Skype and MSN etc but unless you both have good connections it can be hit or miss. this company uses standard telephone lines so quality is much better (or thats the reason they give) but I have never had a problem with quality.
I used various cards for a while but I think this is slightly cheaper and I can add credit very easily on the net aswell. Can also set it to automatically top up when you run low.
I only use the internet call feature although you can text from your mobile and it will connect your mobile with any number you want aswell or you can just phone and tell them the number. Pretty clever.
I had a look around for similair companies and found quite few - didnt see that much difference in rice but might be worth shopping around depending on which country your in. Quick check on this site:
Iraq landline to UK landline 16p per minute
Afghan landline to UK landline 21p per minute.

I'm sure there must be a cheaper way than this but its very convenient - no cards, pin numbers any of that crap and quality is very good. But on ops you would need to know the incoming number for the service to connect you.

For Original Poster, you could always contact this company and ask them what their best prices are or if they can supply lower fees for people joining through this website or something although the margins with these companies are very tight. If its call quality you want they're worth checking out.

If you want people to call you from the UK a check on on the telephone pages. It has an international call checker. You put in the country you want to call and whether its landline or mobile and it searches all the companies for the best rate. With a lot of the companies you dont have to set up any accounts or anything - just enter their access number and then dial the number you want.


War Hero
The paradigm cards aren't that bad. They allow you to call anywhere in the world and only take the minutes used off you. The minutes only start from when your call is connected to the other end, so I don't know why people are moaning about the number of digits they are having to dial in. At HQ ISAF, you have to dial a 13 digit access number unless you are using one of the two paradigm phones...
I never found problems with quality wehn using cabins iridium is hopeless though. I did have a drama getting my account card activated. However this was fine in the end since I got scratch cards each week until activated and then my card once activated also credited me for those weeks. I proffed an extra 60 mins. Additionally the paid credits last longer if you can use the synergy red network to access paradigm.
Many people in BAS used to buy local Iraqna SIM cards and credit. The way to do it is to probably provided a mobile SIM card or number to dial into from overseas from a civvy or military phone. Cheap and can be stocked in EFI or elsewhere.
The phone network in BAS can be pants, 20+ attempts to get through before it works. The call quality is not great either!
We used to use the Syn Red phone in the LAD to call home, (outside of work hours obviously), - using our Pardigm cards they lasted longer as already mentioned, but it had the added advantage that they could call you back if you got low on credit before your 1/2 hour slot was up. Putting the number on BT friends and Family saved quite a bit for me. Another advantage was not having to queue for ages to get on a phone as the queues could be a mare at times.

Overall I'd say the paradigm system was OK, but just OK. The initial set-up time for a card that was issued well in advance of the tour which started 6 months after the last one started, and strangely enough the one before that was ridiculous, weeks and in some cases months is a joke. Reception was poor on the phones, but not poor enough to make 'em un-useable.

The sat-phone we had was a joke, end of story.

And DO NOT get me started on the tinternet and all of its associated problems.......
A point on mobiles

During TELIC 1 - (I think)beginning of 3, you could use UK mobiles roaming on the kuwaiti net which was boosted. By the beginning of TELIC 4 the Iraqi net was up and running and the boosters from the kuwaiti net removed. No british networks had roaming agreements with Iraqi nets so there was no way to use mobiles unless you got close enough to the border to pick up kuwait, southern edge of Safwan or up safwan hill itself were favourites.

I know that the paradigm network is by no means secure but I would imagine it is a damn site safer than buying a local sim card and phoning loved ones through the Iraqi network - any Sy geeks out there?
I have two SIM cards, IRAQNA and ATHEER. I can text home to the UK on IRAQNA for 12 cents. I can text on ATHEER for 5 cents. A 20 minute phone call on either costs me $6. I also use 'Skype' which is a free. downloadable, programme from the internet. Using it you can call a landline number anywhere in the world for pennies, slightly dearer for mobiles. However, if you are 'skyping' to a computer it costs jack sh1t and IS TOTALLY FREE. Oh, the quality, its like being in the same room as the person you are calling.

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