Whether coincidence or fate, the day after Orange gave me a quote for NIS 200 a month for a new phone line package, with limitations and ceilings that experience shows would eventually increase my monthly bill, Golan Telecom announced its revolution.

NIS 99 a month for unlimited calls, texts, internet use, and calls to 29 countries.

The freedom to call who I want, when and where I want, complimented by my immediate need for a new phone package and the promise of a simple, monthly bill, made the decision to move to Golan Telecom a “no brainer”.

After all, after ten years as an Orange customer, I’d yet to balance the numbers on an Orange bill. There was a time I felt “it must be me”, but when a CPA friend told me he, too, couldn’t figure out his bills, I decided I could once again return my Kellogg-Recanati Executive MBA certificate to it’s rightful place on the wall.

So, I took the plunge, went to the Golan Telecom website, and ten minutes later, I’d committed to transfer my personal 054 number; my lifeline to friends, family and income, to Golan Telecom.

So, how did the week span out?

Sunday

Jumped to the Golan Telecom website, to transfer my Orange number to Golan Telecom. Yes, the website felt “startup”, including a couple of “Coming soon” sections that my brain decided not to acknowledge. Anyway, English was one of the 6 website language options, so, had to be OK, right?

Ten minutes later, having filled in the simple online form, I was the proud owner of my Golan Telecom customer number, with my new Golan SIM to arrive by post in the next few days.

That was easy!

Bye, bye Orange.

Well, not so fast. A microsecond later, an automated text from Orange begged me to call Orange customer services, to “complete the transfer process”. I thought I was done with *054, but it wasn’t to be.

With a few (hidden) grey hairs to my name, I wasn’t surprised when the nice chap at Orange tried to persuade me not to leave Orange. In reality, the bird had flown the nest. The train had left the station. I was a Golan Telecom customer now. He was actually trying to persuade me to transfer back to Orange, before I’d even had the time to enter my shiny new Golan Telecom customer number into my Outlook!

“We have a new package”, said the nice orange man. “NIS 125 a month, including this that and the other, with this limitation and that limitation.”

If it would have been a video call, he would have seen glazed eyes.

“International calls?”

“You pay”, he effectively said

“Unlimited Internet?”

“Yes, but with these limitations”, he effectively said.

“So, you’re offering a more expensive product, with less product?”

“We have excellent customer service, and real offices, where you can come and visit us and sit opposite real people.”

For a moment, I thought he thought, I was lonely.

As I thanked him for his time, I wondered if I would have taken him more seriously if he’d have offered a phone bill format that I could understand.

With the nice orange man already talking to the next Golan Telecom convert, I returned to the Golan Telecom website to smile at the simple, sample monthly bill. I passively noticed Golan Telecom’s contact page didn’t have an email address, and wondered if I would have held off my decision if I’d spotted that before I transferred. “Not a problem”, I decided. The mind works in mysterious ways.

Let’s wait for the SIM and enjoy the new revolution.

Thursday

SIM Card arrived in the mail, together with an activation code. Jumped to the Golan Telecom website, activated my SIM in less than a minute, and got an email from Golan that the new SIM would be live at 8:01:59, tomorrow morning.

Oh, and I also got another text from Orange to call *054 to “Complete the transfer process”.  Took the risk that the process was actually complete. Sorry, nice orange man. Your opportunity to sign me up for a new Orange contract was when I asked for a quote a week ago.

Friday

08:03

An automatic email from Golan Telecom confirmed my new SIM was active. Activation killed my Orange SIM instantaneously. The train just arrived at the next station. One way ticket. No way back!

Decided that instead of behaving like an excitable child, dropping everything to try out my new SIM, I’d be a responsible parent instead.  I finished making the kids’ sandwiches.

08:04:28

Phone now fully “on”, (I actually pressed the green button in between sandwiches), I was intrigued, and OK, maybe a “little” concerned, by my phone’s request to enter a PIN number, and more so when both the PIN numbers that arrived with the Golan SIM didn’t work.

Quietly tried calling myself from my home number.

“Number out of service”, announced the automated voice.

Took the glass-half-full approach, encouraged by the fact the message was in English. The online settings work! That’s a good start. The fact the voice was female showed great initiative or even artificial intelligence, as unlike my GPS, this wasn’t a setting.

Hid in a dark room with one of the kids’ Cellcom phones and tried again.

“Number out of service”

Seems a little troubleshooting is required. No problem. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I remembered the Golan Telecom website doesn’t yet have an email address.

Came out of the dark room with a big smile, learned from acting class, ten years ago.

“Hey kids, I’ve just activated my new Golan Telecom SIM, and I’ll soon have free calls, SMS and internet from my cellphone, and to 29 countries, and all for NIS 99 a month “. You should look at moving to Golan, too”

Soon, dad?”

“Time for school”.

08:30

Got to my meeting on time, but with no live cellphone number. Have you ever felt naked, whilst being fully dressed?

A discreet chat with an expert from the telecoms industry concluded the request for the PIN number was because my Orange cellphone was locked by Orange, and they have to unlock it. Put the Golan SIM in an unlocked phone and you’ll pass one hurdle, at least.

13:00

Having searched my home for an old cellphone, and with every room now looking like a crime scene, I eventually found an old Smung handset in a drawer that hadn’t been opened since 2.5G was announced. Yes, it was a Samsung, really, with the logo faded over the years, and that I suppose was fashionable, once upon a time.

I had a decision to make. To ask one of my kids to use his/her trendy iPhone4S, which would also have meant popping out the inside of my virgin Golan SIM to fit the micro SIM slot of the iPhone, or to not risk murdering my shiny new SIM, being seen in public instead with the antique, but SIM unlocked, Smung.

Connectivity is more important than ego. Anyway, the iPhone4S and the Smung have something in common.  An “S”.

I chose to reconfirm I was a good parent, always making sacrifices for my children, whilst keeping my Golan SIM intact.

Blew the dust off, slipped the SIM in, connected the relic to the electricity to give me a better chance, and was blessed with the “Golan Telecom” logo.

“Yeah”, I exclaimed to myself, whilst punching the air.

Ten minutes later, called the kids from my Golan line.

“You see, all’s OK. Free calls, texts, internet, 29 countries …”

“Dad, I just tried to call you and it still doesn’t work. I got ‘Number out of service’. Seems you can make outgoing calls only”.

“Lunch, anyone?”

16:00

“Good news, kids. A helpful person on the Facebook/Golan page told me to go to http://www.orange.co.il/he-il/selfservice/cell_num/ to find out when Orange will actually transfer my line. Seems it will happen Monday.”

“Great dad.  So you can’t receive calls until Monday. Really great”.

“It’s Shavuot, guys. Let’s enjoy the weekend”.

Monday

As predicted by the Orange website, I can now receive calls from Orange. But only from Orange. Using a spare Orange line to ensure my life doesn’t implode. Wouldn’t admit it to the nice orange man, though, if he called.

Tuesday

08:00

“Hey kids, as per our discussion Monday, I can now make outgoing calls from my Golan SIM and can receive calls from Orange. I can also call for free …. Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, England, France, Greece, Germany, Hawaii, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, USA, Vatican …”

“But dad, I’m in the same room as you, and I can’t call you from my Cellcom phone. And, err, do you actually know anyone in the Vatican?

“Just one guy, kids. There’s an old man there. Just one guy.”

“What about Turkey?”

“No”.

“Belgium?”

“Yes”.

“You actually know someone in Belgium?”

“Well, I know someone who knows someone in Belgium”.

“You going to lend him your handset, dad?”

“You’re going to be late for school.”

14:00

“Hey kids, I popped to Orange, and they just unlocked my phone in five minutes. They have to, by law, you know. That was easy”

“That’s great dad. A good 2 hours well spent, including travelling time and waiting time. Oh, by the way, I texted you earlier. Got it yet?”

“Well, not yet, actually. I forgot to mention I can send texts but not receive. But there is progress.”

“What CAN you do dad?”

“A friend of mine in London can call my Golan phone from 3 networks. Only British Telecom failed.”

“Hmm … Yeah, very interesting, dad. Did you actually need to speak to him today?”

“No. I just wanted to check he could call me if he needed to, which he didn’t, today. I already know I can call him from my Golan phone, even though I also know I don’t need to. Well, not today, anyway.”

18:00

“Hey, kids. It happened. The texts that didn’t arrive, all arrived at once. Incoming calls are fine from all networks. Internet works as it should.

“That’s great dad. Really great. Seems like it was worth the temporary pain, even if it wasn’t expected.”

“Yes, I think you are right. Of course, Golan Telecom’s customer support line is overwhelmed during this startup phase, so you’ll never get an answer. But you won’t need to. Post your questions on the Golan Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GolanTelecom and the community will answer. THEY are Golan Customer Support.

“Sounds good dad. By the way, did the old man from the Vatican call?”

“No not yet, kids. But I don’t think it’s a Golan Telecom problem.”

In conclusion

I have to humbly admit that I hadn’t expected it would take from Friday to Tuesday to become fully operational on the Golan Telecom network. But you guessed that, anyway!

The fact that more or less overnight, Golan caused Orange to slash its prices puts Golan’s claim to triggering a revolution beyond doubt. Yes, they only have a phone line for customer support, and yes, it’s currently impossible to get a human to answer. But what was, isn’t any more. The Golan Telecom Facebook page has over 20,000 “Likes”, meaning there’s an army of helpful people reading the questions you post, and a loyal following who will gladly answer your questions in minutes. It was the feedback I got from that page that kept me calm throughout the “experience”.  The basic message was wait, sit on your hands, let all the global servers update each other, and in a couple of days, it will all work. And that’s what happened.

Could Golan Telecom have reduced the stress of the transfer to their network? Yes. If they’d posted the most basic information on their Facebook page that I learned from the public, via the same page, I’d expect the quantity of negative comments from frustrated new, unconnected customers, would have reduced dramatically. After all, we can no longer function without being connected to a cellphone line or the internet. Cutting off our phone line is the non-medical equivalent of slashing our jugular.

Finally, I can’t help remembering my conversation with the nice orange man in Raanana on Tuesday, who unlocked my Orange phone for me in 5 minutes. As I filled the time with idle chat of “So, what effect is Golan having on Orange”, he replied “Nothing’s changed”.

I think he’s wrong.