Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Permit me to exist

If you don’t have a Residence Permit, you don’t really exist.

I have already reported how the moment an expatriate in Qatar obtains a Work visa, he forgets how to drive until he gets a local driving licence. But not a permanent one. Those are reserved for proud holders of the RP.

I’m moving house on Friday. Unlike my temporary accommodation, the new place doesn’t have a phone line. So no internet until after I have an RP and ID card. You see, non-residents aren’t allowed to have land-lines. In Qatar, the ID card is irrevocably connected to the RP, and it’s impossible to do almost anything official without flashing the ID card. My old ID (with a hilarious 1996 mugshot, and a 2002 expiry date) has been invaluable, but it isn’t good enough for Q-Tel.

The medical examination and hoofprints aren’t going to happen until the end of July, after which it’ll take around a fortnight to get the RP stamp in my passport. But even this isn’t good enough. One to two weeks after the RP, I get my Qatar ID card. Only then may I apply for a telephone in the new apartment. And installation (which is the onerous task of switching it on at the exchange, because the wires are already in place) will take “up to 15 days”.

Now add Ramadan into the mix, and it becomes obvious that I’ll be on the internot until September. Unacceptable.

Enter Mobile Broadband. Ouch, the expense!

Q-Tel offers QAR80 per month for up to 2Gb of data, apparently on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Going over 2Gb costs QAR10 per 1Mb, which seems a lot of cash. Is 2Gb a lot, assuming email, Facebook, blogging and some Google Talk? I know to avoid downloading movies and spending protracted hours gazing at YouTube. Unfortunately, this QAR80 option is only available to RP holders. If I had an RP I’d have ADSL and wouldn’t be asking about mobile broadband!

Or there’s QAR250 for ten days of ‘unlimited’ broadband; QAR450 for 30 days. And this is plus another QAR300 for the USB dongle. ‘Unlimited’, as defined by Q-Tel, is 15Gb per month. An unlimited package with a limit. Freedom is slavery.

I went into Vodafone Qatar, about four doors down and for QAR150 I got myself a MiFi. Essentially, this is a mobile phone without a display, keypad, speaker or microphone. Alright, it’s a box; a musical box, wound up and ready to play. It connects to the interwebs through the 3G mobile phone network and behaves as my own portable, private WiFi hotspot. Of course, it’s really expensive for heavy use, but crucially because it’s Pay-As-You-Goat, I didn’t need to produce my non-existent ID card in order to buy one.

To my delight, I discovered that it runs at an actual 3Mbps, which is over four times the speed of the 1Mbps ADSL. If connectivity turns out to be pants in the new place, I’ve invested only QAR150 and not QAR750.

I also downloaded BitMeter, which enables me to monitor how much bandwidth I’m actually using.

What might be useful is to avail myself of Q-Tel’s QAR80 per month once I have my ID card, and to stick this into the Vodafone MiFi device. The Universal Law of Sod suggests that the MiFi will only work with Vodafone. An experiment for later, perhaps.



Seabee said...

Ah, what would we do without bureaucrats.

Ian the Dog said...

Congrats on your 'new' job! Sorry, but I've only just been on your blog. You may have bumped into your surnamesake (my firstnamesake), now resident in Doha, whose house we recently visited under construction in Kathikas. Drop me a mail with your new e-address that we may be in touch. Cheers.

Grumpy Goat said...

>@ Seabee: The Bottom Inspectors are alive and well.

@Ian: Check your email. I heard about your Cyprus escapades from Mr Tim, and then checked out the photos on Facebook.

Mme Cyn said...

I guess I need to keep the evening chats on Google talk short, then, eh?

Anonymous said...

get an android phone and use it to tether; that way you pay for data once (unless your telco tries to screw you out of a tethering fee)

I pay ~300 AED per month to Etisalat for 5 GB of data. I can just turn my Samsung Galaxy S into a mobile wifi hotspot and use the internet from my laptop as well as use it on my mobile.


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