Using hang-up calls to send a message — pdf
If you are in Sudan, it is a “missed call.” In Ethiopia, it is a “miskin” or a “pitiful” call. In other parts of Africa, it is a case of “flashing,” “beeping” or in French-speaking areas, “bipage.”
Wherever you are, it is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the continent’s booming mobile phone markets — and it’s a headache for cell system owners who are trying to figure out how to make some money out of it.
You beep someone when you call them up on their mobile phone — setting its display screen briefly flashing — then hang up half a second later, before they have had a chance to answer. Your friend, you hope, sees your name and number on the “missed calls” list and calls you back at his or her expense.
[...] Unlike U.S. carriers, which split the cost of a mobile call between the caller and the person being called, most carriers elsewhere in the world place the entire cost of a mobile call on the caller, so receiving calls is free.
[...] Africa’s mobile phone companies say the practice has become so widespread they have had to step in to prevent their circuits from being swamped by second-long calls.
Beeping is not only about money. Donner’s “Rules of Beeping” suggests a social protocol for the practice.
“The richer guy pays,” he writes.