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Telecom 'lowest' claim hits low note

THE folks at Hongkong Telecom must have mislaid their calculators when they were putting together their latest issue of Telecom News - either that or they have been offered some very funny exchange rates by their bankers.

We have already reported on one rather embarrassing slip-up in the claim: ''It will be cheaper for our customers to call from Hong Kong to any country, than from that country to Hong Kong.'' This was made by Peter Howell-Davies, Telecom's deputy chief executive.

Optus, an Australian telephone firm, offers much cheaper calls to Hong Kong than our telephone company offers in the other direction. And note that this is after the price cuts which Mr Howell-Davies says give us ''the lowest international rates in the world''.

In fact, Optus is not the exception. For instance, Sprint of the US offers calls to Hong Kong for 12 hours a day at a mere 77 US cents a minute for typical customers who pay a US$3 a month fee. This is HK$5.96 a minute, against the Hongkong Telecom minimum rate of $8.50 a minute.

Sprint's peak rate is slightly higher, however, and there are many different US carriers and rates, so US callers who don't shop around can still pay enough to make Hongkong Telecom's claim true.

On calls to the UK, however, Hongkong Telecom again is clearly more expensive. Mercury Communications is charging calls to Hong Kong at 77.4 pence a minute peak rate, 62.1 pence economy.

This is HK$9.18 and $7.35, against Hongkong Telecom's $9.80 and $8.50.

Mr Howell-Davies really ought to know a lot about Mercury's rates. He worked for them just eight months ago.

Ordered kids A WORRYING trend has emerged among electronics companies, the evidence for which was clear at yesterday's Hong Kong Electronics show.

Having hooked adults, the gadget companies are aiming at their kids.

First was a version of those electronic translators aimed at children as young as six. Called ''Junior Vocal'' and from COSM Electronics, it allows the little mites to learn to say ''toothpaste'', ''good night'', ''pineapple'' and other useful stuff in good Mandarin, passable English and slightly weird Cantonese.

Second was a version of those electronic organisers, also aimed at youngsters. Made by Welback Enterprises, the Junior Data Bank ''is a must for budding junior executives''.

It includes a diary, scheduler and homework planner and claims it ''might just revolutionise the way a child manages his or her life''.

It has a calculator too, so they can work out how quickly ba ba and ma ma are going bust buying electronic gadgets for their offspring.

Wake-up call VIRGIN Atlantic, the airline which will shortly be winging its way to Hong Kong, has decided not to allow incoming calls on its in-flight phone system. British Airways is following suit.

The reason is that passengers feel that incoming calls will be intrusive, waking them up at strange hours and generally getting on their nerves.

Quite right. You can't have phones doing this. This is the job of the flight attendants.

Carnival jump THE chances of getting mugged in Rio de Janeiro are much, much less than people think. Definitely.

This is why Varig, the Brazilian airline which now does the Rio-Hong Kong run twice a week, is flying local journalists out there, so they can write articles about how safe and pleasant it is.

Sadly, not only did one of the last batch get mugged, but so did the person who was taking them.

Steve Shellum and a Hong Kong journalist he was escorting were jumped, and relieved of a ring and all their cash near the Copacabana beach. Luckily they had only about US$50.

''We didn't actually see the guys but we reckon there were about five of them,'' said Steve, who had the good sense to tell them where his wallet was rather than put up a fight.

Unless you're very unlucky, he still reckons Rio is safe if you keep to the right streets at the right time. He says, for instance, it's safer than being a tourist in Florida.

Show-offs YESTERDAY'S Hong Kong-Guangzhou hi-tech trade show was, we think, the first in a new venue for mainland trade fairs.

For the official opening ceremony, the organisers dispensed with the more usual functional surroundings of the China Resources Building. Instead they hired the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt, a venue more associated with the glittering social whirl of Keeping Posted than Business Post.

It all seems a long way from the atmosphere just after the Tiananmen Square ''unfortunate incident''.

Jerry Wang, managing director of General Motors Asia, was remembering yesterday that he took office space in Beijing at about that time.

The landlord was so pleased he not only painted the walls and laid carpets, but Mr Wang got sent a bouquet of flowers on his birthday.

In circles SO Arthur Dunkel reckons the GATT Uruguay Round will be finished within two months.

On our desk is a report by Geza Feketekuty, senior policy adviser to the US Trade Representative and chairman of the trade committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It was written at least 12 months ago and starts: ''As the Uruguay Round draws to a close. . .'' Last sentence ''I ALWAYS knew that law would be an arresting profession,'' was the comment of Stephen Barnes of LL.B. Consultancy after reading the latest edition of the Law Staff Gazette.

His comment was prompted by an article on Wong Chi-ho, a conveyancing clerk, who told the journal: ''I have not yet achieved my ultimate gaol, which is to be a solicitor.''