Heard an interesting story on the radio today on “missed call phone culture”, where people communicate through the use of missed calls. The most significant advantage is that it allows people to communicate at no cost, since cellphone companies generally only charge for a completed call. The “missed call” language has actually grown to be somewhat complex.
Here’s an example of the use of missed calls in Syria from an apparently defunct Syrian internet magazine “Forward Way”.
It is the missed call, often the bane of one’s life, however, that has been utilized for no-cost mobile communications. Friends and beloveds will agree on some kind of code, or arrangement assigning meaning to the number of missed calls received. One missed call generally means “I’m thinking of you/I’m missing you;” three missed calls in quick succession can mean “I’m out of credit, call me,” or alternatively “I arrived home safely;” five missed calls in quick succession means “I’m on chat, lets talk;” or if you’re on your way to meet friends, a missed call can mean “I’m leaving, you’d better not be late,” or in another instance, a missed call can confirm that “I’ve bought you the thing you wanted from the souq, no worries.” “Sometimes Haneen will wake me up, missed call after missed call, until I reject it and she knows I’m awake,” Nabil says.
Apparently, the usage is fairly widespread in various countries. For example, in Bangledesh, up to 70% of phone traffic at any one time consists of missed calls. Beyond personal contact, missed calls can also serve as business communication.
Farmers in Bhutan, according to UNCTAD’s annual Information Economy Report published in October, know how much milk their customers want by the number of miscalls. They then miscall the customer back within 15 minutes; no miscall means no stock. Researchers in India, where miscalls accounted for about 40% of all calls, found that the miscall was used by print and ticketing shops to let their customers know their orders were ready.
The entire article by Jeremy Wagstaff is pretty interesting.