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A missed call is a telephone call that is deliberately terminated by the caller before being answered by its intended recipient, in order to communicate a pre-agreed message without paying the cost of a call. For example, a group of friends may agree that two missed calls in succession means "I am running late". The practice is common in South Asia, the Philippines and Africa.
In Bangladesh in 2010, missed calls made up 70% of cellular traffic on the Grameenphone network, and a Kenyan cellular network estimated in 2005 that four million missed calls were being made on its network every day. The Cellular Operators Association of India, COAI, has instituted a study to understand the revenue implications of missed calls in India. Industry estimates of loss of revenue due to this social phenomenon were between 20 to and 30%, in 2007.
Some companies offer information services which are accessed by making a missed call to a particular number, causing an automated system to return the call and deliver a pre-recorded message. The culture of the missed call has also been used by political parties like the Aam Aadmi Party as a call to action to drive membership.
Missed calls are commonly used to communicate messages such as "I am running late" or "I'm at home, where are you?" Friends can miscall a member of their group who was unable to join them that evening to convey "we're missing you". Young couples miscall one another to see if the line is free, or to intentionally keep the line busy.
The number of calls can be varied to communicate different messages, the meaning of which varies from region to region. In Syria, five missed calls in rapid succession means "I am online, let's chat".
Adoption by businesses
In Bhutan, farmers know how much milk their customers want by the number of missed calls they get. In India, a missed call from a shop or business means "Your order is ready". In the United Kingdom, taxi drivers may use missed calls to let customers know that their taxi has arrived.
Syndicate Bank introduced Missed Call Banking Facility, which allows customers to check their balances by giving a missed call to a designated number.
In 2014, Facebook partnered with VivaConnect to launch a Missed Call Ad Unit business specifically for the feature phone heavy Indian market, where a person could place a Missed Call to a number displayed on Ad and get offline content in return call.
In Pakistan, Nestle collaborated with Flashcall, a missed call service provider, to run a nationwide media campaign where they encouraged people to give the brand a missed call to receive a pre-recorded callback from singer Shehzad Roy, delivering an educational message about iron deficiency in children.
In Bangladesh, an online protest was arranged with the help of a Facebook event on 27 January 2013 demanding the mobile phone operators cut their internet price. More than 250,000 Facebook users participated by exchanging millions of missed calls.
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