Paraguayans, their paramours and the MP7

[Global Voices authors occasionally submit articles to The Economist's Babbage blog about technology. This story was originally published on September 8, 2010. Read more about our partnership here.]

I host a radio show in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital. Every Friday afternoon I ask my listeners for real stories, to help them relax in this city’s traffic. And it was during one of these Friday-afternoon call-ins—I had asked about technology that helps cover up unwanted tracks—that I first heard about Chinese dual-SIM mobile phones. From an anonymous caller (my translation),

I have two cell phones, but I have three lines. The Nokia is my corporate cell phone, but I also carry an MP7 with two lines.  The carrier’s service on my MP7 allows me to call three numbers for free, so I give a cell phone to my girlfriend, the other to my wife, and since these numbers I call for free don’t appear, (on the bill) my wife doesn't find out, she believes I only have one line to call for free.

From another caller, also male,

I have an MP7 with two chips, and when I don’t want to be found I deactivate one of them.

Global Voices and The EconomistThe MP7, a Chinese-made phone, can juggle two accounts on two SIM cards. It’s been in the Paraguayan market for a couple of years; two mobile-phone shop owners told me it became more popular about a year ago. (Alibaba, a Chinese online market, lists the MP7 as a “hot sales product in Paraguay and Brazil”.) Other models from the same company look like a BlackBerry or an iPhone, but don’t expect a warranty.  One shop-owner told me he could only imagine how many hands the phone had to go through before it reached his customers for $29. The phone has found a niche here, where many people have more than one mobile account. Mobile operators often give away free SIM cards.

As I listened to my callers and read their comments on my show’s Facebook profile, I realised that the MP7 is not the only technology that helps Paraguayans practice infidelity. It’s not that everybody goes around cheating here; it’s that the ones who do are pretty open when it comes to sharing their techniques. Especially the men.

A cheap and common practice is to carry a single-account phone, with an extra SIM card inside the hard case next to the battery. One line for the spouse, the other for the mistress: they both remain clueless. Cheaters with a little more purchasing power carry two mobile phones. Often they use a corporate account, but some buy another mobile phone exclusively to keep parallel relationships unnoticed. I asked a popular online forum, Tocorre, about cheating techniques and got this response.

My friend has two cell phones, with one of them he texts his family, friends and girlfriend, and he uses the other for his secret conversations. His girlfriend has no idea of the existence of the other phone; he keeps it in his shoe or his closet while he is with her.

One cheater adds that he takes the “official” phone home and leaves “the clandestine” locked in his office. Another points out that if the spouse ever shows up at work and finds it, he can always claim the cell phone isn’t his. A third says that he has three cell phones for this purpose. I also learned that the best phones for keeping secrets are the widely used Nokia mobiles. From the old models to the current smart-phones, the Nokias can filter some calls straight to voicemail and save selected messages in hidden folders that can only be accessed by the owner. From Tocorre,

The 6620 helped me cover up many disasters!

Confirmation came from my show's Facebook profile.

Yesss… the best one is the Nokia 5800 which filters calls and texts, so I can keep my witch (girlfriend) from finding out about my extracurricular activities at certain times.

On my Nokia 6300, I have an app that keeps folders hidden so I keep photos and videos of some people invisible.

A minority can afford smart-phones, and with them applications like Blacklist, which filters phone calls and messages and submits automatic responses; or Fake Call Locations, which adds background sound to simulate sports events, traffic or even church; or TigerText, which deletes text messages from both the sender and receiver’s phones after they are read. From a worried male listener, in reaction to the Facebook confessions,

What are you guys doing?! Now they are going to start looking out for all these gadgets…!!!

But we know it doesn’t matter. A cheater will be a cheater no matter how advanced the technology. Infidelity pre-dates the dual-SIM mobile.

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.