Friday, June 15, 2018

The Joy of 2G

I was reviewing plans from one of our advertisers, Twigby, and was struck by how much they were offering.  For the rock-bottom promotional rate of $9 they provide 100 Talk minutes and 150 Mb of  high-speed Data.  Not a big deal, right?  What is a big deal is what shows at the top of each plan: "Plans Include Unlimited 2G Data for Free!". Before you recoil in horror at a 2G download, let me share my experience traveling in Europe. I made the mistake of bringing my most expendable phone, some base model LG phone, which, unfortunately, did not have access to the high-speed spectrum used by my randomly-chosen carrier in Italy.  Yes, I was stuck in 2G hell...but I didn't know it.

I hopped on the train and began following my trip on Google Maps.  The train's Wi-Fi was hopelessly slow so I switched to Cellular Data and was able to easily follow the map and keep tabs of my email at a much faster download rate.  Distracted by the passing scenery of Tuscany, I did not notice the 2G symbol on my screen until some time later in the trip.  Yes, I did not notice that my data was coming in at a maximum rate of 128kb, and until then, it didn't matter.

                                   Related: Unlimited Data: The Alternatives

This leads me to believe that cheapskates like me can get a bargain-basement data plan with a few hundred bits of data and still find our phones quite usable.  What doesn't work well? Streaming video and poorly-constructed web sites, something I rarely use.  To make these cheap deals even sweeter, carriers like Twigby also offer, "Unlimited Global Texting...FREE." This is actually a lot of Unlimited for only $9.

Keep in mind this is artificially-created 2G, not the old 2G that carriers like AT&T have stopped providing on their network.  It's also called "throttling" and I now see it as as my way to get the lowest-price wireless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sprint Phones Now Roam on T-Mobile

Oh yes, this statement needs quite a bit of qualification, but with the approaching T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the 2 carriers already have a roaming agreement.  First, there's the CDMA vs. GSM thing, but 20 million Sprint phones are already compatible with both networks, including data.  That includes recent iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models. Other Sprint customers would have to upgrade their phones to take advantage of the new roaming coverage, however, if the merger is approved, most Sprint customers will need a new phone, anyway.


This agreement does not require approval from any government entity, so it's already in place and there could be millions of Sprint users already receiving the benefits of the new coverage.  The question rises of what happens if the merger does not happen.  T-Mobile may renegotiate the deal, or they may not.

A similar deal happened between T-Mobile and AT&T, and even after that hookup failed, T-Mobile was the beneficiary of a whole new batch of wireless spectrum.  New roaming is always a good thing.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Phoenix Communications May Not Rise Again

Phoenix Communications was the cellular operation of the Oklahoma Western Telephone Company which has been taken over by Hilliary Communications.  Hilliary claims they will be upgrading the network and are no longer accepting new customers.  It looks like they are still using the network for their wireless home phone customers but the future of cellular service is in question.


Hilliary completely cancelled the web site that displayed Phoenix products giving us the impression that this Phoenix shall not rise again.  FCC records show that Hilliary has applied for the FCC Connect America Fund Phase II Auction.  If they win funds for cellular operation under that program, we expect the network to be upgraded and will offer wireless service once again.  If not, we expect they'll offer the network and licenses for sale to a neighboring or national carrier. Our Mountain Wireless Network Reports has normally rated Phoenix with a "1", the lowest possible, so it won't take much to improve their service.

Monday, April 30, 2018

10 Reasons to Oppose a T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

There's is much you can read about the new Sprint and T-Mobile tie-up.  Here at the Noise, we'll just list what we expect will happen:

1. There Will Be No Low-Cost Alternative:
Today Sprint offers some astounding deals, and T-Mobile has done so in the past.  There will be much less need to compete at such low price points.

2. There Will Be No More Unlimited Plans:
In Canada, where there are only 3 national networks, unlimited data plans are not offered.  They tried to eliminate them here.  With 3 networks, they should succeed in shutting those plans down.

3. Many Customers Will Need a New Phone:
The surviving network most likely will be GSM.  If so, your Sprint phone (as well as Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and few dozen others) will be a paper weight.

4. Alternative Prepaid Carriers Could Feel the Pain:
With so few networks to choose from, MVNO's (the cellular re-sellers) like TracFone, Straight Talk, and ultra-low cost carriers like FreedomPop and Twigby will probably raise prices.

5. Some Carriers May Disappear:
In addition to the alternative carriers mentioned above, there may be no need to offer alternatives by the Top 3 carriers themselves.  Will they really need MetroPCS, Cricket, or Virgin Mobile to keep customers?

6. Stores May Close:
Who needs a store when everything can be purchased online?  What about the separate wireless stores in Walmart, Costco and Best Buy?  Do you remember Barnes and Noble?

7. The Combination Could Take Years to Complete:
A certain level of uncertainty could be a real pain in the neck.  Why buy a phone now knowing you'll need a new one?  What if the deal falls through?  How long will it take to change the cell site near you?

8. Coverage Changes:
In the past, duplicate cell sites were switched off.  Those sites could be the ones you used and you may be forced to change networks, and maybe phones, to get coverage back.

9. The Big Get Bigger:
Many of us enjoy doing business with a smaller, and often scrappier, company.  There won't be any.

10. The Small Go Away:  
There are over 60 small carriers in the US and they will face fewer but larger competitors.  There's also a good chance their roaming charges will increase and kill what small profit they have today.

It's just a list...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Mountain Wireless Move

For over 17 years we have supported both MountainWireless.COM and MountainWireless.NET as 2 separate but complimentary sites.  Recently, we decided we didn't need to duplicate our efforts.  Since the objective of our MountainWireless sites was reviews of cellular networks, settling on .NET made sense.  However, we had no idea how many inward links were directed to the .COM site and changing that has been a seemingly unending task.


It would be great if we could send a note to everyone who wanted to use that site or to all the search engines, to use the new, .NET address, but it doesn't work that way.  We just hope that if we mention it in a few places like here at the Noise, a few people will notice that the same info on all the US cellular carriers is now found at a new address, which is actually our old address.

Sadly, the Internet doesn't take kindly to these kind of changes.  We hope the site that has announced the closing of so many US wireless carriers over the years doesn't need to close itself down, too.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pace Cellular Becomes Kaptel Wireless & Disappears

Last year we reported on one of the best-kept wireless secrets about cellular carries that shut down their own network and start offering one of the Top 4 network products as their own.  While we prefer wireless companies that keep their own network going, this is a better choice than just turning out the lights and going away.  These carriers who re-sell products of the larger networks often provide a more local and  personal customer service than the major networks can from a far-away call center.  This often means the wireless user get a better network but still does business with a local company.


Most recently we discovered that Pace Cellular of Louisiana changed their name to Kaptel Wireless, similar to their parent telecom, Kaplan Telephone Company.  We lost Pace as an independent network operator before the name change but Pace was a marginal carrier and now Kaplan customers will have access to a much better wireless product, with a local face.  Pace has not reported what has become of their own wireless spectrum but I'm sure it's buried in the FCC records if someone wants to look.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Unlimited Data for a Buck!

We've been giving credit to Sprint for coming up with some wild promotions which are actually a good deal on a good performing network.  Another wild plan from the same corporate headquarters is Virgin Mobile's $1 for 6 months Unlimited promotion.  You can buy one of their iPhones...because that's all they sell...or you can bring your own compatible phone and get the same plan.  At the end of the 6 months you switch to their $50 Unlimited plan...it's the only plan the have...which is a good enough deal for a single line.


While Virgin needs to do something to get noticed after sleeping for the last few years, this is a nice wake up call, especially if you think you really need an Unlimited plan.  I found out certain members of my family were looking for a way to resurrect their old iPhone and this just may be the ticket.  We also gotta tell you we get a commission on Virgin Mobile purchases made from this page, however, we did not get paid for this article.  Got it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Oh No, Sprint & T-Mobile Talk Again!

The T-Mobile and Sprint zombie that was hoped to be dead is once again alive!  You've probably heard this already and Mike Dano at Fierce Wireless offers a good explanation of why this is happening, and why now.  We agree that Sprint needs to be rescued, just not by T-Mobile.  The spectre of only 3 major carriers in the US is horrifying.  Yes, the new demands of spectrum and rising competition make the wireless world more complicated, but no matter how much we are told, "Bigger is Better," we still have no reason to believe it.


Just look at our neighbor to the north.  Canadian wireless users has cried for years about high prices. Their national government tried to expand the spectrum available, only to have what few new carriers appeared, be gobbled up by their Big 3.  Don't drink the Kool-Aid!  Make some noise.  The few visitors to this and similar sites may be the only ones who know the devil lurking just behind the "Bigger is Better" smoke screen.  All we need is a white knight with deep pockets, or an overwhelming amount of common sense at the federal government level.  We've been surprised before.  Is the man behind the curtain about to speak?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Voice Mail Back Doors Closing?

Last year I got a phone call from a party who wanted all of the possible "Back Door" voice mail numbers, as if we were not showing all of them on our Back Door Voice Mail number list.  He mentioned a "bulk" use of these numbers.  I gave him nothing.  I realized he wanted to spam every number that was available through these Back Door numbers, and could easily do so with just the information on our web pages.  I found the method for this to happen and realized how it will go down. And go down it did.

Recently I was alerted that many of the remaining voice mail access numbers no longer offer the option, "To leave a message for another subscriber, enter their number." Fortunately, the function still works on some of the numbers regardless of the lack of the prompt. How long before the spammers cause the entire Back Door to close?


Many of these numbers were used for callers to contact a mobile customer who was roaming outside their home area...what an ancient concept. As a result, the wireless companies have been slowly retiring these numbers, with a few disappearing every few months. Then we would receive the wrath from those customers wanting to know why their number was published on our site.

This explains how spam messages appear in your voice mail box without hearing the phone ring. It's another technical function now used for evil instead of for good. We will keep the numbers posted until they have been reassigned.