Saturday, June 17, 2017

We Won't Talk About Sprint's Free Plans

Sprint has sort-of announced they will offer a certain number of Unlimited lines for FREE.  Instead of spending a bunch of money advertising this rather generous promotion, they're hoping its ridiculous nature will get people with blogs and news web sites to talk about it and help it go viral.  Well that ain't gonna happen here.

Sprint does need to do something to get noticed and Free is always a good gimmick.  There are some limitations to these Unlimiteds, but it's worth looking into.  Make your decision before the end of the month before Sprint comes up with another outlandish proposal.  Be careful, sometimes FREE isn't cheap enough, but don't miss an opportunity that looks too good to be true.

Fortunately, we won't be suckered into talking about these Free plans.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dish Wireless: The Invisible Network

Dish does not operate a wireless network of their own but they possess one of the largest assignments of wireless spectrum.  They have notified the FCC of plans that include the date of a required buildout and what type of network they will construct.  Their notification indicates they will construct a nationwide network to serve the IoT (Internet of Things) market that they project will grow from 17 Billion devices currently to over 75 Billion devices within the next 8 years.  This has the potential of being a network that most of us will use, but won't have the opportunity, or the need, to sign up for.  This Dish Wireless network may be connected to all our new wireless gadgets that could include our autonomous cars or, the Next Big Thing.

Of course this could all be smoke and mirrors.  Most likely, the existing cellular networks will have the capacity to connect all the IoT devices.  Critics say Dish is just buying time until someone comes to the table and buys all their spectrum.  We hope they do build a new network, even if we never know when we're using it, but we fear we'll lose one of our current major carriers before they can get a new one built.  We'll share updates as we find them here at the Wireless Noise.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Do They Have Their Own Network?

We already know about the carriers that use "The same network at half the price," but we discovered a few small networks that sold their network and didn't tell you.  This isn't some devious plan to fool us, it's just another question you have to ask when you sign up with one of our favored local carriers.  I now ask, "Do you have your own network?"  The answer should be something like, "Sure, we have 56 cell sites," or the like, and you move on from there.

In most cases, when one of these small carriers decides to discontinue service, they just disappear and the "wireless department" is let go.  In a growing number of others, the wireless people in the office are still there and still sell phones and plans, but the network has been turned over to someone else.  These carriers become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator or "MVNO" and, unless you ask, will continue to present themselves as the "local" carrier.

In some cases this is just fine.  We like MVNO's and they often come up with better prices.  A few don't.  Some of these carriers keep the local Customer Service staff and may be more responsive to local customers than the national carriers using far-away service agents.  So it's not a bad thing.  When we discover a network that has turned over their physical network to somebody else, we delete them from the Mountain Wireless Carrier Reviews and add them to the "Same Network, Different Carrier" List.  Just don't be afraid to ask, "Do you have your own network."  We ask on a regular basis.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Wireless with Bravado in Oklahoma

"Bravado" is defined as a swaggering display of courage.  Courage in wireless is required to keep your small carrier competitive, and Bravado Wireless is the new name for Oklahoma's former Sprocket Wireless.  It's great to see a small carrier continue to provide wireless service to their community and a name change confirms that they're committing to the future.  Bravado is part of the Cross Telephone Company who also operates Cross Wireless a few miles down the road.

For some reason, Oklahoma has quite an assortment of independent wireless carriers in a state where Verizon Wireless is not dominant and US Cellular serves one of their largest gaggles of customers.  As a result. we maintain a separate Oklahoma page among the Mountain Wireless Reviews.  Bravado is involved in their community and we applaud their new direction.  The "gear" theme of Sprocket was cool but a name change catches our attention and locals should stand behind them.  Hey, why not change the name of Cross Wireless to Bravado as well?  Too much?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

US Cellular Perks Up Prepaid

A month ago we criticized US Cellular for having lousy Prepaid plans which, in turn, gave their current customers no place to go if they wanted to get a better wireless value.  Well, a few days later Randy and Deanna emailed me to share their new Prepaid plans!  While they aren't the cheapest, they're very good on a very good network.  First, their plan for your Prepaid "Basic" Phone starts at $25/month.  Next, their new Prepaid smartphone plans start at $35/month!  They also have a Prepaid "Unlimited" Data plan for $70/month, that automatically shifts to 2GB speeds when the line reaches 22GB.

                             RELATED: US Cellular Unleashes Unlimited

We are reminded that a "switch" from somewhere else is implied (does that mean current US Cellular customers can't get this plan?), a New Simple Connect Plan is required, additional restrictions apply, and "while supplies last."  Maybe the lawyers asked them to include all that, but what "supplies" will not last?  Plans? Refills? If they want us to get off the fence they just need to say "available for a limited time," but that may not be the case.  We hope it's not...because we need US Cellular to stay in the hunt.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fix Your Smartphone

I had to fix mine, maybe you do, too.

Fix #1: Delete Old Texts, Call Logs & Emails:
This should be done on a regular basis, not just if you're having problems..

Fix #2: Clear the Phone's App Cache
Remove excess non-essential information that may be slowing down your phone by clearing the phone's app cache. To do this, go to:

  • Settings
  • Applications
  • All
  • Select Apps
  • Clear Cache
Fix #3: Check Your Phone's Memory Card
Your phone may have too small of a memory card.  You may be able to replace it with a larger card, some phones can handle cards up to 32GB. Then, make sure all apps that can be saved to a memory card are saved to the card rather than to your phone.

Fix #4: Delete Old Apps You are No Longer Using
Many apps are using resources even when you're not using them.

Fix #5: Turn Off Your Phone Occasionally
Turn off your phone (and then turn it back on) at least once a week, once every other day would be better, every day isn't too often. Like computers, a smartphone operates better after it has been rebooted. This is especially true if you're entering/exiting your home coverage area.  Data services perform much better after a restart! From time to time it would make sense to pull the battery out, if you can.  This totally resets the system and memory without losing any data.

Fix #6: Don't Keep You Phone in the Fridge
Seriously, phones don't like temperature extremes. Don't leave your phone sitting in a hot or cold car for a long period of time. The change in temperature and humidity when bringing it back into a heated or air conditioned building can create condensation that can cause corrosion and other problems that may damage your phone's internal parts.

Fix #7: Get Better Versions of Your Most-Used Apps
Consider buying the paid version of these apps. The free versions can make your phone slower & battery drain faster due to ads that are constantly downloading and tracking software that may running continuously.

Fix #8: Up Your Apps
Make sure the apps in your phone were created by a reputable developer and have a good rating in the store for your device. Remove any that don't. You may have an app that could be hurting your phone's performance & compromising your security. Avoid using an app with less than a 3 star rating. Also, if you notice a sudden decrease in performance, delete the most recently-downloaded apps.  One of them may be causing an  issue.

Fix #9: Use a Task Killer
You can manually turn off apps, learn how to do it in your phone.  You can also use an Advanced Task Killer app.  Make sure it is properly downloaded and set up correctly. This will kill apps running in the background, improving performance.

Fix #10: Read the Manual
Yes, this may the most painful step to take, but your phone's manual could address issues you may be having and how to prevent other problems.  Manuals can be downloaded online.

Fix #11: If You Still Have Problems, Start Over
If you’ve tried these steps and your smartphone is still acting up, you can do a factory reset. This will clear the phone’s information and switch it back to the original factory settings.  Careful, this will wipe your phone clean of everything you added.  There are online resources to back up your phone directory and critical data before taking this drastic step.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Viya Covers USVI on Combined Networks

Last fall we reported on Choice Wireless of US Virgin Islands acquiring Innovative Mobile.  That looks like a pretty good idea.  Then they changed the name of the combined network to Viya Mobile.  That's looks a pretty good idea, too.

The Caribbean isn't quite as exciting as the mainland markets, but with Choice Wireless expanding by acquisition, it's great to see small carriers getting together in the fight for survival.  This also means visitors to the islands should also have better service.  Viva la Viya!

Monday, May 8, 2017

We Had to Give Back Your States

With so many pages among the Mountain Wireless Cellular Networks (well over 500) we cut back our state review pages because fewer people cared, or seemed to, on such locally-based information.  Then we got a sudden demand for the old pages and found that nobody wanted the new "compact" reviews.

Once upon a time we had a web page dedicated to each state and the cellular carriers that operate in them.  As the carriers consolidated, each state's page began to look like the others.  So we consolidated the state reports into one set of pages, and the actual carrier reports to another.  Suddenly we had readers looking for the entire rundown in their state (or a state where they would be traveling),  not just some generic list.  Our reviews provide some of the only details available for the smallest carriers in the US and it turned out to be a resource still in demand.

I had Scott look in his files for the old reviews but most of them had to be reconstructed.  Some states (like Hawaii) have absolutely no interest, but others, like the Virginias, have quite a bit.  With continuing wireless consolidation, we expect there will be more states looking like Hawaii, but for a couple dozen others they keep on we'll keep reviewing.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

T-Mobile Has 5G for All of Us

Up until now, the majority of wireless thinkers thought 5G would be implemented on very high frequencies over very short distances.  Now T-Mobile says they'll be supplying 5G for mobile users on their lowest frequencies, over long distances.  A few years ago we would have responded with skepticism but T-Mobile has followed through on so many outrageous ideas, how can we poo poo this one?

Verizon announced last week that they will supply 5G through a fiber backbone to multiple customers accessing the last mile on 5G wireless.  It made sense last week.  Now it seems a bit short-sighted if T-Mobile can supply 5G to all of us wherever we want.  This is a lot of bandwidth on not a lot of spectrum, but the seed is planted, so let's see what sprouts.