Friday, August 18, 2017

Better Wireless Coverage for the Eclipse

Here is a full list of the towns the four major carriers will be boosting coverage either through network upgrades or through adding mobile cell sites:
AT&T
Madras, Oregon
Mitchell, Oregon
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Glendo Reservoir, Wyoming
Carbondale, Illinois
Columbia, Missouri
Owensville, Missouri
Washington, Missouri
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Beatrice, Nebraska
Verizon
Madras, Oregon
Bend, Oregon
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Sprint
Rexburg, Idaho
Silverton, Oregon
Madras, Oregon
Brownsville, Oregon
T-Mobile (key markets)
Madras, Oregon
Snake River Valley, Idaho
Carbondale, Illinois
Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Keep in mind, in the event of an emergency, Text Messaging is the most reliable form of communication.

Originally we were headed to Glendo, WY, but now that the word is out, we will be at an undisclosed location somewhere east of there...or west of there.  We will not be using any Interstate highways and instead of phones we will communicate by ham radio.  We're anticipating that the warnings about impassable roads, throngs of people and scarce supplies will cause everyone else to stay home and watch the eclipse on their phones (or TV?) instead.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

T-Mobile Toots Their Horn, But We Can't Hear It...Yet

T-Mobile has already started to use their newly-assigned 600 MHz spectrum:

"BELLEVUE, Wash.-- Damn that was fast. T-Mobile today announced it has begun lighting up its new 600 MHz LTE network — leveraging the massive haul of super-premium low-band spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year. The announcement comes only two months after the Un-carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC. T-Mobile’s first 600 MHz LTE network sites — the very first in the world — were just switched on in Cheyenne, Wyoming using Nokia equipment. Starting in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is clear of broadcasting today, T-Mobile plans to deploy the new super-spectrum at record-shattering pace — compressing what would normally be a two-year process from auction to consumer availability into a short six months.


"T-Mobile today also shared additional details of its 600 MHz LTE network rollout. This year alone, additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations including Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington. Those deployments and other network upgrades will help the Un-carrier increase total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million by year’s end."

What's the catch?  There are no 600 MHz-capable handsets available...yet.  There will be, probably by the end of the year.  This is indeed an aggressive expansion and could be a game changer within a very short time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

T-Mobile Respects Their Elders

As we watched the numbers of our Cellular Seniors web site, our site that specializes in senior wireless plans and phones, decline, we noted that today's "senior" has already been using cell phones for years.  They don't need someone to cater to their 'special' wireless needs...unless the carriers show up with a usable deal.  T-Mobile has come up with that deal, one that seniors can actually use.

T-Mobile's latest press release pokes fun at the competition who offer, "dumbed-down ‘senior’ plans with exactly zero data and — get this — night and weekend minutes!"  We pretty much wrote off these plans years ago and instead put a focus on how to get the lowest-cost service that a senior could receive some benefit.  T-Mobile's new "ONE Unlimited 55+" plan does the same thing.  Give those of us who don't actually live on our cell phone a plan we can actually use.

Here's what you get with this plan, just for not being a millennial:


With T-Mobile ONE Unlimited 55+, it’s just $50 for the first line of T-Mobile ONE and $10 for your second line with unlimited everything after $5 per line Autopay discount. Taxes & fees included.


T-Mobile ONE 55+ includes these other benefits at no extra cost:

  • Simple Global: unlimited text and data roaming and low flat-rate calling in 140+ countries and destinations
  • Gogo Inflight: get unlimited texting all flight long and 1 free hour of smartphone Wi-Fi on all Gogo-equipped domestic flights
  • DIGITS: use your T-Mobile number on compatible phones, tablets and PCs, and use multiple numbers on one device
  • Mobile Hotspot: connect all your devices to the Internet with included tethering data
  • Un-Contract: only you have the power to change the price you pay
  • T-Mobile Tuesdays: get thanked with free stuff every week just for being a customer

55 is fairly young for a age-based discount.  We won't tell you to take the deal, but it's worth putting on our reading glasses and look at it!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

GoPhone Becomes AT&T Prepaid

Goodbye GoPhone. This means we'll need to review new AT&T offers and promotions, and there will be some, and it looks like the GoPhone name will disappear and you'll wonder what happened to it.  For now, it looks like AT&T Prepaid will be about the same product, but it also looks like AT&T will be competing a bit more aggressively against other prepaid products, including their own Cricket brand.


We'll alert you if AT&T Prepaid offers some really hot discounts, but we are not permitted to do that directly here on the Wireless Noise news page, so we'll post them among our Daily Wireless Deals and on our Mountain Prepaid site.  Welcome to the next phase of prepaid.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Xfinity Finally Responds

Yesterday we tried to raise some dust by claiming that Xfinity Mobile does not give you Free data access when using their own Xfinity Wi-Fi network.  Our objective wasn't to condemn Xfinity Mobile, it was to expose how poorly the Terms of Service are written and how unprepared they are to respond to new customers.  Today, 3 days after our first inquiry, we received a response that all data access is indeed Free on Xfinity Wi-Fi, and all Talk and Text (in the US) is indeed unlimited.

There are a few weak spots in the Xfinity product such as not being able to bring your own phone (common among "Wi-Fi first" carriers), and the lack of "Wi-Fi Calling".  That means that when using your Xfinity phone outside the US you can only make calls through the local foreign roaming network, not broadband and not Wi-Fi.  The real possibilites remain to be seen in the hands of actual users.


To Xfinity's benefit, the response to their new mobile product has been heavy and that means people like what they see, possibly with some value given to the fact that you must belong to the Xfinity "Club" before you can sign up for Xfinity Mobile.  Also, we have found there are some "public" Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots which make their own network somewhat more available, but a trip to the park usually puts you back on the Verizon Cellular network.  Comcast gets credit for trying something new and we'll watch how this shakes out.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Xfinity Mobile: What's Missing?

We have reviewed each page of their web site, read all the disclosures and added up their plans.  We just don't see how Xfinity Mobile can save us money.  The terms say nothing about free Wi-Fi, therefore, you should be charged whether or not your phone is using Wi-Fi or the Verizon Wireless network.  Since you must be a Xfinity Internet customer, you are already being charged for Data.  If you were not an Xfinity Mobile customer, and using any other cellular carrier (or an inactive smartphone), your Wi-Fi data would be Free...right?

Let's say we're wrong about that.  Let's also consider that you can't bring your own phone, you can be "throttled" (after 20GB) on Wi-Fi and all voice calls are completed on Verizon Wireless. What's the point?  We weren't going to give Xfinity Mobile a Mountain Wireless Rating until it had been field tested by fellow users.  Other "Wi-Fi first" services aren't as reliable as cellular-first carriers, but we thought we'd give Xfinity the benefit of the doubt.


If what we read is true (and we'll allow that someone made a big mistake when writing the rules), we're hard pressed to even give them a "2" rating, the second lowest.  Xfinity Mobile charges $65 for their Unlimited plan ($45 promotional price during July).  But if I spent $45 for Straight Talk Wireless, I would get access to "Unlimited" Data (throttled after 8GB) on the Verizon Wireless network, be able to bring my own phone and use my Xfinity Wi-Fi for FREE.  What's missing?  A clue: One of their web pages says, "With access to 16 million XFINITY WiFi hotspots, you can do what you love on your phone without adding to your 4G LTE data usage."  Does this mean Wi-Fi is Free?  No.  We'd ask but Customer Service is closed right now.

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.