Monday, March 31, 2008
Nextel of Mexico uses the same iDEN technology, but Mexico users like it for the strengths that Sprint seems to downplay in the US. "Direct Connect" works very well, even nationwide, and it attracts serious business users. Although we were not big fans of Nextel, mainly because of early audio limitations, we have a new respect for what they were here, and how much damage Sprint has done to the product. While Sprint may be a potential takeover candidate, we're hoping they'll just spin off Nextel and allow it to be all it can be.
It was experience in Mexico that caused us to dig deeper into how useful US-based Nextel phones can be in Mexico, and found that Sprint hasn't updated the Nextel roaming map in years. We have added positive comments about Nextel service on our Mexico Roaming Page, and Scott has posted their current Mexico Coverage Map in comparison to the other cellular carriers in Mexico. Viva El Nextel!
Friday, March 28, 2008
The story here isn’t which carrier is best in Mexico, it’s how to prevent problems like ours. It seems few Mexico cellular customer service agents know the procedure for “Pay per Call” (pagar para la llamada), and rarer still is an agent who can speak adequate English. Get to know your concierge, you might need their help. Our CS agent told us it would take 30 minutes to switch over to Pay per Call, when it can actually take as much as 24 hours! Sure enough, after 2 calls, our minutes were all gone. We now know to check our balance after our first call to see if the account is set up right. And this emphasizes the value of dealing with a stateside SIM supplier with English-speaking agents (at a higher cost, of course).
However, our negative surprises were offset by a positive surprise: our year-old SIM and its associated number were still active, we just needed to add a refill for more service, saving $23USD. This may be an isolated mistake, but it underscores the need to check and double check. Don’t assume. Oh, and keep your old SIM’s…you never know…
Monday, March 24, 2008
Such is not the case in resorts where there are only hotels and condos, and few, if any, other retailers. Sometimes it’s hard just to get enough time to break away from the family and buy local cellular service. The only nearby cellular retailer was at a kiosk in a large discount store about a mile away. But the little girl in the tight jeans would not sell just a SIM, she would only sell a phone, which, of course came with a network SIM.
Since she was asking over $60USD for the cheapest phone with service, we decided to pass and look for our $25USD SIM. The bus went the wrong way at the wrong time, so I was limited to a more expensive taxi ride which was $14 round trip. And the cellular store in the next town would only sell the SIM and $20 worth of time for $43, so the cost was now up to $57 plus my time, just short of what the little girl at the kiosk wanted. Sure, I could wait for when the whole family took the bus into town and find one of those retailers who would sell a SIM with minutes included. But should I?
I already knew Mexican cellular companies offered their prepaid phones and SIM's in US stores. But knowing I could get a good deal in Mexico, why pay the US store premium? Or, why purchase the SIM from one of several online dealers who would add the cost of shipping (why is it so much more than a .41 postage stamp?). The reason: convenience. While we try to be the champions of bargain-basement cellular buying, it’s all too easy to be penny wise and pound foolish. That little girl with the attitude at the kiosk was actually trying to save me money and time. Who knew?
Friday, March 21, 2008
On the positive side, it was encouraging to see US Cellular land several licenses in markets adjacent to their existing areas. This hints of some very thoughtful expansion. While they won't be going "national" with their new assignments, they will be able to expand out from their existing markets.
We haven't heard the final word on these assignments. We expect some horse trading between now and when the first new wireless assignments hit the airwaves, so let's hope our favorite small carriers get some space in the sandbox, too.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
At first blush we were saddened at the prospect that these new wireless channels will only make the big, bigger. But, in this case, being held by the 2 largest carriers means there will be a greater chance of construction of an actual new network, and less of a Nextwave-like owner who is long on ideas, but short on cash.
And all this new spectrum becomes available in less than one year, right after all our nice, old analog TV's go dark. Won't it be great to replace all those 19-inch TV screens with a nice, bright 2-inch screen? Now that's progress!
Friday, March 14, 2008
- AT&T, 65.7 Million
- Verizon Wireless, 63.7 Million
- Sprint/Nextel, 54 Million
- T-Mobile(US), 27.7 Million
- Alltel, 12 Million
- US Cellular, 6.1 Million
- Metro PCS, 3.6 Million
- Cricket (Leap Wireless), 2.9 Million
- Dobson, 1.5 Million
- Suncom, 1.1 Million
Who will move into the new Top 10? Centennial has a total of 1.1 million customers, but only 690,000 of them in the US. Unicel had potential, but soon should be gobbled up by Verizon Wireless. And will anyone snag Sprint? Pick your favorite small carrier and see what happens by the end of this month. Cincinnati Bell, anyone?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
So popular, we can't keep up with all the maps we have, some 5 years old, so we're turning over the maps to someone else. Scott will be taking over cellular map duty on his new web site, www.cellularmap.net. He copied all of the Mountain Wireless maps and started to add some new ones of his own, so it's all good. If you have bookmarks for our old pages, they will forward to the new site, so the transition should be seamless. Scott is planning for the new AWS (1700 MHz) and 700 MHz bands, which could be waaaay over our heads. We will focus on our reviews and cellular data. Hopefully, with cellularmap.net we can peek in the holes that Verizon and other carriers still leave unfilled on their coverage maps.
Of course, there is that segment of the population who checks coverage by turning on the phone: Signal? Good! No Signal? Turn the phone off! How crass can they be?
Friday, March 7, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Some OnStar users say the green light on their analog-only units went out some time ago (December 31st?) so there are no surprises now. A handful of people noted there is no AT&T service at their location, but I suspect they are TDMA users, not analog. A couple of Verizon Wireless users posted they are suddenly getting roaming charges where there were none before, but this may not be related. Calls to AT&T and Verizon, both top- and bottom-tier employees, report very few complaints.
So, 2 weeks after the analog and TDMA sunset, the problems seem to be few. And some problems are not necessarily related to a loss of signal. This transition will be ongoing since some carriers, like Alltel, will be turning off analog and TDMA in stages, and some not all. Many of these incidents will be hard to track since the complaint would be, "my phone doesn't work," and that may have many other causes. But I'm not tossing out my 'tri-mode' phones just yet.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
First, we added a current MNC (Mobile Number Code) List which evolves as GSM carriers come and go. And we have the MNC Priority List for AT&T which is found on active AT&T SIM's. We hope to add to the list, but let it not be said we aren't GSM-friendly.