Monday, June 10, 2013

Same Home Phones - Minus Ma Bell

We noted the move of millions of households to all-wireless phones when we created The Unwired Home web site several years ago.  It was shortly thereafter that we moved Mom into assisted living and equipped her with a nice, simple wireless phone.  She said she appreciated the snazzy features that came with it, but she never overcame the idea that she thought she missed a bunch of calls from family when she was actually just looking at the old calls list.

My sister decided the technical questions were dominating the conversations, so she broke down and paid AT&T for a good old fashioned land line with Mom's old favorite desk phone with the oversize push buttons.  Mom didn't miss any of the cellular features and the topics returned to family and dinner and friends...and not the phone.

Then I discovered the joy of the Wireless Home Phone. It's a box offered by 3 of the top 4 carriers and some of the major Prepaids.  Mom still gets to use her Big Button phone, but the cord now goes to a box with an antenna, hidden elsewhere in the room.  Mom is none the wiser and all her calls are toll-free. She even figured out Call Waiting, and how to ignore it if she wants, too.

These new boxes are super easy to set up and save a lot of bucks if you are switching from a landline, plus you get all the features available with a normal cell phone.  This is big step in converting older family members to all-wireless.  They take it personally if they have to give up those kitchen and cordless phones they've invested in over the years.  And the learning curve is about zero unless they want to play with all those new, included features. Monthly fees range from $10 to $20 per month and the wireless "box" can be free with a contract or purchased without a contract for less than $100.  We also found a family who owns a vacation home that was remodeled and found the old phone wiring was dead (cut by careless contractor or sloppy homeowner).  Their new wireless box hidden in the closet brought all the wiring in the condo back to life...and for a lot less money.

We have a page just for these Wireless Home Phone Systems and now that Straight Talk and NET10 offer their own non-contract version of the device, we now have choices in what we think is a useful market.  I don't think I'll be caught walking around the house without my regular cell phone in my pocket, but Mom & Dad just might think it's the 'cat's pajamas'.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cellular vs. Wireless

Over the years we have been listening to wireless users, and wondered what words you relate to most in relation to these activities: Wireless, Cellular, Mobile or something else?  In most foreign countries users call their wireless phones a "Mobile".,,not 'mobile phone', just 'Mobile'.  Since we first named ourselves Mountain Wireless, we thought US customers preferred the term 'Wireless'. As a result, we tried to eventually switch any of our web site names from 'Cellular' to 'Wireless', in the hopes of being more relevant to our readers.

Among the largest carriers, Wireless was chosen by Verizon, Cricket, Clear, Alltel and C Spire. Cellular is still preferred by US Cellular. PCS was used formerly by Sprint and still by MetroPCS. Mobile is being used by T-Mobile, Boost, Virgin, and in a form, AT&T Mobility.  It looks like Cellular is now the least popular among companies that have a lot at risk.  Remember Cellular One or Cellular South?

Our view is that Cellular (and Mobile) refers to the type of service used by people using carriers that provide handsets meant to be used in motion, in and away from home.  Wireless infers something more generic that includes portable communications, wi-fi (which is "wireless fidelity"), and data transfer using non-wired devices. We call this thing in our hand a cell phone, not a mobile or even a wireless phone, but we don't perceive a difference between getting our service from T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless.

Most important to us as a web-based service, changing from one name to another has turned out to be a bad idea.  As an example, the web site you are reading right now lost more than half of its visitors when we changed from Cellular Noise to Wireless Noise. Should we change it back...or go mobile?  Old habits die hard, don't they?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sprint Coverage Changes

I tripped over a conversation among Sprint users across America's heartland and found that Sprint's Rural Alliance seemed to be falling apart.  The most detailed report we found was from an Oklahoma newspaper article that reported Sprint was changing its operating capabilities because so many of their customers were using expensive roaming data.

A few years ago we reported a similar situation across Wyoming and Montana where Sprint lost Alltel coverage areas as "native" Sprint service.  That meant Sprint customers were no longer allowed to use that coverage as their "home" network, and eventually, that CDMA coverage went away.  We were taken to task when we showed Sprint as missing that local coverage when a few users were disturbed to find it was no longer included in their regular bucket of minutes or data.

Now a similar change is occurring in rural Oklahoma and Kansas where once was "home' coverage is now roaming.  The good news is that service is still available although download speeds may be reduced and roaming charges (or penalties) may increase.  This affects a very small portion of Sprint customers, but if that's you, it could be a big deal.  It also shows more cracks in the armor of Sprint's on-network-only Unlimited plans that a few Sprint customers depend on.

"New" Sprint coverage in the Chicago to St. Louis area does not make up for these losses. Those territories gained from US Cellular only make the Sprint network a bit more robust in those areas.  The real issue here for users like us is that we still depend on a certain amount of roaming when we stray away from home, and it may cost more.