Thursday, July 18, 2013

Page Plus Makes Big Improvements

Page Plus Cellular has been one our favorite MVNO's but suffered from poor customer service.  Recently we were updating our Prepaid Pages and gave Page Plus a whole new look.  We were pleasantly surprised.

The turning point was their new Talk 'n Text 1200 plan.  Now, for only $29.95 you get 1200 minutes of Talk, 3000 Texts and 500 Mb of Data.  This is very generous, but the advantages don't stop there.  There are so many improvements, we only have room for a list:

  • The $29.95 Talk 'n Text 1200 Plan includes more features than most users will ever need.
  • Page Plus will activate almost any CDMA phone, including a Verizon Wireless iPhone.
  • Customer Service has improved greatly often with agents answering within a few minutes.
  • Auto-Refill recharges your account on the same date each month, not every 30 days like some prepaids.  If nothing else, this make accounting easier.
  • Page Plus phones will roam off the Home network which is normally Verizon Wireless.  Other MVNO's, like Straight Talk, do not allow their CDMA phones to roam at all.  Page Plus charges a modest roaming fee, and you need to have some cash in your account, but your phone will work should you travel away from your Home network.
  • Refills are widely available at retail or Online at a Discount.
There are additional features that are consumer-friendly and the company has agreed to be purchased by America Movil, the parent of TracFone.  So far Amerca Movil has kept each of the prepaid companies they have acquired intact, so we expect Page Plus to remain a highly recommended prepaid alternative. We have raised our Prepaid Rating of Page Plus from 2 Stars to 3, and we might need to expand the scale to show how dramatic their advantages are.

Friday, July 12, 2013

AT&T Catches the Cricket

We knew this domino would fall soon, we just weren't sure where.  Now that AT&T has agreed to buy Leap Wireless the parent of Cricket Wireless, we now know we'll have 4 big wireless carriers and now we know how they will be composed.  It's always sad to see another carrier disappear, but this is where we're headed.  We're just lucky that it looks like we'll have a Big 4 instead of a Big 2.

The Cricket name will live on, and just like MetroPCS, it will remain a brand using a different  network with much better capabilities and much better coverage.  This may also be an attempt by AT&T to face the future of no contracts and prepaid plans.  If Cricket's customers grow faster than AT&T, the money still goes into the same pot.  We also get a bit more broadband capacity among the Big survivors.

We'll watch the Cricket evolution, but it should mirror that of MetroPCS: switching phones from CDMA to GSM and broadening the names to be better nationwide competitors.

We had hopes that Cricket and MetroPCS would wind up together to make a passable 5th competitor, but, alas, that dream was not meant to be.  Now what becomes of the new number 5 through 10 network? Counting them down is what we do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Land Line Dinosaur

In our last posting we noted the availability of equipment directly from wireless carriers that replace your wireline with a wireless box.  Recently, Verizon, the landline operator, decided they will not replace the damaged copper wire lines in parts of New York and New Jersey that were damaged by (hurricane) Sandy.  Instead, they will use Verizon Wireless Voice Link.  Their studies showed 80 to 90% of phone traffic in those areas were already exclusively wireless.  In a guest column from Stop the Cap, Tom Maguire, Verizon’s Senior Vice President of Network Operations Support stated,
"In places like Fire Island, New York and some communities along the Jersey Shore, such as Mantoloking and Seaside Heights, Verizon evaluated the extent of the damage to its facilities – which in many cases were literally washed away by Super Storm Sandy – and conducted extensive research before deciding the best course of action to take in terms of restoration.

Fire Island is a popular beach community with only a few hundred year-round residents, but the population swells each summer. Verizon’s equipment on the eastern side of the island was not too heavily impacted, so repairs were made and services restored. On the western side of the Island, however, a large percentage of Verizon’s copper facilities were damaged beyond repair.
We studied the voice traffic on and off the island and where it was originating from on both Verizon’s wireline and wireless networks.  The company discovered that 80 percent of the voice traffic was already wireless.  If other wireless providers were factored in, it is likely that the percentage is closer to 90 percent.  This made it clear that people had already made the decision as to what technology works best. They had abandoned copper long before Sandy."
This is similar to incidents in the West where phone poles and wires were damaged by floods and wildfires and were replaced by RF microwave links.  At the time, customers and lawmakers feared losing the reliability of copper wire but after years of usage with these wireless connections, those fears have been largely unfounded.

It looks like when our copper networks begin to deteriorate, wireless may be the only replacement, especially when many of us have already substituted that pair of wires with cable from the cable company.  While it's scary that in some places the same company owns all 3 connections, it looks like the future is indeed wireless.