Monday, October 20, 2014

Roaming Across Europe

Our recent vacation was, as usual, an investigation as to how our wireless phones work in foreign countries, and how to do it, cheaply.  We threw a dart at the globe and picked Italy and it turned out to get there required travel through a number of other European countries.  This requires a different mode of operation than using wireless in a single country.

I re-activated my T-Mobile Prepaid phone, primarily to make calls through their built-in Wi-Fi Calling app.  This is a nice feature that you can make and receive calls through your US T-Mobile number at your normal US Prepaid per-minute rate.  My regular phone, a Motorola, comes unlocked, but since it's not a T-Mobile branded phone, it doesn't have the Wi-Fi Calling app and you can't get it at Google Play.  All our incoming calls were Call Forwarded to the T-Mobile phone.

Once we landed in Italy, I bought a SIM ($26USD) from a Wind store near the train station (We know Wind, they offers service in Canada).  My phone needed to be re-configured manually (the APN) which they were happy to do at the store.  Their SIM worked well and we used it for local calls and broadband.   Right in town there was some 4G service, but more more reliably, 3G.  Once we left town, service was only at EDGE levels, which was totally usable for email and location-based apps, like maps.  It was faster than the Wi-Fi available on our Italo train.

After crossing into France, the Wind SIM worked for 24 hours with reminders to upgrade our service.  After that, we still had coverage through the T-Mobile Calling app and Wi-Fi.  The single-country  SIM would have worked if we hadn't left Italy, but since we covered 4 countries, we should have purchased a Universal Roaming SIM.  We saw these in airport magazine shops and Online.  We used what we learned to completely re-design our International Roaming Pages.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Li-Fi Goes Past Wi-Fi

Many of us sit and wonder, "What's next?" We don't try be a tech news source but this is so cool, and, we're guessing, a game-changer.  Li-Fi uses any  LED light in a room into a communications device, much like Wi-Fi, at line-of-sight frequencies.  I expect this to be installed in every wireless device within in a few years.  We're not good at predictions, and we're not investing in this thing...but what a great idea.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Smart Phone Rules

In this case, "Rules" is a verb. Much of wireless is concentrated on the Smart phone user and satisfying their needs...needs that were formerly just desires.  Last summer we reviewed how many of our visitors read our pages on small screens and decided we need to catch up.  As a result, our time has been spent re-designing all of our web sites, one by one, to make them more user-friendly to the small screen.  This means simpler pages and more compact information.  A total makeover may come later, but for now, look for easier to hit links for fingers both fat and thin.

With re-design comes updated information.  Many of the carriers that we formerly reported as independent, like MetroPCS and Cricket, are now part of the Prepaid soup which has moved to the Mountain Prepaid pages.   Also, 2014 has marked a record number of lost carriers, some that were purchased by larger carriers and some that just disappeared. This has forced us to review all of the carriers listed at Mountain Wireless more often to make sure others haven't thrown in the towel.  In most cases, a local phone company or co-op has just gone out of the wireless business and ultimately very few customers are affected.

Among our most active inquiries, MetroPCS and Straight Talk have been our most highly-searched topics indicating to us that a large number of people are looking at these two carriers for more economical wireless services.  Surprisingly, Cricket is not among those hot topics and is now a cheap way to join AT&T.  As AT&T GoPhone becomes more mainstream we're surprised more users don't forgo a few roaming agreements for the cheaper Cricket plans.  We think it's a trend that just hasn't started yet.