Thursday, March 26, 2015

GoPhone Goes Awry

As wireless customers just like you, we get to encounter various levels of customer service. I deal more with wireless resellers (MVNO's) who do a good job handling customers online. Recently, I tried to activate an AT&T GoPhone SIM for short-time use which normally involves just assigning a phone number and plan to a SIM.  Easy, right?

We normally head to the nearest AT&T store where they can set up a new GoPhone SIM, plan and number within minutes.  Lately, the AT&T store has been too busy.  Business is good, and that's OK. An agent threw me a new SIM and told me to activate it online...unless I wanted to wait. Fair enough.

However, I could find no way to activate a plain AT&T SIM online.  If I could get far enough to choose a plan, there is no option for the "10 Cents a Minute" plan (because I have a Smart phone?). Failing that, I am directed to call a certain phone number to activate a GoPhone SIM. That person there could not do what I wanted...the computer wouldn't let her.  Why not?

She eventually transferred me to "customer service". The person I spoke with there had a heavy foreign accent but knew exactly what to do and asked for no more than my ZIP Code, SIM number and desired plan.  Done!  I was able to add my own Discount Refill and life was back to normal.

GoPhone is good but I can see why the Prepaid re-sellers can make inroads on the major carriers.  For the MVNO's, Prepaid is their main business.  For AT&T, and possibly others, Prepaid still gets second class status...unless you connect with the right department, by choice or by accident.  Or, how about online?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The PTCI Network Upgrades

It's always great to see one of the smallest networks make a significant upgrade to their network.  Recently, PTCI wireless, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, decided not only to upgrade to 4G, they also took the bold step to switch the entire network to GSM.  They now claim a roaming relationship with AT&T that will serve their customers better than before, and we agree.

So far this year there have been few network shutdowns.  There are several carriers who are barely holding on so we expect this to be a temporary situation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


For the last few months we have been encouraged to make all of our web sites more "mobile-friendly."  We have spent hours doing just that and have not been adding any blog posts.  Most of the big news has been available elsewhere but there have been a few stories among large and small carriers worth noting.

So far, our biggest story is AT&T's entry into Mexico.  After purchasing 2 wireless networks there, what will happen next?  AT&T has already said they will upgrade coverage to 4G LTE.  What else?  TelCel will probably shrink, either their network or their customer base, which is required by Mexican law.

The next step is less clear.  Will AT&T start using a new name, or perhaps just...AT&T?  Will across-the-border wireless roaming become transparent? Will T-Mobile need to find a way to charge less than their $1.79 per minute roaming charges (.20 per minute on some plans)?  And what happens to Verizon and Sprint CDMA roamers?  AT&T already owns the only CDMA network in Mexico (Iusacel).  Why keep it running?  Fortunately, the future is mostly 4G, so many newer phones will just need a SIM compatible with the new AT&T Mexican network.  And how about Data roaming?

We need to have some competition from other US carriers just so AT&T will be encouraged to create the kind of beneficial deals they will be capable of providing.  Also, keep watching Cricket Wireless who will be using their Mexico advantages in the prepaid arena.  This is almost a daily project for our Mexico Cellular web site.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Total Wireless Competition

There is now quite a bit of wireless competition at the $35 level but it has been mostly for people using GSM phones.  For users with CDMA phones, mostly from Verizon Wireless, there has been just one easy choice...Page Plus.  Now there is another: Total Wireless.  Total is being offered by the company that owns Page Plus, America Movil, so, yes, they are competing against themselves.

The Total Wireless product was created to be sold at Walmart, but savvy visitors here know it is also available online, just like Straight Talk, also a Walmart/America Movil product.  Just like Straight Talk, you get Unlimited Talk & Text and up to 2.5 Gb of data for 30 days, but unlike Straight Talk, it only costs $35, plus tax.

This seems to be a method of Walmart and America Movil to compete at this price level without affecting Straight Talk and other existing customers who will remain at the $45 level for (almost) the same product.  "Almost" means Total Wireless is limited to 3G which Verizon probably supplies at a good wholesale price as they shift their own customers to 4G channels.  Keep in mind all America Movil products also add sales tax which is not added by some competitors.  Cricket Wireless is one $35 competitor that not only doesn't add tax, but also provides 4G coverage.

We have talked about Walmart as being a real wireless player before, and now you can play 'find the cheapest plan' at your nearest Wally World, or even online.