Friday, October 28, 2016

Coverage: People vs. Property

There have been tremendous claims of improved coverage for the #3 and #4 wireless carriers but what's the real story?  It's fairly accepted that Verizon and AT&T have coverage over a large part of the United States...maybe 95%..  Then, you have Sprint and T-Mobile who have coverage over a much smaller geographical area.  It could be less than 50%.

If we then introduce the "population covered" measurement, things change dramatically.  AT&T and Verizon probably cover closer to 98% of the population, where Sprint and T-Mobile cover a little less...let's just guess 93%.  Isn't that almost as good?  They're all within a 5% difference!  Remember, we not talking about reliability (you know, the "1% difference?")

Wait.  There's another measurement.  Coverage for where we travel.  Some of us may never leave town and some often fly over those vast areas of uncovered real estate.  Then there are those of us who wander just a little farther out of town and...out of coverage.  So we stop being the 90-somethings, and start being the 50-somethings.  T-Mobile has actually done something about their rural coverage gaps and continues to agressively acquire spectrum in the 700 MHz band.  They indeed cover a bigger per cent of America.  That's better than a bigger per cent of Americans.  Did you catch the nuance?

For some of us it seems silly to point out the difference.  But when you hear a carrier claim they cover "95% of Americans" out.  Those are the Americans who stay on the couch and munch potato chips.  The rest of us may tend to wander.

Friday, October 21, 2016

T-Mobile & AT&T Now Roam in Cuba

This week all 4 major US carriers now allow their customers to roam in Cuba.  With voice charges as high as $2/minute, it seems like a reversion to the old days of cellular roaming, but roaming in Cuba is a big deal.  Data roaming is an even bigger deal in that even wi-fi is not yet widely available.  When you do find wi-fi, some carriers, most notably T-Mobile, allow FREE calling to the US with Wi-fi Calling.  The trick is finding free wi-fi.

This is an unusual situation in that the CDMA carriers offered roaming before the GSM carriers in a GSM country.  We have an updated report on wireless roaming in Cuba at  There you will find options for calling both TO and FROM Cuba.  In some parts of the US readers are wondering 'what's the big deal?'  The closer you get to Florida, the bigger a deal this is, and someday we may travel to Cuba as readily as Canada or Mexico.  It's a short trip and a different world.  It's good to have our phones now work there.

For those of us who don't have the right plan or are using Prepaid, Mobal Wireless can provide a SIM we can drop in our phone that roams in Cuba.  Also, visitors returning from Cuba advise you use your phone discreetly in Cuba.  There is a certain amount of resentment toward visitors to Cuba showing their weath in a such a poor country.  Now let's hope technology can get the price down.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Choice Wireless Buys Innovative Mobile in USVI

It's a great Caribbean vacation destination, they use US dollars, speak English and your phone should roam there.  It's the US Virgin Islands.  Choice Wireless has been the middle carrier there but stands to get a whole lot better now that they have acquired the less-developed Innovative Mobile.  Overall coverage stands to improve with the combination of the 2 networks and Innovative also brings a collection of other communications features to the Choice family.

Choice is the retail arm of ATN International, the company that owns Commnet Wireless who specializes in wireless to smaller and less-developed places in North America.  Commnet has a relationship with all the major US carriers, so we expect wireless roaming to improve for both Island customers and roamers from the mainland.

The only hurtle we see is that Choice is CDMA and Innovative is GSM, so there won't be an overnight improvement after merging networks.  Choice (and Commnet) have often offered both technologies from their cell sites, so improvements may be much more transparent than other network conversions.  It may depend on who gets the most roaming traffic.  AT&T already provides good GSM coverage across the islands, so maybe CDMA will get the upper hand.  Either way, wireless coverage will get better and 4G will become more widely available, so pick one, and we'll take it.