Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Your Phone Without a Number

When flip phones gave way to Smart phones, we asked, "What's next?"  Now that the phone has become a 'device', the actual use of this unit is for data access and not so much as a 'telephone'. Making calls has fallen for many users to the point where voice calls and text messages are just another app, and no longer the primary use of the device.

This has led to cheaper,  'data-only' plans, and your phone number is no longer the domain of your wireless carrier.  I was hit with this reality while roaming in Europe where I only needed a SIM for data access, not a plan that enabled calls to the US or locally.  All you need is a data SIM.  You bypass the need for identification and you make whatever calls you want with an app...for free, and only if you don't lose any prepaid minutes.  This has been the basis for "Wi-fi Calling" but just as easy on any data-connected device.

In our case, we used Google Hangouts (and the Hangouts Dialer) for outgoing calls, and Google Voice and Hangouts for incoming calls.  If configured properly, your Google Voice number shows on Caller ID.  You know what, this sounds complicated.  But after you use it, you begin to realize this is revolutionary...and just as usable at home as it is for roaming.  At worse, your outgoing calls show a Caller ID of "unknown number", because your call has no number.  Because a number we no longer need.  Us cheapskates are cheering.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

911 Becomes Emergency Number in Mexico

For travelers considering a trip to Mexico, "911" is now the official number for all emergencies there.  This is a trend in several countries as they give in to the large number of users who consider "911" as the universal number for emergencies, regardless of where they are located.  Mexico made the decision to switch to "911" in 2016 after wandering all over the keypad with multiple 3-digit numbers for various services.  Now, "911" connects you to all Mexico emergency services: fire, ambulance, police, Red Cross and others.

For many years, most US phones operating in Mexico would automatically convert a call entered as "911" to the proper emergency number.  Even that was a moving target.  Now you press "911" from both wired and wireless phones.  The decison was among those made as a result of the the mass kidnapping and murders in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico on September 26, 2014.

We have added this tip to our Mexico Calling Procedures Page that you should consult before your next trip South of the Border.  As in the US, don't save "911" in your phone's address book.  It's the cause of the greatest number of erroneous 911 calls.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Wireless in a Test (Tube) Market

A sharp-eyed reader noted that the network in central Pennsylvania, formerly known as Immix Wireless, is now up and running as Limitless Mobile.  In checking further how this network can rise from the ashes we found that it may be a demonstration project for the larger, UK-based Limitless Mobile corporation.  In this case, local residents may benefit from a well-run network that does not necessarily depend on a certain number of customers to stay in business.  They may be using their facilities to show how they can supply other wireless companies services to keep their own operations running.

Limitless Mobile in a 'show and tell' position gives us hope for an oasis of good wireless operation and coverage.  If they mess up there, why would anyone use any of their other services?  And some of those services include home wireless internet which can be bundled nicely with their mobile wireless plans.  We bid the scientists in the wireless laboratory in Harrisburg a glass half-full.

Friday, November 4, 2016

ClearTalk Wireless Disappears in the East

Our specialty at the Mountain Wireless web site is reports and reviews of all the wireless carriers in the US, large and small.  In some cases, carriers that sell out or give up are fairly clear about what they're doing.  One network that has not been clear is ClearTalk.  They built networks in several areas of the US and then sold off some of the pieces to other companies, most notably, Sprint.  In this year's update we found ClearTalk no longer serves any markets in the eastern US which we had listed as in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Multiple calls have produced no updated information other than they still maintain networks in Texas, California and Arizona.  Their web site states they also have local coverage in Colorado and New Mexico, but agents tell us there are "no local stores there," implying they no longer maintain a network there, either.

While this is a very small piece of the wireless pie, we feel it's an indication of how a company that doesn't, or can't, serve their customers well, can expect their business to deteriorate.  We understand that some small carriers exist only until the owners find a buyer or that the electric bill runs higher than the money coming in.  So, when parts of a network just disappear, we're concerned about the viability of the other parts.  We hope ClearTalk's old properties went to a good home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Verizon Drops Cheaper Prepaid

We thought Verizon Wireless would consider the future of wireless as prepaid, but they have done exactly the opposite and dumped some of their lowest-priced Prepaid plans.  As reported in Prepaid Phone News, Verizon has dropped a few of their Prepaid plans, probably to keep from eroding their postpaid numbers.

Recently we reported that Verizon CFO Fran Shammo quoted, "quite honestly, we use the TracFone brand as our prepaid product." At that time we thought the world of monthly phone payments and cheaper prepaid plans would cause Verizon to change their minds.  Not so.  Instead, they're handing the low end of the market to alternative carriers who deal with a lower profit margin and then, in some cases, send a nice check to Verizon each month.

This may mean that with Verizon avoiding the lowest part of the prepaid market, we may all see a wider variety of prepaid plans that could lower our wireless cost.  What used to be a place to help you switch to Prepaid wireless, our Mountain Prepaid web site is now the source to help you select from the myriad of choices of Prepaid providers who offer service as good as the main carriers.