Monday, December 26, 2016

911 in Mexico Update

I know it's rough duty, but I'm sitting on the beach along the Baja Peninsula in Mexico testing wireless, and various flavors of tequila, available south of the border.  Use of 911 as the official number for all emergencies in Mexico was to have officially started October 3rd of 2016.  Rollout was to have occurred in 16 states across Mexico, not including Mexico City, and it may have.  From my perspective here in one of the "official" states, it's not an obvious change. There are still signs along roads, posted at police and highway facilities, even on ambulances, showing the previous emergency numbers, 074, 066, etc.  The multiplicity of numbers is part of reason for the change.

There have been memes and articles criticizing the change, which was originally scheduled to start on the first of 2016.  The 911 task force understands there are challenges to the implementation, not the least of which are the thousands of regular phone numbers that begin with "911..." which must be changed to reduce mis-directed calls.

Fortunately for the US tourist, the majority of US phones that roam in Mexico will automatically interpret a call to 911 as one looking for a local emergency number, and find it.  It should give us some comfort, especially since the incentive to choose a single national emergency number came after a tragic event that ocurred in Mexico in 2014.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Your Phone with MORE Numbers

It was just last week we commented that your wireless phone number has become a secondary consideration for your smart phone.  Today, T-Mobile announced they will take that idea one step further.  They will now allow you to ring your wireless phone with multiple numbers, even from other carriers, or enable your number to ring all of your devices.

While this isn't a complicated scheme, T-Mobile is doing it with normal calling channels, not as a work-around VoIP app.  This also could be compared to the multi-functional Google Voice features.  T-Mobile calls their new feature, "DIGITS" and it will be device-dependent, but they are incorporating it in a growing number of devices.  For now, you would be using DIGITS as a beta function, but the technology is not that experimental.

While the other wireless carriers can probably add this feature without too much difficulty, it's T-Mobile who has the courage to upset their own apple cart.  It makes us wonder why carriers haven't tried more of these creative features.  Can they be afraid of changing the status quo?  In the words of Mike Sievert, Chief Operating Officer of T-Mobile, “DIGITS is breakthrough technology that won’t be replicated any time soon.”  So, once again, not only is T-Mobile disrupting the status quo, they're throwing out a challenge to other carriers, 'catch us if you can.'

Friday, December 2, 2016

Contemplating a Move to Canada?

Up north wireless is different.  In Canada, there are only 3 national carriers, compared to 4 in the US.  Canada is an example of what would happen if we had only a "Top 3": high prices.  Canadian wireless users keep hoping that their federal government will issue spectrum and licenses to enable the existence of a 4th major carrier...which they have done...but a new national network has not been created.  It's too big of a project to build that much new wireless infrastructure.  So the crumbs tossed out by their government have been gobbled up mostly by existing players.

What has happened is the some of the smaller players that users had hoped to someday grow big and be competitive, have gone in different directions.  What was Mobilicity has been acquired by Rogers Wireless and absorbed into Chatr Mobile.  This is similar to T-Mobile taking over MetroPCS.  Chatr offers different price points and the same coverage as Rogers, but nobody's giving away the store.

The other change was the acquisition of Wind Mobile, Canada's last hope for wireless salvation.  They were purchased by one of Canada's major cable companies, Shaw Communications, and the name was changed to Freedom Mobile. Hopes were dashed when Freedom sold their licenses in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to local operators in those provinces.  This funded Freedom's upgrade of 4G-LTE coverage in other areas, but requires their customers to roam outside their home service area, which is still quite small, and some of which is limited to higher AWS frequencies.  Freedom does offer cheaper local plans and better deals for roaming into the US, but they can't offer the iPhone.  Freedom's moves don't seem to affect the top 3, so the game continues, and the prices remain higher than in the US. Lucky us. And it's why we can't let any of our top 4 carriers merge.