Monday, December 11, 2017

Sprint Tells About New Cells

Last month we noted that Sprint's CEO Marcelo Claure mentioned that they would focus less on small cells and more on full-size or "macro" cells.  We had hoped that would mean new coverage in rural areas and places where Sprint had lost roaming coverage through now-lost partners.

Last week on UBS Global Media and Communications Brokers Conference Call, Tarek Robbiati, Sprint CFO indicated they would "tri-band" their cell sites, and, "we are going to add a few new towers because our network footprint is probably in need of an expansion in some specific neighborhoods where we feel we are a little bit short. So we are going to roll out new towers, a few thousand towers, to get back in line with neighborhood expansion." Neighborhood expansion? That does not sound like new coverage in Casper, Wyoming. It sounds like new coverage in that part of San Francisco where they could use a few more bars in a few more bars...or homes.

Since he also said, "a few thousand towers", maybe they will be in some in new areas.  Could we (or, even more, Sprint) hope for Euro-style Free-Range Roaming?  Or can we ignore that "1% difference?"

Friday, December 8, 2017

Free Roaming Where There Once Was None

Traveling outside the US and taking notes for our Z-Roam World Wide Wireless Roaming Page, I confirmed a welcome change in roaming across Europe.  Buying a SIM in one European country now allows roaming in almost every other European country at the same rate!  Unless you have included foreign roaming on your US-based phone, the most economical method for foreign roaming is to buy a local SIM for your unlocked GSM phone upon arrival in your visited country.  We have not paid more than the equivalent of $25 US for a SIM in a European country, and now we only need one SIM. 

Keep in mind a local SIM normally downloads at 4G LTE speeds.  Some US phones access foreign networks at 2G speeds.  It also depends on the band capabilities of your phone.

Before this summer, there was an unwelcome greeting on your screen as you cross from one country to another, "Welcome to Italy!  Roaming is available at the rate of 1 arm and 1 leg."  Now when you cross the border the same rate pops up that you saw in your arrival country.  Ahhh, that's the way it's supposed to be.  This was a change initiated last summer under the direction of the European Union. 

Related Post: Roaming on the Train.

Does that mean the UK will not adhere to this requirement after Brexit?  We still have our backup method for Global roaming by purchasing a roaming SIM before leaving the US.  Do that and you'll avoid literally running around the airport or train station looking for the right local SIM.  I do that to get some exercise after getting off the plane.

As I mentioned a few days earlier, this is all about roaming Data.  The welcoming text message also  told me I have 3,000 minutes of Talk or Text which I haven't used, yet.  Talk?  What's that?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Roaming on Trains in Europe

This is the 2nd report on roaming in Europe.  Results of each trip helps determine the best way to roam outside the US for our Z-Roam web site.  Delightfully, Wi-Fi works on all London Underground subways, all Paris Metro lines and on the London to Paris Chunnel (Channel Tunnel) train.  This sorta makes cellular roaming unnecessary, and it's fortunate that Wi-Fi was there.  Either rural England has poor cellular service along the tracks or we chose the wrong SIM.  Judging from how good cellular service was on the bus to StoneHenge, I lean toward the choice of SIM.  Last year we chose the "Libara" re-seller and this year we chose "3".  Libara was better, using the  Vodaphone network.  Fortunately, Wi-Fi on all the trains kept the difference from being a problem.  Yes, even in the tunnel.

Related post: SIM Shopping in Europe

Also fortunate is the choice to use the Google Hangouts Dialer for calls to and from the US so that we could use the more widely available Data connections and not need the traditional voice network.  We also noticed that 4G LTE is not as available in rural areas, but 3G, or more accurately HSPA, was good enough.

What I did not expect was the utter silence in the Chunnel train.  Not one person talking to another, no laughter, not even an overly-loud phone conversation.  This was disturbing.  I expected a party car, especially since a couple of train cars away was a bar, and people were only slightly more talkative there.  I can only guess that the availability of Wi-Fi modified the structure of social interaction.  I hope the messages weren't, "Guess where I am!"  Would cat videos be better?

Coming up, the biggest roaming surprise.

Monday, December 4, 2017

SIM Shopping in Europe

In researching wireless roaming outside the US for our new Z-ROAM Worldwide Wireless Roaming site, we set off on a short European vacation.  Airports are great places to go SIM shopping.  We arrived at London's Heathrow and after looking for the nearest bathroom, we looked for the nearest European SIM.  The first SIM sighting was at an airport convenience store (we call them news stands).  They had SIM's at a reasonable price, but we were told their self-checkout scanners were not capable of activating a purchased SIM.  Huh?  If I can't buy it, can I just take it?  No?  Let's move on.

The second store we visited was a real SIM store but their SIM's started at 30 pounds (about $40 US).  That's waaaay too much for our quick in & out test.  We then found a SIM vending machine with prices starting at 20 Pounds (about $27 US), a better deal.  I stuck in my credit card and an arm comes out and pushes the SIM card package out onto a shelf which would hopefully deliver the SIM through a slot.  WHOA! The arm accidentally knocks off 2 cards and the whole machine shuts down.  So much for robots replacing humans.

By now the family is anxious to get on the train to town so my SIM transaction will have to wait.  The phone won't work on the London Underground anyway...because it's underground, right?  At the other end of the trip, there were a few stores in the train station that sold SIM's, but the ones with real cashiers weren't the ones with SIM's.  Logic?  My foreign SIM purchase had been thwarted in several tries.

Now headed for our hotel, we passed one of those little open air kiosks attended by a nice bearded gentleman who had candy, drinks...and SIM's!  He understood I only needed Data access, so he sold me a SIM with a 1Gb fillup for only 15 Pounds (about $20 US).  Success!  The biggest problem is what do your with your home wireless provider's nano-SIM?  Egad, it's so small, it won't even stay in your wallet.  Solution:  use the Ziploc bag you keep your liquids in, seal it up in your carry-on and hope for the best.

Hooray, connected to 4G LTE, our next step is to see how this service works through the Chunnel. Uh, that and the London subway are underground, right?  Gulp.