Friday, November 1, 2019

New Wireless Web Sites

Here it is the first of November.  We haven't posted any snippy comments for too long.  The time has been consumed by adding a few new wireless-themed web sites.  My vote was to reduce the number of sites but there were a few members who wanted to add new ones, primarily to upgrade some of the old sites.  Of course, when one area gets updated, another area gets postponed.

Let's start with what's new:

  • OZ WIRELESS:  I grabbed the name for another place to comment about wireless topics, but one of the crew said it would be a great place to report on the absolute cheapest wireless plans available.  So now, "OZ Knowz" how to get the cheapest deals in wireless, with or without your existing phone.
  • MOUNTAIN 5G: The crew thought we needed a place to maintain updates of the progress of 5G Wireless.  There have been a few visitors, but we expect 5G to be nothing more than a novelty until the 5G iPhone is released.  Even though it's not the first 5G phone, it should be the game-changer.  Our estimate is that it will be demonstrated next summer and sold after their September annoucement date.
  • WORLDWIDE WIRELESS ROAMING: This is an update of the ROAMING ZONE web site which is mostly used by people looking for roaming codes such as MNC, SID and the old PRL's.  The new site is focused on people who want to use wireless devices in foreign countries.  This is data collected by a handful of worldwide travelers and my own family.  I am often surprised how well our ideas work out.  However, you can learn from our mistakes.
  • WIRELESS BACK DOOR:  This is a re-write of the old CELLULAR BACK DOOR site which was originally based on what was known as "Back Door" voice mail numbers.  The voice mail numbers remain on the old site, but much of the newer wireless inside information has been expanded on the WIRELESS BACK DOOR site.

What has been eliminated?
  • We have dropped or consolidated sites that reported on worldwide wireless roaming (a new one was replaced by a newer one),  a couple of 5G miss-steps, and yet another cellular network review site.  We also sold the iconic MountainWireless.com site to a company that just wanted to disable the site to prevent confusion with their commercial namesake.  All of the old carrier information there still lives on MOUNTAIN WIRELESS.NET.
What's next?  We're mostly waiting on the next 5G shoe to drop.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fear No Sprint

Sprint (at least through our portals) has seen a reduced number of signups.  We can only guess it's because of the impending merger with T-Mobile.  You need to think contrarian!  Sprint is offering some great deals right now that will be valid for quite a while after any merger deal is finalized.  Historically, that has meant shrewd buyers have been able to buy into the new network at the old network's reduced price.

Related: Sprint Goes Price Happy

Sprint users already have roaming access to T-Mobile's broadband network and that door will open even further if a deal is approved.  Be aware this applies to real Sprint customers.  If you have Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile or Sprint's own Prepaid, you may get shipped over to Dish Network's new, unknown 5G network, but even that will take years to complete.  In the meantime, Sprint has one of the better 5G networks and that may be the case for the next few years. Have no fear!


Thursday, August 1, 2019

DISH Wireless Agreement with the FCC

This a condensed review of what Dish Network has agreed with the FCC to do in agreement with the T-Mobile - Sprint merger.

Dish has committed to the Federal Communications Commission that it will have deployed a core network and offer 5G broadband service to at least 20% of the U.S. population by June 2022. And by June 2023, Dish’s 5G network must cover at least 70% of the U.S. population with download speeds of at least 35 Mbps. In regards to Dish's AWS-4, 700 MHz, and H Block licenses, if Dish hits a 50% coverage threshold by the 2023 deadline it will be granted an automatic two-year buildout extension. In addition, by 2023, it must have at least 15,000 5G sites deployed and at least 30 megahertz of Dish’s downlink 5G spectrum averaged over all its deployed 5G sites nationwide.
Dish agrees not to sell its AWS-4 or 600 MHz licenses for six years without prior FCC and DOJ consent, unless that sale is part of a larger sale of Dish itself. 
In order to begin the process of setting up its wireless network, following the completion of the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Dish will:

  • Acquire Sprint's prepaid businesses and customers, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and the Sprint-branded prepaid service.
  • Acquire 14 MHz of Sprint's nationwide 800 MHz spectrum.
  • Access the New T-Mobile network for seven years, including the ability to serve Dish customers seamlessly between T-Mobile's nationwide network and Dish's new independent 5G broadband network.
Dish's purchase of Sprint's nationwide 800 MHz wireless spectrum is expected to be completed three years after the closing of the acquisition of the prepaid businesses.

We have posted the potential coverage for the new Dish Wireless network at CellularMaps.com.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

T-Mobile/Sprint Agreement with DISH

Here is a condensed view of the agreement between The New T-Mobile and DISH:

Effective upon the successful completion of T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, the New T-Mobile will be committed to divest Sprint’s entire prepaid businesses including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Sprint-branded prepaid customers. These brands serve approximately 9.3 million customers in total.

With this agreement, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint-branded prepaid customers, as well as new DISH wireless customers, will have full access to the legacy Sprint network and the New T-Mobile network in a phased approach. Access to the New T-Mobile network will be through an MVNO arrangement...enabling roaming in certain areas until DISH’s 5G network is built out.

The New T-Mobile will offer standard transition services arrangements to DISH for up to three years following the close of the divestiture transaction. The transition services provided by the New T-Mobile will result in the orderly transfer of prepaid customers to DISH and will also ensure the continued and seamless operation of Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint-branded prepaid businesses following transition to DISH's ownership.

DISH has agreed to acquire Sprint’s portfolio of nationwide 800 MHz spectrum for a total value of approximately $3.6 billion in a transaction to be completed, subject to certain additional closing conditions, following an application for FCC approval to be filed three years following the closing of T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint. This will permit the New T-Mobile to continue to serve legacy Sprint customers during network integration, pending later FCC approval of the license transfer. The companies have also entered into an agreement providing the New T-Mobile the option to lease back a portion of the spectrum sold to DISH for an additional two years following closing of the spectrum sale.

Following the closing of T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint and subsequent integration into the New T-Mobile, DISH will have the option to take on leases for certain cell sites and retail locations that are decommissioned by the New T-Mobile for five years following the closing of the divestiture transaction.

The companies have also committed to engage in good faith negotiations regarding the leasing of some or all of DISH’s 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile.

Additional information can be found at www.NewTMobile.com.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

New 5G Coverage & Maps

All 4 top carriers are now offering what they consider "5G".  In this horse race, Sprint users report the most usable mobile 5G coverage.  We'll credit their use of "mid-band" frequencies (2.5 GHz) for coverage.  The other 3 carriers are still rolling out their 5G on "high" frequencies (39 GHz) which have very little range but plenty of capacity.

The corresponding coverage maps seem to reflect this difference, if they show any coverage.  Sprint shows very useful and somewhat optimistic maps and T-Mobile is showing very detailed if not broad-ranging maps.  Those 2 will also have a big re-shuffle of 5G coverage if their proposed merger is approved.  So far, so good.  Other carriers have not yet shared their big reveal. We'll follow what we know on our 5G Coverage Maps page.


Another 5G player may surface as Dish Network has offered to purchase any spectrum and wireless assets that will need to be divested to secure federal approval of the T-Mobile - Sprint merger.  Dish has indicated that all of their own coverage on any new spectrum will be 5G.  They may well end up with enough spectrum to act as a new fourth wireless player in the US market, and that spectrum is located in favorable frequency bands.  We have introduced their coverage assets on our new Dish Wireless coverage page.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Sprint Turns On "Real" Mobile 5G

Today Sprint starts offering 5G in four markets, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City.  Sprint now claims the largest 5G coverage in the nation and can be used with one of their 5G phones which are now available at Sprint stores.

Sprint also plans to light up service in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington DC by the first of July. We have maps of future 5G Coverage.

Initial Sprint Kansas City 5G Coverage

Friday, April 26, 2019

Today's 5G: Not Ready for Prime Time

Last week Verizon Wireless admitted that their new 5G coverage is a bit "spotty" but that's to be expected with new technology.  That may be so, but many of us are fearful that wireless coverage at such high frequencies will not be the new broadband promised land.  Verizon's 5G coverage utilizes 39 GHz.  That's 80 times higher than UHF TV signals, and that's already "Ultra High".  We know that region as "microwaves", but the wireless industry calls it "mmWave".  If it quacks like a duck...  ARS Technica posted a great discussion from Verizon's stock earnings call on the topic.

AT&T is using equally high microwave...uh, mmWave...frequencies, but their customers can't move around (they don't have any mobile devices, yet) so the effects are less of a problem...for now.  Interestingly, T-Mobile issued a post about Verizon and AT&T's 5G performance, which is clearly one-sided in favor T-Mobile, but it does portray a view of how many hurdles each carrier has getting to 5G-nirvana.


We agree that it's really early in the process, but if the carriers are depending on frequencies above 3GHz, universal 5G coverage is l o n g way off.  Visible light is on equally high frequencies and you get an approximation of how limited coverage can be if you set up a light bulb on a phone pole and observe how far away you can see it...literally!  That's "line-of-sight."  Those channels do have potential for fixed wireless access, but mobile access will probably need much lower frequencies...like the ones T-Mobile are about to use.

C Spire Wireless in Mississippi is running fiber to certain customers' homes and then connecting neighboring homes with a wireless link from an outside antenna.  It works, but at what cost?  Someone will get this right, but they haven't, yet.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

AT&T Now Offers 5G in 19 Cities

AT&T claims the next prize for the most 5G coverage, now in 19 cities.  The bad news? AT&T so far only supports one 5G device, a hot spot...and the actual areas with 5G coverage are very small.   The good news? AT&T 5G speeds are as fast as expected.

Related Post: When 5G Isn't Really 5G.

Of course, 5G phones are coming, maybe this year.  Keep in mind 5G will change our lives mostly in its application of the IoT (Internet of Things) which involves far more than our smart phones.  This also means, to be effective, 5G coverage must be even more universal than 4G-LTE coverage is today.  This looks years away, especially when construction of additional cell sites is facing so much opposition.  That means for the near term, 5G service will best serve as a wireless replacement for your current Internet access.  That also means new competition for video services like cable and satellite TV.

So, in the short term, when 5G comes to your neighborhood (lucky you!), there can be some significant changes in how you connect to the rest of the world...but you'll still have to drive your car yourself.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Verizon Launches Mobile 5G in 2 Cities

Verizon Wireless calls this a "first".  They have switched on 5G wireless in Minneapolis and Chicago and this time it isn't limited to home Internet service.  There is one 5G smartphone, the Moto Z3 combined with 5G Moto mod, that can be used on the new 5G network in these 2 cities.  Fortunately, everything is backwards-compatible so you won't lose service when you travel outside the still very tiny 5G coverage area.


The Verizon 5G rollout today is about a week earlier than planned, but more important, it claims the first 5G wireless mobile network in the world, beating the same announcement in South Korea.  This is also Verizon's first use of the actual 5G standard which allows the potential higher speeds by 5G, approaching 1 Ghz downloads.

We have added a couple more dots to the 5G Coverage Map.  Hopefully, the actual 5G coverage will soon expand to cover the whole dot.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

End of the Wireless Home Phone

We watched the decline of the home landline, as alternatives for the home phone became widely available and much less expensive.  Our favorite of these was the wireless home phone which was available from all of the major carriers, and a few alternative suppliers.  The advantage that attracted us was that the wireless base unit was self-contained...no Internet connection, computer or router was needed.

Now, all carriers, other than Verizon Wireless, have discontinued sales of plain wireless home phone units, although they still offer plans for existing units.  Even our best-selling unit from Straight Talk is currently listed as "out of stock."  For now, there are a few outside sources for these units.  Wireless units that provide both home phone and Internet service are still available, some of which should eventually be replaced by 5G wireless broadband.


Noting this trend, we decided to reconstruct our Wireless Home Phone web site to one that reflects all of the alternatives available for a phone that serves your entire home: The Home Phone Zone. Today, there are several methods available for replacing or establishing a "home" phone, the potentially outdated notion that a family would want to share a separate phone line throughout the house.  Fortunately, wireless home phones are still available from a smaller number of suppliers.  Our new favorite home phone product is the home cell phone adapter which overcomes the downside of cellular signal problems, the inconvenience of carrying your smart phone around the house, and the concern of running out of battery power.  And you aren't adding yet another phone number to the family collection.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Mid Rivers in Montana Exits Cellular

The Mid Rivers phone cooperative in Montana has agreed to sell their cellular network to Verizon Wireless.  Like other rural phone companies, they will focus on their landline and DSL service.  Fortunately, the competition has improved in the area, so switching to another carrier may get you better service, if not a better price.  If you have a good signal with Mid Rivers, Verizon will probably provide as good as or better than what you have now. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have expanded in Montana but you won't know if they cover your home as well until you try.


Mid Rivers maintained an excellent cellular-band network but there's no guarantee that Verizon won't switch off some of the Mid-Rivers cell sites that are close to Verizon's existing locations.  We expect a slight improvement in wireless service for Mid Rivers customers but it's always sad to lose a local wireless presence.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The First 5G Zoom-in Maps

Credit to the author, Sascha Segan of PCMag for taking the verbal description of Verizon's 5G coverage and creating maps for it.  We thought about copying the maps to our Cellular Maps site, but we're afraid you wouldn't believe how small it is.  Follow this link to the article to understand the methodology and limits of this coverage.

Of course it's early in the process.  We expect 5G coverage to expand...but it looks like it will be v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Vermont Finds Their Maps are Wrong, Too

A few weeks ago we reported on the frustration of local wireless users who take great exception to the cellular coverage maps issued for areas showing good cellular coverage when indeed, there is little or none.  Our December report gave PTCI Cellular credit for actually driving their entire service area in Oklahoma and finding the coverage maps submitted to the FCC by the major carriers to be very inaccurate.

More recently, Corey Chase, a Vermont telecommunications infrastructure specialist, drove over 6,000 miles across the state in about six weeks this fall recording the download capabilities of each carrier.  Those results also revealed much less coverage than that showed on each carrier's coverage maps.  The accusations are directed mostly to Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.


At stake is almost $5 Billion in federal assistance to build additional wireless infrastructure in areas where coverage is lacking.  Most areas are getting nothing because coverage maps submitted to the FCC by the major carriers show very few areas not covered.  Several associations as well as state and local governments are accusing them of showing fake coverage, keeping that money out of the hands of potential competitors. Vermont is now 1 of 37 states challenging the carriers' data.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

5G Doesn't Mean Microwaves

One of our most popular posts, The Enemy Fighting 5G, received a few comments about the health aspects of 5G Wireless.  The same fears were expressed years ago about cell phones and how most humans will fall to cancer from all that RF exposure.  Now, with billions of wireless users, it just hasn't happened.  With the proposed use of new frequencies to accommodate the new 5G bandwidth, new fears have surfaced: 5G must be harmful to our health.

Let's look at what 5G means:  new methods of delivering greater amounts of data in the wireless environment.  It does not mean new radiation exposure in unsafe spectrum.  It may mean new radiation on channels already being used.  If indeed more sites are built at higher frequencies, the exposure to signals on these channels is limited by the physics of RF: the higher the frequency, the more the exposure is lessened based on distance, as well as the limitations of transmitter power.  The power used on a typical UHF TV transmitter is 1,000,000 watts.  The power from a cell site above 1.9 GHz is less than 16 watts, and the transmitted power from your handset is normally less than .2 watts.


Keep in mind, the source of 5G coverage will be on channels as low as 600 MHz.  Carriers are also building systems that use multiple channels from existing cell sites.  It's the same fear that you'll be hurt more by a wireless phone painted red vs. one painted green.  Yes, lab rats have contracted cancer when exposed to radiation at cellular frequencies, but they also suffered from exposure from other channels.

While an incandescent light bulb will severely burn your finger if you hold it too closely, it is perfectly acceptable at a normal distance.  Microwave ovens operate at 2.45 GHz.  Why don't they use higher frequencies?  It becomes too expensive to create enough power to cook food.  With wireless, you can use lower power...and they do.

Friday, January 11, 2019

5G Coverage Meets the Laws of Physics

5G Wireless has been identified as the catalyst for everything from driverless cars to finding life on Mars.  What 5G needs to accomplish these miracles is lots of bandwidth.  The easiest way to get more bandwidth is to move up in frequency.  Unfortunately, the higher the frequency, the shorter the range, and the less the coverage. It's the law of physics, a law we can't break.  Coverage for the "low" cellular frequencies (600MHz, 700MHz, 800MHz) is measured in miles.  Coverage for the "high" cellular frequencies (24GHz, 28GHz, 32GHz) is measured in feet.

A well-located cell site could cover a radius of 5 to 30 miles with the lower and maybe mid-band (1 to 5GHz) frequencies.  But a site at, say, 28 GHz (2,800 MHz), would not cover even one mile from the cell site.  The tradeoff is that more bandwidth is available on the higher channels.


How do we overcome this frequency disadvantage?  The answer is getting more signal at the user's location, and that is most easily provided by an outdoor antenna, which limits us to getting the most from 5G at a fixed location.  There's nothing wrong with getting faster Internet access wirelessly at home, but of course, most of us would rather have it in our pocket wherever we travel.

T-Mobile plans to provide 5G Wireless on their new, low-band assignments at 600 Mhz.  Yes, there are bandwidth limitations there, so T-Mobile plans to let your wireless device access other, higher wireless channels where there is more bandwidth, if you're within the more restricted coverage area of those channels.  You see, you can't break the "law".

The other method of getting more 5G signal to more users is more cell sites...spaced about a mile or two apart.  Just look at all the fun in that!