• Carriers

    by Published on 12-08-2015 07:28 AM
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    Most of the tech sites seem content discussing the new emoji available in the Android 6.0.1 update, but Android Police has dug a little deeper and found something potentially more important, at least for TMO subscribers—full support for Band 12 on the Nexus 5X and 6P.

    For those not 100% clear on the importance of Band 12 support (like the Canadian writing this), AP does a pretty good job breaking it down. Basically, T-Mobile uses Band 12 for voice over LTE calling (VoLTE). Since there are areas in the United States where TMO's only coverage is on Band 12, devices have to be certified to support that band.

    Did I get that more or less right? ...
    by Published on 12-04-2015 07:50 AM
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    I've twice had the pleasure of using Roam Mobility in the United States. This MVNO uses the T-Mobile network to provide Canadians visiting the USA with unlimited LTE data for $4 USD per day. At current exchange rates that's not as cheap as Rogers' Roam Like Home, but if you have an unlocked phone and are not a Rogers customer I think it's your best bet.

    Now Roam Mobility is available for Americans visiting Canada. You can tell that they've partnered with a Big Three Carrier because (1) they're offering LTE data, and (2) the plans are absolute s**t.

    If you're having trouble reading the screen grab here, I'll spell it out for you:

    7 days - 500 MB of data - $26.95 USD
    14 days - 500 MB of data - $37.95 USD
    21 days - 500 MB of data - $49.95 USD

    With 500 MB of data you can perform up to 5 speed tests (if you turn the graphics off) and then regale friends back home with stories about how our LTE networks are slightly faster than yours. Seriously, as someone on vacation I'd be okay with 500 MB per day, but per week? This is madness.

    But this is also Canada, where carriers regularly advertise monthly plans with 500 MB of data per month, as if everything's fine and we're all still in 2006 using BlackBerries on BIS. ...
    by Published on 12-02-2015 07:42 AM
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    Something a little different today... I'm going to highlight a recent feature that Android Central did on India.

    I've not had the pleasure of visiting this part of the world myself, but according to AC's new India correspondent it's now the number two smartphone market in the world, surpassed only by China. There's actually some contention about this; other sources say that India won't snatch the number two spot from the USA for another year or so. The important thing is that the region is seeing a huge amount of growth as more and more of its citizens get connected. It sounds like an exciting place to be! ...
    by Published on 10-01-2015 08:15 AM
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    In 2013 Rogers came out on top; this year Bell gets the nod for fastest overall data service nationwide.

    PCMag has once again tested Canada's wireless providers, with results by city, province and cross-country averages of download speeds, uploads and latency. Two trends I've noticed: (1) in all but one case regional carriers do quite well against The Big Three, and (2) in terms of raw performance WIND's non-LTE network lags far behind.

    Were cost of service a factor we might be looking at entirely different results here. Oh, and about those results... this is no cheap copy/paste job—I've transcribed all the numbers here by hand. So be sure to check the source in case I've made a typo somewhere. ...
    by Published on 09-28-2015 07:55 AM
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    OpenSignal has a new report out on LTE networks around the world. Using data from the installed base of their app—some 325K users—they've ranked carriers and countries by coverage and speed. This time around New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea are the big winners:

    Fastest Country: New Zealand - 36Mbps (average download speed)
    Fastest Network: StarHub (Singapore) - 38Mbps

    Country with Best Coverage: South Korea - 97% time on LTE
    Network with Best Coverage: LGT (South Korea) - 99.6% LTE coverage

    So how did North America fare in this worldwide test? Not great. Using average LTE download speeds as a metric, Canada ranks 17th worldwide, while the USA ranks 55th. Ouch. ...
    by Published on 09-15-2015 07:45 AM
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    “I’m investing $49 million per week in building out my networks, both fixed and mobile, with a single point of view that people like you will continue to want to consume more data,” Guy Laurence, chief executive at Rogers, told reporters Monday. “In a lot of plans these days, voice is virtually free, text is virtually free. You got to pay the bills somehow and so we’re paying it through the monetization of data.”

    A quick check of Rogers' wireless portal seems to confirm this. I was sure that not so long ago they broke out the cost of data, just like Bell and TELUS still do—that is, you choose a subsidy or BYOD first, then a voice package, then your data bucket. Now the cheapest available option for Rogers customers comes bundled with 500MB. And here in Ontario I wouldn't exactly call that bundle "cheap". ...
    by Published on 08-12-2015 08:15 AM
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    iPhone in Canada reported this past Monday that both Fido and Koodo have launched two new BYOD plans: $43/month for 1 GB of data and $53 for 2 GB. The catch? It's only available to residents of Québec.

    Could this anomaly be due to the presence of a strong and independent regional carrier there? Looks like... Both of these price points undercut similar plans from Vidéotron by exactly $5.

    A monthly data bucket of 2 GB is, in my opinion, barely sufficient for the modern smartphone user—but my rough calculations would estimate it to be about two times better than the 1 GB you'd get from these carriers for the same price in Ontario or BC.

    You'll still get the best data deals in Manitoba and Sasketchewan (and if you don't live there do yourself a favour and click here), as that region has strong competition from not one but two independent carriers. Funny how this country's wireless racket works.

    And by "funny" of course I mean infuriating. ಠ_ಠ ...
    by Published on 08-11-2015 11:18 AM
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    One minor revelation from yesterday's pow-wow that Howard and I had with Motorola Canada is still sticking with me: the 3rd iteration of the cheap and cheerful Moto G will only be available from carriers here.

    As a champion of unlocked phones, that makes me sad.

    I can only guess that selling phones to carriers in this country is a better business than offering them SIM-free through other channels like Staples or Ingram Micro. Either that, or nobody's buying the SIM-free versions. And I suspect it's the latter. ...
    by Published on 07-09-2015 10:44 AM
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    Roaming in the EU after June 15,2015

    Having lived in Europe, I was there when my country joined the EU. It was an opportunity to be part of something greater. A dream, an ideal of a United Europe. In its very humble beginnings, A united Europe was to prevent another World War, to bring together the European countries so we would not see anything like we did with Nazi Germany.

    The dream, the ideal then became that of an economic power that could rival the US.

    For this to happen, European countries would have to harmonize and so a common currency was created. And after that, people from each country could move easily between countries with only an ID card. No passports.
    ...
    by Published on 07-08-2015 07:45 AM
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    So there's a $48 plan now...?

    Yesterday saw two features of note in the wider Canadian tech press about Koodo's SK/MB plans—in particular an enterprising user on Kijiji who's offering to set up such a plan for an additional hundred bucks. Peter Nowak supposedly broke the story about these "black market plans"... except that forums user potterworld beat him to it by more than a week. Yay, us!

    iPhone in Canada's Gary Ng did a me-too post, paying lip service to the Kijiji ad but also letting his readers know about the savvy customers who are taking advantage of these plans without any middlemen:

    What ‘Tony’ is offering is not exactly new, especially if you frequent sites such as Howard Forums or RedFlagDeals.
    You're damn right! ...
    by Published on 06-30-2015 08:15 AM
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    Not mine, obviously—Google's first MVNO venture isn't coming to Canada anytime soon.

    Pennsylvanian journalist and blogger Paul Kuehnel was among the first to sign up for Project Fi back in April, and has reported on the service after using it for about three weeks. I found his post via r/Android on reddit.

    A quick refresher: The Project Fi network uses Sprint, T-Mobile and WiFi hotspots, with seamless handoffs between each. The customer is billed a flat rate of $20/month for unlimited calls and SMS plus $10/GB for data. Unused data from each $10 increment is refunded.

    Today I'll share a few highlights from Paul's post, along with a link so you can read it for yourself. ...
    by Published on 06-25-2015 08:18 AM
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    It's official: with the fastest speeds and the best coverage overall, Verizon is the USA's fastest mobile network—this according to a new report by PCMag.

    The bold proclamation comes after more than 100,000 test cycles across 30 cities. Each test cycle measured network latency, multi-threaded uploads and downloads and a separate 1MB web page rendering with 70 unique elements, all recorded to an Excel spreadsheet.

    If you're not a Verizon customer, consider that the results by city will probably prove more instructive for choosing a carrier (or switching). I'm not going to re-blog the entire 40 page report, but I'll do you a solid and give you the winners in each of the 30 tested cities. ...
    by Published on 06-23-2015 08:15 AM
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    Ah yes, mobile payment systems in Canada... One of those not-so-subtle reminders that Canadians are living in a digital backwater, controlled by an oligopoly whose only interest is serving themselves.

    Witness this latest development, just published in The Globe and Mail, detailing how Bell and TELUS have turned their backs on the tap-and-pay system from Apple and have thrown their support behind Rogers' suretap instead.

    CIBC, currently the only bank that supports suretap, is playing this low-key, saying it only wants to give wireless users in this country another option when it comes to mobile payments. But a spokes-shill from suretap is singing a different tune:

    “We are certainly going to beat Apple.”
    Yes, they actually said that. ...
    by Published on 06-18-2015 07:48 AM
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    Yesterday morning, with much fanfare and in the presence of Toronto Mayor John Tory, it was announced that WIND Mobile—and only WIND Mobile—was bringing cellular service to Toronto's underground transport system.

    The service has already been lit up at Bay, St. George and Yonge/Bloor, with the entire downtown loop set to come online within the month. You'll get a signal on subway platforms, though, because service in the underground tunnels is, at present, cost-prohibitive and too useful for riders.

    It was a major PR victory for WIND; its CEO was not only crowing about the carrier's one-year exclusive, but had the chutzpah to say that the Big Three were welcome to negotiate a TTC roaming deal during that exclusive. But I'm going to call this thing out for what it is—a net neutrality disaster, or whatever you'd call the wireless equivalent.

    What would the reaction have been were it Bell, Rogers or TELUS who announced exclusive dibs on Toronto subway platforms? ...
    by Published on 06-03-2015 07:58 AM
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    Okay, so the photo here may be overstating things just a bit, but it's still an auspicious day for mobile phone users (aka everyone) in Canada.

    If you're one of the 2.2 to 4 million customers on Bell, Rogers or TELUS (or their subsidiaries) who is 24 months or more into a 3 year contract, today is the day you can walk away without penalty, all thanks to the CRTC's Wireless Code.

    But wait, there's more! ...
    by Published on 05-27-2015 08:15 AM
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    I came across an interesting read by Canadian tech journalist Peter Nowak—he made my first (and thus far only) list of mobile heroes back in 2013. This week he's posted almost 3,000 words on his experience switching to WIND Mobile from a Big Three carrier.

    The timing of his piece is interesting, given the approaching June 3rd deadline that will effectively end three-year wireless contracts in Canada; both the Big Three and their subsidiaries are offering "deals" not seen in this country for quite some time. I put "deals" in quotation marks because, for anyone willing to jump through a few hoops to get Koodo's $55/5GB SK/MB plan, they aren't really deals at all.

    Given Peter's fantastic coverage of the Fair for Canada debacle—when the Big Three showed their true colours in the face of some real (if ultimately only rumoured) competition—I was expecting to see some politics behind in his switch to WIND. Instead, it seems like it's all about the money, and what you get for it. ...
    by Published on 05-20-2015 05:44 PM
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    It seems that a Telus launch of something similar to Rogers Roam Like Home might be imminent. That or at least a much better US roaming offer, something to compete with Rogers.

    In mid-April Telus filed trademarks for the terms "Easy Roam" / "Voyagez Connecté" as well as "Roam Ready" / "Prêt pour l'itinérance"

    For a brief period last week on the Telus Mobility roaming and travel webpage there was a clickable heading (as seen in the attached screen capture) called US Easy Roam, which linked to a "page not found" when clicked. ...
    by Published on 05-15-2015 08:20 AM
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    ... Apparently not a prepaid plan at all.

    This is an oddly-specific thing to shop for, I know. But in case someone reading this is in the market for something similar, I've already done the research for you. A buddy's daughter is getting her first-ever smartphone for her 13th birthday, a hand-me-down from yours truly. So yesterday her dad and I took to the lower-level carrier kiosks of Toronto's Eaton Centre in search of a suitable provider and plan.

    The kid's requirements are as follows: no data (WiFi only), and as much calling and texting as we can get, for as little per month as possible. If we were purchasing a phone and a plan this would be a no-brainer—we'd pick up an unlocked Moto G or Moto E at Staples and immediately proceed to WIND Mobile, to activate it on their $25 Talk and Text Plan. The vast majority of this new teenager's communication with her friends will likely be via SMS, WhatsApp or whatever it is kids use these days; voice calls will mostly come from fretful parents wondering where she is.

    But alas, there's a complication: the phone that she's getting is the made-for-Rogers first-gen LTE Moto G, which I took home from a Moto event this time last year. It's unlocked (for some reason) but unfortunately doesn't support AWS. Yes, it's overkill for a teenager who isn't going to use LTE but hey, it's also a free phone. ...
    by Published on 05-14-2015 08:35 AM
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    And I couldn't be more proud. Or more grateful for Koodo's $55 SK/MB plan.

    Ordinarily she wouldn't go anywhere near the generous (for these days) 5 GB ceiling of the plan we're both on, but a perfect storm of two elements—a sudden obsession with a YouTube channel and a finicky WiFi radio on her OnePlus One—made for an exception.

    The final tally for the damage was 704.52 MB (our new billing cycle starts today); for this she'll be dinged a mere $10 on our next bill—a lot less than the Big Three's current overage rates, I might add. More importantly, that 5 GB data bucket kept her overage low in the first place.

    It got me thinking more about streaming video on smartphones. It seems to me there's a real disconnect between all the wondrous services available and the cold, hard cost of mobile data. Our home broadband connection has a monthly data bucket of 300 GB; streaming many hours of Netflix is no problem for us. But YouTube, along with the likes of these new streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat, can easily gobble up much more data than what's available in a typical smartphone plan. ...
    by Published on 05-07-2015 08:33 AM
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    The very first post that I wrote for the front page of Howard Forums was about Ting, a Toronto-based Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that offers wholesale wireless service from Sprint to its customers in the USA, but was (and is) unable to do anything similar for its home base in Canada.

    MVNOs seem to be very popular with American forum members. There are Canadian MVNOs, too—PC Mobile, Petro Canada Mobility and SpeakOut Wireless are the notable examples I can think of off the top of my head. I myself have only had first-hand experience with SpeakOut; in my opinion it's best suited for emergencies or occasional use.

    And the MVNO situation in this country isn't going to get any better, even after the CRTC's announcement this week that it will regulate domestic roaming rates—this according to Dr. Michael Geist, whose recent post on this subject merits a closer look. ...
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