• Carriers

    by Published on 12-19-2013 08:20 AM
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    2. News,
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    So our government is amending the Telecommunications Act, capping domestic roaming (i.e. wholesale) rates and imposing fines for those who don't play ball. You can see Industry Canada's press release in all of its glory right here.

    This news comes on the heels of the CRTC's investigation into wholesale roaming rates announced last week. To see what this one-two punch could potentially mean for Canadians, let's took a look at the current MVNOs here and compare them with what's on offer in the United States.

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    by Published on 12-17-2013 07:40 AM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Carriers
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    Last Saturday I had to do the unthinkable — join the mad throngs of holiday shoppers in downtown Toronto. On that particular afternoon it just so happened that (1) there was a snowstorm, and (2) half of the downtown subway line was shut down.

    As I waited for a connection at St. George Station I suddenly remembered that there was free WiFi there. I immediately whipped out my phone, connected, and performed the mandatory speed test:



    Not bad.

    Some friends who are regular commuters have complained to me about how much of a pain it is to connect, but it seemed to me that the entire process took less than sixty seconds. When I again found myself at St. George Station last night, I decided to document the procedure.

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    by Published on 12-13-2013 08:00 AM
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    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
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    (CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais)

    Yesterday the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced on their website that they would be "taking a closer look" at wholesale roaming rates — that is, what our Big Three carriers charge the little guys for access to their networks when necessary.

    Smarter people than me have already chimed in on this news, so I'll highlight their fine work first, then add my own thoughts at the end.

    Let's get to it...

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    by Published on 12-12-2013 07:30 AM
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    2. Rumors,
    3. Carriers
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    We all know what RSS is, right? When a blog that supports it publishes something, that content is immediately pushed to RSS subscribers via their reader of choice. And just like a text message, once something goes out over RSS it can't be recalled — so if you publish something and then immediately unpublish, your RSS subscribers might still have a copy.

    This is exactly the situation in which I found myself yesterday with a story from Mobile Syrup, and it's a good one: Apparently Koodo was (is?) to release a plan with an unusually reasonable and affordable LTE data bucket for this part of Canada. It showed up in my news reader but is nowhere to be found on Mobile Syrup proper.

    Thanks to the magic of RSS, here is that story:

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    by Published on 12-11-2013 08:30 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
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    On Monday Mobile Syrup posted about a new reciprocal LTE roaming agreement between AT&T and Rogers. There's a thread about it here on the forums, with one member specifically calling out "Canada's fantastic LTE networks".

    Thanks, we pay through the nose for them. But I digress...

    Not to single Mobile Syrup out, but if you search their site for the phrase "roaming agreement" you'll get a whopping 7 pages of results. Some items are mildly interesting — it's nice to know, for example, that I could get my Rogers 2600MHz LTE hotspot unlocked and use it on 3 in Hong Kong. But for the most part, I don't really see this type of thing as news at all.

    Do we chalk it up to the insatiable appetite of the tech press, or do people not realize that there are other available options? I expect my phone to roam on other networks, but the only time I really need it is for that hopefully short block of time between when I arrive in another city and when I can get to a carrier shop for a local SIM card.

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    by Published on 12-03-2013 09:35 AM
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    2. News,
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    If ever a podcast needed show notes, it's this one.

    On his latest episode of CANADALAND, host Jesse Brown opens with a glossary of names and organizations for his interview with Professor Dwayne Winseck. Yes, that Dwayne Winseck.

    Before blogging here I used to co-host a podcast called Dyscultured; one of my duties there was assembling the show notes for each episode. I really want you to listen to Professor Winseck's interview and get the most out of it. So consider these the unofficial show notes for CANADALAND Episode 9: Wireless Wars.

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    by Published on 11-27-2013 08:23 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers,
    4. Apps
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    The big news yesterday was that the CBC secured rights for another 12 years to probably the only TV show in this country that actually makes any money — Hockey Night in Canada. Another source without the CBC spin makes matters a little more clear: CBC has actually ceded control of HNIC to Rogers; they now own the brand, along with national rights for all NHL games on all platforms.

    So high-fives and chest bumps all around... Rogers will no doubt be streaming NHL games on their proprietary mobile TV service in short order, likely at rates far more attractive than the equivalent raw data throughput. Sound familiar?

    But this is not the story. The story is the siloing of Canadian media, and how it's 100% at odds with a free and open Internet, on mobile phones or otherwise.

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    by Published on 11-25-2013 09:24 AM
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    2. Contests and Giveaways,
    3. Carriers,
    4. Apps
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    Webster's defines bloatware as... well actually, they've no definition for it — but we all know what it is, right? Those carrier-mandated apps on locked phones can be a real nuisance sometimes. On devices with low-res screens and meager on-board memory they can eat up valuable real estate and generally get in the way.

    They can be a problem on higher-end hardware as well — Samsung's Galaxy S4 in particular. When this flagship super phone first went on sale last spring users complained that the 16GB version had less than half of that available out of the box. I think I may have found the reason why; Howard let me in on a little secret that may just blow your mind...

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    by Published on 11-22-2013 07:35 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
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    So it's not just me...

    About a month ago an ad on a Bell Canada repair truck — for which I now have photo proof — moved me to post about Bell's TV Anywhere, which provides customers with up to 10 hours of Bell Media content for only $5/month. My beef with Bell was more about pigeonholing smartphone users as passive consumers of TV, but I did mention that the equivalent raw data throughput would cost a lot more were it not officially sanctioned video content from Bell.

    A few days ago fellow Canadian blogger Ben Klass posted this...

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    by Published on 11-20-2013 07:05 PM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    Just heard that TELUS is launching a new upgrade program. Basically you pay $9 a month for 12 months, after that time you'll be eligible to trade in for a new one at whatever they'll sell for (presumably $229 with a starting device balance of $490). You'll also need to buy AppleCare+ which costs $100.

    Right now it's only available iPhones.

    I dust off my pocket protector and graphing calculator and crunched some numbers. Here's what I found: ...
    by Published on 10-25-2013 08:00 AM
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    What you see here is the UMX Companion, a phone for seniors offered by Public Mobile. I almost bought one last summer for my dear, elderly mother to try. I'd like to think that if I had, that if I'd given Public just one more monthly subscriber then they could have fended off Telus for just a little while longer.

    But alas, it wasn't meant to be.

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    by Published on 10-15-2013 08:01 AM
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    Last Friday Mobile Syrup posted this article about KnowRoaming, a Canadian company aiming to provide a service for international travellers like me (sometimes). In the words of their CEO:

    “With the KnowRoaming sticker, never again will you have to search for Wi-Fi, buy a local SIM card or be shocked by international roaming charges.”

    Wait, what?

    No arguments here about outrageous roaming charges... I've been dinged $90 CAD for a call to my mom from South Africa, and a whopping $300 for checking my email in the UK. Now that second charge was incurred on a hiptop, which automatically sucked down a bunch of other data the moment I turned it on. Nonetheless, if you're not mindful of roaming charges then you're in for a very unpleasant surprise when you get home.

    And yes, depending on the kindness of strangers via sketchy WiFi networks isn't exactly a best practice, either. You and your data are definitely at risk when you hop on to anyone's private network. On the other hand, the last five hotels I've stayed at all had free WiFi; ditto for the last airport I passed through overseas. I would trust a large-scale network — at least for casual data use — a lot more than something called "linksys".

    But what exactly is so bad about buying a local SIM card?

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    by Published on 10-09-2013 05:46 PM
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    2. HowardForums,
    3. News,
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    Rogers is currently down for me. A number of members on the forums have also posted this. I'm attached to the network and can use data but I'm not able to make any calls.

    Anyone else on Rogers notice this? ...
    by Published on 09-25-2013 07:55 AM
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    I followed the saga of forums member TelecomZombie as best I could over this past summer, and I'm happy to report that his story has a happy ending -- just like the poor Canada Goose he uses as his avatar here.

    Some quick background for non-Canadian readers... If you didn't already know, rate plans for mobile service in this country generally suck. But in some parts of the country they suck considerably less than in others. Case in point, the lucky residents of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Thanks to tbaytel, a small but feisty service provider there, locals get rates that we in other parts of the country can only dream of.

    How do our Big Three carriers respond to this threat? Well, Bell Mobility actually comes pretty close to matching tbaytel's rates, but only in Thunder Bay. Ditto for Virgin Mobile.

    So if there was a way for us, the poor unfortunate souls who don't reside on the western shores of Lake Superior to get 6 GB of data for $60/month instead of, say... double that, would we be interested? I sure would.

    There exists among these forums of way to "game" either Bell or Virgin into giving you service at Thunder Bay rates, even if you don't live there. I won't spell it out for you -- "online account" and "offshore call centre" will be my only hints.

    TelecomZombie has a strong connection to Thunder Bay via a blood relative who lives there. He took advantage of Virgin's predatory pricing in the region and suffered because of it. With his help, I've reconstructed this timeline of his plight.

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    by Published on 09-12-2013 07:50 AM
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    This country's Big Three carriers -- Bell, Rogers and Telus -- are clearly not happy with our government's recently-mandated Wireless Code. What really sucks is that they've taken some big steps to make sure that we share in their misery.

    Standard contracts for service are now two years instead of three, which is great. Here's what's not so great:

    1. Monthly fees are more expensive. Yes, the balance on subsidized devices must now be reclaimed over two years instead of three. But rates are still higher even if you don't take a subsidy.
    2. The upfront price of subsidized hardware has also increased, for no apparent reason.
    3. Data overages are now more expensive. The new going rate is $15/GB instead $10 -- except for Telus, which seems to think that $50/GB is totally fair.

    Canadians are clearly worse off now than we were last spring. So what can we do about it? My own solution has been to relegate as much data as I can to a humble hotspot. But if you don't want to carry two devices around, here's another idea:

    Switch to a tablet.

    Why? Because data, that's why. Would you rather pay $120/month for a phone plan with 6GB of data, or $40 for a tablet plan with 8GB? Check the Big Three's rates, they're all the same. Data plans on tablets are a steal right now.

    The catch is that, obviously, you have to use a tablet.

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    by Published on 09-04-2013 03:16 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Rumors,
    3. Carriers

    Rumor has it that Mobilicity is currently in talks to transfer their 200,000 subscribers to Wind. This will allow Mobilicity to wind down their operations and cut their monthly losses. The idea is that they can hang onto their spectrum and wait till the 5 year ban on them selling their spectrum to a big three carrier to expire.

    Wind will not be paying Mobilicity much if anything for their customers. Wind gains because they'll get more customers which will help lower the amount they spend on each customer to keep their network running.

    This deal is subject to approval from Mobilicity's debt holders. ...
    by Published on 08-28-2013 08:31 AM
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    Last month the CBC ran a story about Ting, a Toronto-based company that offers wireless service to US customers -- specifically, it resells mobile bandwidth bought in bulk from Sprint.

    If this sounds at all familiar, it's pretty much the same way that the independent ISP TekSavvy operates; here in Ontario they buy bandwidth in bulk from Bell and Rogers, then offer it to customers via their own cable and DSL plans -- plans that are decidedly cheaper than what you'd pay Bell and Rogers, by the way. My TekSavvy DSL gives me a solid 25 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up for less than what I'd be paying Bell directly – and as an added bonus I get an exponentially higher bandwidth cap.

    Similarly, while Sprint unlimited smartphone plans can go as high as $70 USD/month, Ting breaks up voice, messaging and data into separate buckets. You only pay for the minutes and data used, plus messages sent -- incoming messages are free, I hope!

    Ting seems to be a popular choice where it's available. I myself have heard users sing its praises on at least one American podcast. And Sprint doesn't seem to have any problem selling them wholesale mobile service.

    Canada's Big Three carriers, though, are an entirely different story.

    ...
    by Published on 08-08-2013 04:53 PM
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    I have a Bell PDF explaining how their rate plans are changing as of August 9th. It's called 'How Consumer Rate Plans just got Better" - I'm not sure if this is to be said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

    Anyways, it stuff we're already talking about here including:

    • How new 2yr and 30 day activations and hardware upgrades should work.
    • The new rate plans which include unlimited nationwide calling, text and MMS
    • New share-only plans
    • Promo plans for Voice and Voice and Data Lite (regular plans are Voice and Data Plus)
    • How migrations from 3yr plans to 2yr plans work
    • Why Bell's new plans are better than Rogers' and TELUS' new plans


    For those who don't know. 3 year contracts are out now - the max contract length is 2 years. Bell is using this opportunity to sort of reset their 3 yr plans. Basically, if you have a awesome rate plan that's lower than the new plans you can keep it but if you want hardware you'll have to switch to a rate plan that's compatible with 2 year contracts (Bell calls it an 'in market plan').

    The new plans have unlimited calling, text and MMS - basically because TELUS came out with it first and Bell is moving to match.

    While 2 year contracts are the max there are tiers of 2 year contracts based on how much you're over-paying I mean how you spend each month.

    1. There's voice only
    2. Voice and Data Lite
    3. Voice and Data Plus


    Plus means you're the type of big spender that Bell likes and you'll get the best subsidies on phones. Lite means you spend a little less and as such will receive a smaller subsidy. You get the idea.

    If you're having trouble seeing an image right click on it and view it/view in new tab to see it at full resolution. ...
    by Published on 07-30-2013 06:20 PM
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    The words written in the new Wireless code are "good" to a point - they are what consumers want to hear (and most didn't know they wanted to hear it!) BUT does it go far enough to protect us? Not like we the consumers want. Already, Rogers, Bell and Telus have threatened (and are going to) raise their plan prices... simply because we no longer are leashed to them for 2 years. What this means for us, is higher device costs, and higher monthly rates, for less service, and less likeable customer care reps.

    The price plans as shown on MobileSyrup.com (here) are $10 higher or more, and have less data (what is this? 2009?!) and less minutes... but I guess that's what we have to get used to right?

    Then we have Verizon who makes a bold statement that they are now eyeing Canada. Bell is scared, as seen in their Open Letter to Canadians, and Rogers and Telus have both said similar things. Anyone remember Telus' CEO saying "Canadians' don't mind paying more per month"? Probably one of the most stupid things I've ever heard.
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    by Published on 07-15-2013 10:41 AM
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    TELUS just announced their new 2yr TELUS SharePlus plans. The plans consist of a separate voice and a data charges. You pick the class of device(s) you want to bring and then how much data you want shared between them. The new plans are meant to encourage users to use more than one device from TELUS (like a phone and a tablet).

    Here's the pricing:



    Let's whip out or calculators. With a 3 year term, let's assume you buy a Galaxy S4 for $200 and that it costs the TELUS $700. That means their subsidy is $500. TELUS would have $500/36months = $13.89 a month over your 3 year contract to make their subsidy back. Now with 24 months they need $20.83 a month to make their subsidy back which is $6.94 more. So, are plans going up by $6.94 a month?

    Let's assume you want a HTC One with unlimited nationwide talk and text with 2GB of data. Right now TELUS has a promotional plan called 'Unlimited Talk & Text -2GB Share'. It's $70 a month on a 3 year.

    With the new SharePlus plan, that would cost you $55 (voice) + $45 (data) = $100. Ouch. That's an extra $30 a month which is much higher than the $6.94 a month subsidy they were giving before.

    The advantage of the new plans are that you can add a couple of phones and share the data but to be honest, the data is so expensive I don't advise anyone to get them. Heck, if you want more data it gets very expensive very quickly. 6GB for $100!

    I'm sure many users will be thumping their 6GB/$30 plan and rightfully so.

    Now let's try to see this from TELUS' standpoint. Assuming most users don't cancel or change plans (which most don't). They were guaranteed 36 months x $70 = $2520 - $500 subsidy = $2020 over the life of the contract or $56.11 a month.

    Now, they're guaranteed 24 months x $100 - $500 subsidy = $1900 over 24 months or $79.17 a month. An increase of 41%! This is probably as bad as it's going to get.

    To me their 2 year plans are initial offerings. They're meant to do two things: 1) get customers to run out and sign 3 year contracts before they're no longer available 2) Take advantage of users who have been itching for 2 year contracts (and failed math).

    TELUS is putting their initial offerings in and waiting to see what Rogers and Bell do.

    The new plans launch on July 30th. ...
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