• Carriers

    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,
    3. Carriers
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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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    2. Carriers
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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
    1. Categories:
    2. HowardForums,
    3. News,
    4. Carriers

    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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    2. Carriers
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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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    2. Carriers
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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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