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Do you think AT&T and Verizon would take the stimulus money if the U.S. government showed the two biggest carriers proof of why they need to take the money? Unlike the businesses that welcomed the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last month, the two biggest U.S. phone companies have reservations according to this Bloomberg article. They’re urging the government not to help other companies compete with them through broadband grants or to set new conditions on how Internet access should be provided. The $7.2 billion is intended to bring fast Internet service to “unserved” areas that don’t have it and other regions the government deems “underserved,” according to the stimulus measure. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will disburse $4.7 billion and the Agriculture Department $2.5 billion. Both agencies must decide what “underserved” means before awarding any grants.

I think the big carriers are stuck in their traditional "Average Revenue Per User" (ARPU) mode and don't care about the little guy in rural areas who has a low ARPU. Maybe the government money could help the carriers refocus and start thinking about "Average Satisfaction Per User" (ASPU) which would be healthy for the industry. Instead of focusing on average revenue per user (ARPU) why not focus on average satisfaction per user (ASPU)?



Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) provides access to cellular mobile voice and data services over unlicensed spectrum technologies, such Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (802.11). A UMA phone will use a cellular networks (GSM, CDMA, etc.) when out and about, and automatically switch to a UMA-enabled Bluetooth or Wi-Fi local network when in range, such as at home or in the office. UMA technology is the 3GPP global standard for fixed-mobile convergence. UMA enables secure, scalable access to mobile voice, data and IMS services over broadband IP access networks. By deploying UMA technology, mobile operators can deliver a number of compelling fixed-mobile convergence services. The most well-known applications of UMA include dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets and 3G femtocells access points.

Leading operators around the world have embraced UMA technology as the foundation for their fixed-mobile convergence strategy, including Orange/France Telecom, British Telecom, T-Mobile US, TeliaSonera, Netcom, Saunalahti and Cincinnati Bell. UMA enables secure, scalable access to mobile voice, data and IMS services over broadband IP access networks. By deploying UMA technology, mobile operators can deliver a number of compelling fixed-mobile convergence services. The most well-known applications of UMA include dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets and 3G femtocells access points. Leading operators around the world have embraced UMA technology as the foundation for their fixed-mobile convergence strategy, including Orange/France Telecom, British Telecom, T-Mobile US, TeliaSonera, Netcom, Saunalahti and Cincinnati Bell.

Improving coverage in areas where cellular signals are weak is an important issue for many organizations. UMA extends coverage to the workplace without forcing employees to change the way they use their cell phones. The only difference is that the phone will switch to Wi-Fi when it loses cellular coverage. To improve coverage with UMA, an organization sets up Wi-Fi access points in areas with poor cellular coverage to overcome coverage gaps and call dead zones. Companies with state-of-the-art, centrally managed wireless LANs (WLAN) can make a global configuration change to enable Wi-Fi UMA access from any location.

UMA-enabled Dual-Mode Wi-Fi Handsets: By far the most well-known UMA service is dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets (DMH), which enables operators to provide high-performance, low-cost mobile services to subscribers when in range of a home, office or public Wi-Fi network. With a UMA-enabled dual-mode Wi-Fi handset, subscribers can automatically roam and handover between cellular and Wi-Fi access, receiving a consistent set of services as they transition between networks.

UMA-enabled Femtocells: UMA-enabled femtocells represent a growing UMA service opportunity. The wireless industry has been searching for low-cost licensed indoor coverage solutions since the beginning of mobile networks. Unfortunately, the bulk of this opportunity (i.e. residential environments) has been beyond the addressable market for cost and operational reasons. To be successful, a residential licensed access point (i.e. femtocell) deployment must include low-cost femtocells (under €150), a reasonable approach for managing RF interference, and a standard, scalable, IP-based approach for core network integration.
UMA Today publishes the UMA Today Magazine, maintains the website, hosts Webinars and is involved in other industry activity to promote UMA technology. For more information, please visit

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I question the size, qualification and transparancy of survey participants in this latest J.D. Power 2010 Call Quality study. I have many questions with regards to the relevance of the latest wireless study from a survey that only reaches 27,754 customers. The headline of the study says, "The Gap in Call Quality Performance among Carriers Narrows" when they have only surveyed .011% of the 260,000,000 million U.S. mobile phone users (Wikipedia).

The 2009 JD Power Wireless Call Quality Performance Study—Volume 1 is based on responses from 27,754 wireless customers. The study was fielded between July and December 2008. The semi-annual study measures wireless call quality based on seven problem areas that impact overall carrier performance: dropped calls; static/interference; failed connection on the first try; voice distortion; echoes; no immediate voicemail notification; and no immediate text message notification.

I would bet a large portion of the 27,754 survey participants are college students or people out of work looking to make an extra buck. Does that qualify them to take such as survey just because they have the extra time on their hands? I think this study could provide more value consumers and carriers if they were to actually survey those customers who were actually having coverage problems in the past and could reference specific improvements in their local network. It's actually quite easy to find disgruntaled wireless customers if you simply do a Twitter search on "AT&T Coverage", "Verizon Coverage", "Sprint Coverage", "T-Mobile Coverage" or go to Deadcellzones.com. I think the big carriers need to start doing a better job of sourcing customer service informaiton from customers and companies like DeadCellZones.com can help.

In general call quality has likely improved but where, when, on what devices and for whom? What value does that provide to consumers who are still having 3G data issues with their iPhone's etc. If you missed that latest call qualify woes for AT&T at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin see this article in CNET, Geeks depart, but AT&T's SXSW coverage sucks.

The study also reveals interesting trends on calling activity: 52% of all wireless calls are made indoors today, while only 40% of calls in 2003 were made indoors. 30% of wireless calls take place at home, 12% at work, and 10% inside other structures, such as shopping malls. In 2009, the average number of text message notifications per month is nearly 100—more than double the amount reported just 1 year ago of 47.

Most carriers now offer a variety on the unlimited cell phone plans. The days of rate plans segmented by minutes will likely come to an end in the next couple years. We’ll probably be left with unlimited rate plans and, for very light users, pay-as-you-go plans. Some of the prepaid offers have actually undercut the national carriers’ contract plans. This is somewhat different than traditional prepaid minutes that have usually been more expensive. However, those customers willing to sign a contract usually have access to better phones at a much lower price. Another reason to move customers towards unlimited calling plans is that itemizing and segmenting a phone bill costs a lot of money and some analysts say almost 30% of your monthly bill. So it will be a net cost savings to the carriers most likely.

Here’s a summary of current carrier offerings, along with some pros and cons:

National Carriers with 2 Year Contract:

  • Sprint Everything ($99.99): Best price for voice, text and data among the contract carriers.
  • AT&T, Verizon, Alltel ($99.99): Voice only. Verizon offers an option with text for $119.99 and with text and data for $139.99.
  • T-Mobile: ($99.99): Voice + text. T-Mobile also recently introduced a $50 unlimited voice plan to retain customers.

Family plans are also available, although most carriers charge about 2x the single unlimited plan, so it isn’t any great deal. However, T-Mobile offers the unlimited family plan for about $150, making the 2nd line only $50.

Prepaid Carriers, No Contract:

  • Cricket & MetroPCS ($35 to $50): Unlimited plans, with the higher price plans including text messaging, voice and data and extended coverage. These plans are best for those not traveling a great deal outside their local area. While both carriers can offer coverage in most parts of the country, that is achieved via agreements with other carriers. As a result, roaming charges can quickly add up.
  • Boost ($50): From the prepaid divsion of Sprint, this unlimited plan offers voice, text, web and two-way radio. When rolled out earlier in 2009, this low price point shocked many in the wireless industry. The ‘catch’ here is that service is on the network that Sprint acquired when it purchased Nextel a few years back. Coverage is somewhat limited (with roaming N/A outside those areas) and data is not 3G. If you don’t frequent rural areas and don’t need data, this might be worth a look.
  • Virgin Mobile ($79.99): Virgin uses the Sprint network, so they have undercut the major carriers by $20. Add $10 for text and $10 for data, and the $99.99 price point matches that of Sprint. Limited selection of 3G phones right now.

AT&T said it will spend about $11 billion in 2009 out of a total capital spending plan estimated to be between $17 billion and $18 billion to expand and enhance both its wireline and wireless broadband networks. This year's projects are expected to create about 3,000 jobs, specifically in the wireless, broadband and video parts of the business.

The wireless investment will center around ongoing 3G network expansion, femtocell trials and Wi-Fi hotspot expansion. The wireline portion of the investment will go largely toward ongoing expansion of AT&T U-Verse fiber network. While the overall spending for this year still represents lower capex than last year, it is at least re-assuring for vendors to hear AT&T starting to talk more specifically about how it will spend the money.

Plans for this year include adding more than 2,100 new cell sites across the country and expanding 3G service to 20 new markets this year. AT&T also expects customer trials will lead to greater availability of its 3G MicroCell femtocell offering for boosting in-building coverage, and it will continue to expand its Wi-Fi footprint.

If you are an AT&T customer wouldn't you like to have some input and transparency as to where these improvements will take place? There are over 30,000 cell phone dead zone complaints for AT&T Wireless in our database and we think our vocal users should be heard by the carrier. Please submit your AT&T wireless coverage problems on our maps at www.deadcellzones.com/att.html

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