Campgrounds With No Cell Reception

Do you try disconnect yourself from the realities of world by leaving home all devices including: cell phones, laptops, iPhones and iPads when you go camping?  Camping in places with no cell reception are often the best places in the World to hide out if you are looking to get away for a few days.  These areas are often remote enough that you might just have the location all to yourself.  We think there might be correlation between crowded campgrounds and those with good cell phone reception. I am a "camping purest" and prefer campgrounds with no cell phone coverage to avoid the temptation of staying connected.  

We are on a mission to find all of the remote campgrounds in the US that DO NOT have good coverage.  Remember the objective of identifying these locations is not to fix the coverage its to find a cell phone dead zone to cleanse yourself from reality for a few days. To do this we are asking all of our users to tell us what campground don't have good cell phone reception or are complete dead zones.  I have a theory that if a campground actually has good cell phone reception its probably crowded, too close to a city and usually being inhabited by people that should be at home watching TV or staying in an RV.

We will try and share some of the locations with you as our users begin to add them to the map.  Click here to search and add a new campground on our map that is a good get-a-way and might have no cell phone coverage.

T-Mobile USA & Orange Merger Coming?

T-Mobile USA's CEO Robert Dotson has decided to leave the mobile phone operator in 2011, according to parent company Deutsche Telekom. Dotson will hand over the CEO position to Philipp Humm in February next year, and then finally leave the company in May 2011, Deutsche Telekom said.

Humm is the chief regional officer at T-Mobile in Europe. He is responsible for international sales and customer service, and is in charge of Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and the U.K, where he has overseen the creation of a joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange called Everything, Everywhere. This news comes only weeks after the finalization of the T-Mobile UK and Orange merger. Read More

There has been much speculation about the merger to create scale for handset makers and advertisers.   I am not clear what affect this could have on the US but I can only speculate good things since we are so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to mobile technology adoption.

Why Won't Wireless Carriers Admit Problems?

Does Admission of Guilt = Class Action Lawsuits?

Would AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint really be subject to many lawsuits if they admitted their problems?  We have collected thousands of complaints from customers who I think would rather see more transparency than continued denial of truth.  Why not accept complaints publicly through a third party auditing service like and give feedback to the customer what might be done to solve their problem?  It seems pretty simple to me and this is what I have been preaching for years.  I am amazed that I am still discussing this issue in 2010 after I started the web site almost 10 years ago and hundreds of thousands of complaints later.

I hate the economics of class-action lawsuits, but this issue probably one (failure to provide promised service under long term contracts) that could get a lot of consumer interest if coverage continues to get worse.  If a carrier can’t provide network coverage as prescribed (dropped calls, dead zones, data congestion), then they should let me take my phone to a different carrier or give me a refund.

We have offered to give our entire database to the carriers and the FCC many times and continue to be ignored at the highest level.  However, we are not being ignored completely as we see wireless operator IP addresses on the web site everyday.  So they are looking at our data just not acknowledging it publicly.  We hope this changes soon as our maps get wider distribution through mainstream retail and as the rural smaller carriers try and capitalize on the weaknesses of their biggest competitors.

How to Drop Early Termination Fees

 Dropped Calls = Dropped Early Termination Fees

AT&T plans to raise the fee it charges customers trying to get out of their wireless phone contracts early. This bold move comes after expectations that the carrier will lose exclusivity on the iPhone over the next year.  The early termination fees to $325 from $175 on contracts signed for smartphones, as well as cellular-connected netbooks. But for contracts on feature or messaging phones, AT&T will drop the fee by $25 to $150. The changes, which don't apply to current customers, take effect for new and renewing customers.

Verizon similarly increased its early termination feeds to $350 back in November, right as the very popular Motorola Droid launched. Verizon’s early termination fees increase probably contributed to the FCC’s decision to launch an investigation into high carrier termination fees in the mobile industry. AT&T’s move today seems to indicate that that’s no longer a concern. I want to know who paid off who at the FCC?

I have always recommended to our readers that they need to constantly document poor coverage and they should do this on our maps at  The best way to do this is log your dropped calls, data congestion areas and dead zones by adding pins to our map.  Once you have enough pins in the map you should print out a copy the map with complaints and use this evidence that your service was not adequately provided. You should also look on AT&T and Verizon's coverage maps and see where their maps are incorrect.  This is the easiest way to get out of a contract because there are service levels that must be maintained in order for the carrier to charge you each month for service.

Here is an old graph below which needs to be updated with the changes to reflect AT&T and Verizon hiking their fees.  
Related Stories: 
How to Get Out of a Cellular Service Contract

AT&T & Apple Class Action Lawsuit

Crowdsourcing a class action lawsuit against Apple and AT&T!

Tech Crunch Disrupt Hack Day produced a new product.  It’s a class action lawsuit generator against AT&T that uses your actual call drop data to tabulate how many times your phone crashed and how many times you’ve been generally screwed by AT&T. searches for baseband crashes on your desktop, uploads them, and saves them to a database. The results are tabulated and added to the total, eventually leading to a detailed class-action lawsuit.

You can call AT&T and complain to them and they will give you a refund on that month of service. There's no specific number that AT&T will tell you is the breaking point, but let's just say that it's 10 for arguments sake. Let's also pretend that each AT&T customer pays $56 a month (which is the average price of AT&Ts plans). So here's our math: $56 * (number of months for each user where they had more than 10 dropped calls)

$1,000,000,000 / $56 a month = 17,857,142 months of service. We don't know exactly how many AT&T iPhones are out there, but they added 3.2 million new ones in Q4 2009, so I think it's safe to say at least 10 million.* 17,857,142 months / 10,000,000 subscribers is 1.78 months of bad service per subscriber to reach a billion dollars. Easy peasy. But what if you're like me, and every month is a bad month, and you've had an iPhone for 2 years?** 17,857,142 months / 24 months per subscriber = 744,047 subscribers.

Facebook Mobile Ads vs. Dumb Pipes

Mobile advertising CPM's make data / voice subscription models irrelevant?

Wireless operators have built huge businesses selling cellular voice service for a hefty monthly fee.  Fees are based on a fixed monthly charges regardless of whether you use the minutes / data or not.   But now that cellular voice calls are a commodity, consumers are spending much less money than they used to for voice services.  Add VoIP and cheap prepaid wireless service into the competition, and this will only continue to erode in the future as long as it remains based on fees and not adverting.  Facebook, Google & Skype all have disruptive platforms that are disinter-mediating the dumb pipes making them almost irrelevant.   The only question remains when will be the tipping point?

The dumb pipe industry is hoping that data revenue from text messages, Internet access, multiple mobile Internet devices per person, like the iPad and Kindle -- will make up for the difference. And so far, it's coming close. But monthly bills will likely continue to shrink and these operators don't have a clue how to monetize their services via adverting yet for fear of cannibalizing their cash cows.

Here are three charts below which are quietly forecasting the demise of predictable subscription based ARPU related business models (Voice & Data) and the rise of advertising.  Its all about leverage and clearly AT&T and Verizon are losing it and Facebook and Google are gaining.  I think we are closers than everyone thinks to free subsidized data and voice services from Facebook and Google.   I can't wait because I think as effective CPM's are on the rise publishers stand to actually make more money than the dumb pipes who are focused on fixed subscription models.

Rural Wireless Customers Have Fewer Choices

Its not surprising to see that a large portion of the population has limited choices when it comes to cell phone service. The chart above provided by the FCC shows that only 10% of the rural population have 4 wireless carrier options that most city dwellers have.  In-fact most rural customers only have 1 or 2 wireless options and that makes it difficult for competition.  Contrary to the commercials you see on TV touting 98% of the population covered it proves this claim is meaningless. 

Carriers are highly profit driven based on ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and typically invest dollars where their highest concentration of customers reside. However, what you don't read in the press is that most of the 160+ smaller rural wireless carriers see this problem as an opportunity and often provide better coverage.  Rural Wireless Carriers Have Better Coverage

Many of these smaller carriers which are not covered in the mainstream media lease tower space back to the giant wireless operators AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in some areas.  Consumers will not notice that they are on another carriers network and the data or voice roaming is typically transparent to the user.  

iPhone: Has it Jumped the Shark?

Google Android is capturing a larger and larger market share and has Apple nervous.  This raises the question: Has the iPhone lost its momentum with developers and peaked with users?

Many people are obviously upset with the cozy AT&T relationship and lack of transparency about coverage and ways to improve it.  Dropped calls, dead zones and data congestion has frustrated just about every iPhone user.  Android is available on many US carriers and not just limited to one carrier (AT&T) unlike Apple.

Market research firm NPD showed that Android phones had outsold iPhones in the first quarter of 2010. Google's operating system accounted for 28 percent of U.S. smartphone sales, versus 21 percent for the iPhone OS. RIM retained the lead, however: BlackBerry phones captured 36 percent of the market.

Developers may be switching to Android which is another reason it may be losing its edge. The iPhone's appeal is typically attributed to the thousands of applications available in the App Store. However, Apple's controlling nature has frustrated developers. Its inconsistent App Store rules mean that applications can be rejected for all manner of reasons, creating a strong disincentive to develop on the platform.

Google entered the mobile software market late with its Android offering but is light years ahead with its advertising platform. Google’s initial efforts were a pale imitation of the iPhone OS, a clunky user experience on sub-par handsets.  However, it has stepped up a number of efforts to compete and most importantly a sustainable revenue model for developers.  Advertising!

Read more from Pete Cashmore's CNN Column.

How to Measure Cell Phone Radiation Levels

Studies are inconclusive about the effect of radiation from cell phones. Tawkon shows you when you're OK to talk on and how to minimize your exposure to mobile phone radiation just when you need to. Tawkon is the only application that recognizes when radiation exposure has increased, alerts you when radiation levels cross a predefined threshold, and provides simple, non-intrusive suggestions to reduce exposure to radiation. Suggestions are based on your real time environment and usage factors.

Tawkon  achieves this with our RRI™ (Real-time Radiation Indication) patent-pending technology. RRI collects and analyzes your phone's dynamic SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) levels, network coverage, location, environmental conditions and phone usage at any given moment. RRI leverages unique smart phones capabilities such as GPS, accelerometer, proximity sensors and more to help minimize radiation exposure during mobile phone usage.  Request a download here.

Mobile phones allow communication from any location via a network of base stations (cellular antennas). Information is transmitted from the mobile phone to the base station and vice versa via high-frequency electromagnetic fields.  Radiation intensity is greatest close to its source (the mobile phone's antenna) and decreases sharply with distance from the phone.  The intensity of cellular (non-ionizing) radiation exposure during a call depends on various factors:

A mobile phone emits less radiation when connection quality is good than when it is poor.
  • Connection quality is, for example, better outdoors than in a building or areas with connectivity interferences (basement, elevator, car, etc)
  • Connectivity improves with proximity to a cellular base station
  • Connectivity can be reduced by phone usage such as antenna orientation (if the phone is held vertically or horizontally), travel speed, etc
The proportion of radiation absorbed by the human body when making a call varies according to:
  • The model of mobile phone, conveyed by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). Maximum SAR levels are set by governmental regulating agencies in many countries (e.g. the FCC in the US)
  • The antenna’s proximity from the body
App screen shot

Outdoor Femtocells Enable Cheap Backhaul

There is a lot of “name pollution” in the wireless market, making it difficult to draw the line between picocell and femtocell. However, Public Wireless has invented a new economical approach leveraging their experience in outdoor wireless to reduce back-haul costs for small cell sites.   Public Wireless is a new US company pioneering the use of Ubiquisys femtocells  – providing coverage and capacity where cell towers wouldn’t otherwise be viable.

This approach gives them at least as great as a macrocell, but much cheaper in backhaul terms. This is because it uses virtually any available IP transport layer (DSL/Cable/Fiber/Microwave) over existing fiber, coaxial or copper wires, rather than needing a newly constructed and/or dedicated connection to each and every site, such as with outdoor DAS installations.

There are three classes of these small cellsites which our products address:

1. Coverage, in areas where it’s not been possible to get zoning permission or planning permission to erect a cell tower from the local authority. They install a site unobtrusively within a short period of time that doesn’t require the same levels of special permission.

2. Macro Sector Off-load, in areas where there are hotspots of data congestion in a large cell area that adversely affect the rest of the coverage area. An example would be a student dormitory, which can be offloaded to a local hotspot. This allows the students much better throughput and the macro cell users get better service.

3. Data Capacity, providing a mesh of small cellsites which give enormous data capacity in urban areas at a higher backhaul density and a higher data throughput.


10% of iPads, iPods & iPhones are Jailbroken

10% of all iPods and iPhones are Jailbroken

Jailbreaking is a process that allows iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users to run any code on their devices, as opposed to only that code authorized by Apple. Once jailbroken, iPhone users are able to download many applications previously unavailable through the App Store via unofficial installers such as Cydia, as well as illegally pirated apps. A jailbroken iPhone or iPod Touch is still able to use and update apps downloaded and purchased from Apple's official App Store.

Jailbreaking is distinct from SIM unlocking, which, once completed, means that the mobile phone will accept any SIM without restriction on, for example, the country or network operator of origin. Jailbreaking, according to Apple, voids Apple's warranty on the device, although this is quickly remedied by restoring the device in iTunes.

It looks like users will have to be willing to jailbreak their iPhones in order to experience the benefits of many WiFi applications. This really has come at no surprise, as it approaches boundaries that Apple is unwilling to cross. Many apps are rejected everyday but this one really deserves some special mention. The application would work in tandem with a helper app on your Mac and enable iTunes so that your iPhone or iPad could sync wirelessly over the local network.  Read More: Jailbreaking a Requirement For Experiencing WiFi On Your iPhone or iPad

Google Nexus One at Best Buy Mobile Stores

Google Nexus One Will Likely Be Available At Best Buy Mobile

Up until now, sales of the Google Nexus One phone were conducted exclusively through a Google/Phone and sales were not overwhelming. Google estimated to have moved a mere 135,000 units in the three months since its January launch. Its not surprising that after the successful beta test that the giant location based advertising company is moving the phone into retail channels.  I think the best fit for their audience are Best Buy Mobile and/or Amazon Wireless to launch the early adopter sales effort.  T-Mobile could be another good carrier fit as well but they probably want ridiculous terms for selling in their retail channel.

No retailers have been announced yet, but likely candidates include Amazon, Best Buy Mobile and Walmart. Walmart back in January accidentally posted the phone on their site, but then stated that they had no plans to sell it.

Customer Churn: Coverage vs.Contracts

Contracts Reduce Customer Churn . . . Not Service

It has become fairly obvious that if AT&T's lost its' current iPhone or iPad exclusivity contract that they would suffer tremendous customer carnage.  Every person I speak with tells me that if AT&T didn't have them locked into a Blackberry or iPhone contract they would switch to another smaller carrier.  Unlike, Europe where you can purchase a phone 1st and pick wireless carrier 2nd.  US customers are only offered subsidized phones that lock them into exclusive carrier contracts.  Its bogus in my opinion and should get more government regulation by the FCC who continuously to be a pussy on this topic. 

This issue is not too dissimilar to Microsoft's operating system and browser issue that the government considered Anti-Trust and cracked down on. I think we all would have better coverage, less dropped calls and data congestion if fewer customers were competing on the same network.  When 65% of the entire US customer base is controlled by two mega networks AT&T and Verizon everyone suffers.  If the 160 other wireless carriers "could" compete by accessing the same handsets we would all be better off.  However, as long as AT&T and Verizon are two of the highest paying dividend stocks the ponzi scheme will continue and the FCC will always be pussies.

The cable industry could become formidable competition for the two big operators but right now Time Warner, Comcast, Cable Vision have their head up their ass focussed on Wifi.  Cox on the other hand is buying wireless spectrum and has a chance to be very disruptive if they can get the handsets and femtocells right.  One thing that does concern me is their dependence on Sprint and Clearwire for reseller contracts.  Stick to your quad bundles and offer Broadband, DVRs, Femtocells and Voice (Wireless & Land). 

The following charts the top 10 U.S. wireless carriers in the first quarter of 2010 by average monthly churn, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, and includes major metrics--such as churn, ARPU and revenue--of each carrier. Sadly there is not correlation with customer churn and poor coverage according to these numbers.  However, as networks and handsets are decoupled in the future our dead zone data will become more relevant.  See details here.

Avg. Monthly Churn
Customers (Millions)
% Dead Zones
Leap Wireless
Cincinnati Bell

Sprint Nextel
US Cellular
Verizon Wireless

I often wonder will lack of customer churn persist if other handset manufacturers begin to catch up to the cult manufacture we know as Apple.  I share the view that its best to chose a carrier who has least amount customers in areas your frequent.  For example, there are very few T-Mobile customers in my neighborhood and therefore my coverage is pretty good at my home.  Also, I love the Android operating system and G1 phone so I am a bit biased.  I always recommend being somewhat of a contrarian when shopping for phones and its great to understand who is experiencing dropped calls and data congestion in your area.  It is likely that too many people are competing for the same cell phone tower. 

Cox Can Disrupt Wireless Operators AT&T & Verizon

Pat Esser President of Cox Communications

Cox is taking wireless seriously and Pat Esser could be the CEO who completely disrupts the entire industry that has been dominated by four large carriers.  However, I have some questions why Cox keeps delaying their launch months and seemingly years.  Do they want to make a purchase or a merger to scale quicker?  Are they rethinking their femtocell strategy?  Do they recognize that Google and Android / Nexus One phones will be a critical piece of the puzzle that will drive customer adoption?

Cox Communications continues to push out the commercial launch date of its first wireless markets another two or three months. The company has been testing the wireless service with wireline family customers in Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha, Neb. and soon in Orange County, Calif., since March. Cox President Pat Esser told Bloomberg that those markets will be commercially ready in two to three months. Additionally, Esser said that about 24 percent of Cox's customers said they will ditch their current carrier for Cox's wireless plans.

As in the past, the company has declined to say when the wireless service will be expanded to its entire footprint or what its prices and handset lineup will be. And the company has been shifting back the date when it will provide these details. At the end of March, Cox spokesman David Grabert told FierceWireless that "in the next few weeks we're going to see details on rate plans and devices," but declined to provide a specific date. In early May, Cox told consumers who registered on the Cox Wireless website that the public launch would be in the "coming weeks."

Cox plans to deploy its CDMA EV-DO network--via suppliers Starent and Huawei--on its own AWS spectrum, and eventually plans to migrate to LTE via its 700 MHz holdings. The carrier's current wireless efforts rely on Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) network, an interim step as the company prepares its own network.

Related articles:
Cox Wireless & Huawei Changing Mobile TV
Cable Operators Want to Own Wifi
Cox Wireless Should Focus on Unhappy Wireless Customers
Cox Wireless Service Ads Miss The Mark
Wireless Services at Cable Show
Cox Launching Phone Trials

High Speed Packet Access Speeds (HSPA)

Is HPSA+ 4G?  HSPA+ improves the end-user experience by increasing peak data rates up to 14 Mbit/s in the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s in the uplink.  It also reduces latency and provides up to five times more system capacity in the downlink and up to twice as much system capacity in the uplink, reducing the production cost per bit compared to original WCDMA protocols. HSPA increases peak data rates and capacity in several ways:
  • Shared-channel transmission, which results in efficient use of available code and power resources in WCDMA
  • Better “always-on” experience without compromising battery life
  • A shorter Transmission Time Interval (TTI), which reduces round-trip time and improves the tracking of fast channel variations
  • Link adaptation, which maximizes channel usage and enables the base station to operate close to maximum cell power
  • Fast scheduling, which prioritizes users with the most favorable channel conditions
  • Fast retransmission and soft-combining, which further increase capacity
  • 16QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), which yields higher bit-rates
More than 50 HSPA+ networks supporting 21 Mbps to 28 Mbps have already launched and operators are now preparing for multicarrier (a.k.a dual-carrier) launches in 2010 to support up to 42 Mbps. HSPA+ enhances the broadband experience while significantly increasing voice and data capacity. Its higher data rate and latency offer anywhere anytime access to rich multimedia services, push-to-media, interactive gaming, video and audio downloads, and more

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Cable Operators Want to Own Local Wifi

I attended the Cable Show yesterday and walked away disappointed about cellular partnerships and encouraged about Wifi. My takeaways and questions were the following:
  1. Cable companies want to own local Wifi networks advertising visibility
  2. Rolling out regional free / subsidized Wifi to small businesses (SMBs) is the #1 priority
  3. Most operators are not interested in cellular voice at the home (except Cox)
  4. Femtocells are not in the plans and not sure how they will handle 5-10M devices on their network
  5. Cox is the only cable operator controlling their own destiny in cellular buying spectrum
  6. What happens if Sprint gets gobbled up and they are all partnered with the same cellular operator? 
  7. They think controlling the DVR is the #1 consumer pain and I don't agree
  8. No discussion of handset partnerships
  9. Very vague on the branding / reselling aspects of using Sprint 3G / Clearwire 4G
  10. Smartphone / femtocell penetration must be larger for voice to matter in the home
The panel consisted of the following people: 
  • Cathy Avgiris (Comcast Cable Communications)
  • John Bickham (Cablevision Systems Corporation)
  • Stephen Bye (Cox Communications, Inc.)
  • Frank Miller (BendBroadband)
  • Mike Roudi (Time Warner Cable)
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Google Verizon Tablet vs Apple AT&T iPad

10 Features Needed on the Google Verizon Tablet to Compete with the AT&T iPad

Google and Verizon Wireless are reportedly working on an tablet together. The tablet will run the Android OS but Verizon says it’ll have more details later this week. We think Google should have something to say at its I|O conference next week.  This Google Tablet will compete with Apple’s iPad. It joins the rush of iPad rivals that don’t actually exist yet. We would like to see another company emerge as the iPad’s most formidable competitor and here are some features we would like to see on the device.
  1. Android OS with PC app sync functionality like AppBrain
  2. Google’s Chrome browser
  3. Integration with Apps - Gmail, Reader, Maps, Google Calendar, Picasa, and Google Voice
  4. Support Adobe Flash for YouTube, Hulu Video
  5. Social media app integration - Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Pandora
  6. Fast Flip Viewer - for Books, magazines, and newspapers. Google is launching an e-book store this summer.
  7. WIFI only option and 3G, 4G, Wimax, LTE option without subscription for non-travelers 
  8. VoIP Video / Voice Integration for Skype, Google Voice, TruFone
  9. Front and rear video and picture camera for video phone calls and pictures
  10. Price of $199 and make apps location ad supported

How to Boost Your AT&T Reception Outdoors

Article By Todd Bernhard from iPhone Life, Saturday, May 8, 2010 - AT&T. Nothing inspires more conversation among iPhone owners than those few letters. AT&T has benefitted from their exclusive contract, but their coverage has been an easy target for competitors and late night comics. What is an iPhone road warrior to do?

I had the chance to try the Sleek from Wilson Electronics, Inc. ($130 MSRP). True to the name, the Sleek is smaller than Wilson’s previous models and more portable than hardwired models. I had always been hesitant to try any device that needed to be permanently wired into my car or that worked exclusively with one phone.

The Sleek piqued my interest, as it is both universal and somewhat portable, although you may want to hide the wiring for the external magnetic antenna. Wilson offers the iBooster, specifically for the iPhone, which is a combination charger, cradle, and antenna so you don't even need to mount an external antenna. With either booster, you might have to remove your phone from its case for it to fit, depending on the bulk of your case.

Skeptical by nature, I wanted to see for myself if the Sleek could improve reception. Styling, pricing, and packaging are irrelevant if it doesn't improve reception! The good news is, Wilson Technologies' Sleek booster worked, for me and for my iPhone 3G.

Initially, I took a road trip to some diverse areas around Rochester, NY to see how it performed. I went to the airport, downtown, suburbs, and the highway where I've experienced dropped calls before. I made and received calls throughout the journey and never experienced a dropped call. Then I decided to push the limit!

With the help of, I located some dead zones within driving distance and spent a half a tank of gas (and most of my birthday!) testing these spots. I went to the end of the earth, or at least the edge of the United States, to the northern border of New York, along Lake Ontario. Sure enough, without the booster, I could watch the bars disappear as the lake approached, until there was no signal, just “Searching”. I plugged in the Sleek. Unfortunately, dead means dead, and even the Sleek couldn’t get a signal at that remote location. But I drove around for a minute and as soon as I could get a signal, I measured the results both with and without the Sleek and it was significant.  Read More.

Why is AT&T's MicroCell Dropping Calls?

AT&T's Mini Home Cell Phone Tower

Apparently AT&T Microcell users are getting LOTS of dropped calls after installation of the AT&T Microcell / Femtocell after a proper installation.  Does there need to be more disclosure about which cable and wireline network the Microcell works best with?  Can Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, Cable Vision purposely sniff out AT&T Microcell packets and make the calls drop similar to Vonage and Skype?  It also appears that there is a not so friendly competition between the Microcell and the macro cell tower outside for domination. If the macro cell tower strenght is too strong, the microcell hands off the call. Once that happens it cannot go back. If your call is in macro and the signal starts to degrade, you end up with a dropped call.  Why does this happen?  Well RF engineers tell us it's because the cell tower outdoors doesn't know the Microcell exists on the network and thus your the signal will not be optimized.  Sometimes too many cell phone towers or Microcells in an area can cause dropped calls as well.

Here is are 3 examples of a users having problems:

San Francisco - All the lights are on and my iPhone reads AT&T M-CELL with 5 bars all over the house.  I've got a 50MBit down/10MBit up connection which passes all the VoIP online tests with flying colors (very little jitter, 0.0 packet loss etc..) It's hooked to a reasonably new dual channel Cisco wireless router.  The problem is that Calls are failing all the time - while the bars stay solid at 5. Occasionally, I'll go a day or two without a dropped call, but then I'll have 5 or 6 dropped calls in a row. I've had to disable 3G on the iPhone just to maintain a conference call for more than 10 minutes without dropping. I've restarted it a couple of times and that doesn't appear to do anything.

San Diego - I've had my MC for a couple of weeks now. Where I live in San Diego, it is very hilly. Macro cell coverage is very spotty. In the front of my house, I get absolutely no bar coverage. In fact it typically says "Searching for Network". In the back of my house approx 50' away I get 1-2 bar macro coverage. I have experimented with the location of the MC and here is what my very superficial testing has shown. It seems to be important to locate the MC in a location where you get the worst macro cell coverage. It somehow appears, that there is a not so friendly competition between the MicroCell and the cell tower for domination. If the macro cell strenght is too strong, the microcell hands off the call. Once that happens it cannot go back. If your call is in macro and the signal starts to degrade, you end up with a dropped call. So now with the MC located in the front of my house, I get 5 bar coverage and almost never drop a call throughout most of the house. However, if I start a call up front and start walking towards the rear, once the tower strength starts to exceed the MC strenth that appears to be the problem area. If it hands off to the cell tower I typically have no better than 50% chance of completing the call before it is dropped.

Salt Lake City - I just bought a MicroCell yesterday in Salt Lake City and had my first two calls dropped. So far, I'm less than impressed. Let me know if you or anyone has any suggestions. If not, this might be a short-lived purchase.

Is anyone else experiencing this kind of performance? Is there a firmware update of some kind?

Read more at the AT&T Wirless Forum

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Call Failed or Dropped Calls?

Hotel WiFi Dead Zones

As Free WiFi becomes ubiquitous at public locations it will be important that consumers keep landlords, real estate owners and business owners honest in their claim about coverage.  If you ever find a place the should have WiFi coverage and does not please submit your complaints to 

Hotels with free WiFi that are out there, the truth remains that the hotel WiFi world is still confusing, inconsistent, and unreliable. Brand inconsistency (meaning it's free at some hotels and not at others, even though they are the same brand) and worse, bad WiFi reception is still prevalent--even when you've ponied up the money WiFi. We've even heard of hotels that "promise" free WiFi but find out its not true.  Hotels that are on the top 5 list are W Hotels, Double Tree Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotels.  Read more at

No Phone Zones States

States that Ban Texting While Driving 
6,000 mothers, fathers, daughters, sons & friends that are needlessly killed each year due to distracted drivers that are talking or texting on their cell phones while driving. Make the right choice & help save lives today by taking Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge. The risk of you causing an accident goes up 400% if you are talking on the phone while you are driving, which is similar to driving intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .08. The risk of you causing an accident goes up 800% if you are texting on the phone while driving.  We recommend sending all calls to Google Voice mail and an email will arrive that is transcribed.  

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Is Cell Reception Getting Worse?

There is much anecdotal evidence to point out that as data speeds increase exponentially and the number of users increase on the network that  mosts cell phone users will experience more problems.  Industry studies suggest that as the density of mobile phone users compete for access to cell phone towers the likelihood of dropped calls and data congestion gets worse. So you must ask yourself does it make sense to stick with AT&T and Verizon who are the largest carriers and would you be better off going with a smaller carrier who has less customers around you competing for access to the network?  If I only had access to a density of cell phone users map I could really create a beautiful and informative infograph.  I would call the chart "Where You Don't Want to Be on AT&T's Network".  Downtown San Francisco's very densely postulated iPhone user community is a great example of this phenomenon.

We see the number of related searches growing steadily about frustrating consumers looking for solutions: web site traffic (Quantcast).

Related topics:
Relieve 3G data congestion?
Forget 4G Cell Towers, Bring on Femtocells

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