How to Avoid Early Termination Fees

Buy your phone outright without any subsidy and unlock it. Its that simple! However, if you are already in a contract and need some help read these two post that will help you get some ideas on how to get out of a contract & how to drop early termination fees if you already purchased the phone.

Savvy smartphone users are among the most likely to leave their current carrier. According to a recent survey 31% of U.S. consumers are ready to switch wireless providers. Some may even want to dump their carriers entirely and use their Gmail, Google Voice services in the cloud for almost free. Early termination fees are rising and carrier loyalty is fragile at best. Prior to the rise of smartphones, carrier loyalty has been tied more to network coverage and for many it still is. Consumers don’t want to worry about signal strength or proximity to a cellular tower in order to use a phone in their home or at the office.

The carriers realize that customer loyalty is not what it used to be in this age of cloud computing and Wi-Fi VoIP. So what do they do to keep their customers? Make you think they have been upgrading their networks with faster data services and new cloud syncing services. Now that smartphones are available on all the major U.S. carriers contracts or hand-cuffs have become the discussion more than the service. The carriers have answered this with higher termination fees.

Verizon was first this year, doubling the cost to get out of a contract from $350 from $175 on smartphones. AT&T followed suit by boosting its termination fee to $325, adding a higher exit barrier for consumers who want to leave the carrier. Increased upfront hardware subsidy costs at the time of purchase are the excuses given to the media but that is a lie since phone prices from the manufacture have actually decreased not doubled.

My advice to carriers if they want to keep their customers happy is pretty simple. Don’t raise the barriers for customers to leave your network by increasing termination costs. Why not let your service speak for itself by providing better coverage at a reasonable prices. Consumers are becoming more phone savvy all the time and they can solve most of the problems themselves with WiFi.

Related Posts:
Customer Churn: Coverage vs.Contracts

Ken Radio Show = No Bullshit Tech News

Ken Rutkowski and Andy Abramson on are the hosts of a fantastic daily radio show that the technology news in  for business people.  They are undoubtedly the smartest technology radio hosts I know who crystallize the important headlines in 30 minutes.  They have opinions about everything and that is what I love most about them.  They aren't just borrowing news robots who are being told what to say by their executive producers like the mainstream news networks.  I have been listening to them on a daily basis for the last 10 years and have a great appreciation for the quality of their perspectives and opinions. Ken is a media guru who knows everything about entertainment and does his research about new web sites all the time.  Andy is very sharp telecom industry expert who translates every headline into what is really going on and why.  They are underground industry thought leaders who should be recognized by mainstream media as industry experts more often.  Why, because they don't cover the "bullshit" that the mainstream media does and they answer to no one but their own common sense.

Today, September 22, 2010, Andy and Ken discussed and the following topics below. The bantered about how AT&T is now offering a TerreStar Satellite Cellular Smartphone and pointed out that AT&T still can't get their network in order and have doubts about the success of this venture. They also discussed why some of the carriers like Verizon and Sprint have better coverage in some networks like New York because of better planning years ago.  Lastly they highlighted a survey that said millions of customers would leave AT&T for Verizon they could.  If you like mobile technology news they discuss it everyday and are well informed.

* AT&T Offers TerreStar Satellite-Cellular Smartphone
* Millions would switch to Verizon
* BlackBerry maker 'to unveil 'BlackPad' tablet to take on iPad
* Google to sue ‘rogue pharmacies’
* Zynga Grows like a Weed
* Web Start-Up Values Soar
* VideoEgg Buys Six Apart
* Massive solar flare 'could paralyze Earth in 2013'

Everyone in the mobile and technology industry should listen to them through a free iTunes subscription, email or news reader RSS feed.  Better yet should have a morning show on CNBC.

T-Mobile Customers Can Unlock Their Phones

To my surprise, if you are a loyal T-Mobile you can unlock your phone for free with the carrier and it will not void the warranty.  As a loyal customer this will NOT void the warranty on the phone and entitle you to the same service and return policies.  I experienced this excellent customer service today as I was preparing for my trip to Europe.  I asked them if I could unlock my phone so I could purchase an international SIM card to make calls while traveling in Europe and Ireland.  The answer they gave me was we can help you unlock your phone just give us your IME number and we will send you an email instruction you how to do it.  I would like to give T-Mobile an award for this tremendous customer service and they should be recognized for this leadership.  If any AT&T or Verizon customer has had the same experience I would like to know about it.  I won't hold my breath waiting.

Why would I want to purchase a SIM card versus roaming on T-Mobile?  The cost in Europe for US customers is $15 per megabyte to download data and $1.25 cents per minute to make phone calls.  I can't blame them for charging this but its a bit outrageous and may surprise many customers who don't turn off data roaming while traveling outside the US.

Another alternative is to take out your SIM card and make calls on Wi-FI with Truphone, Nimbuzz Skype on some phones or another VoIP mobile app.  The sound quality is pretty good and the rates vary from .02 cents per minute up to .20 cents per minute depending on if the call is to a landline or a mobile phone.  You can also purchase a SIM card from a company like Truphone Local Anywhere for $30 so you can take advantage of the local data plans and calling rates.  This will avoid the costly international roaming charges.

My plan while traveling to Europe is to take two phones.  My old G1 Android phone without a SIM card for making WiFI VoIP phone calls and my Samsung Vibrant for data roaming with a new SIM card that I will purchase when I land.  If anyone has any suggestions of data SIM cards to buy while traveling in Ireland and the UK please let me know?

10 Things A Facebook Phone Could Improve

Creating a better mobile phone experience could help Facebook as it competes against Google for location based advertising dollars.  Google might not be #1 at social, but it’s clearly trying to get better, and it will soon will better social media and sharing features. One of Google’s best assets is its growing user base of Android phones and this Facebook needs to leverage this.  A Facebook Android phone could help give the social media giant more leverage and have a huge impact on their mobile advertising based platform.  Here are 10 things a Facebook phone would do for its' users and the change industry:

1)  Improved address book features and automatic updates.
2)  Better instant messaging, VoIP and video chat with people you know and trust
3)  Never use voicemail or get a busy signal again with presence indicators
4)  Improved GPS applications & privacy settings for location based application
5)  Improved group scheduling, notification and RSVP features
6)  Group chat or instant location conference calls for events and meetings
7)  Mobile payments and a new "Groupon like" coupons
8)  Location based advertising for stuff I actually might want.
9)  Group cell phone buying plans for unlocked phones (500M+ users)
10) Better social gaming and location based sharing features.

Which carrier would Facebook likely choose in the US?  I think Facebook would like launch as a Sprint MVNO using the new 4G network.

Why AT&T Customers Can't Switch Carriers

AT&T's CEO (Randall Stephenson) implied in a CNBC interview that "80% of iPhone can't leave even if they wanted to".   What stephenson should have said in the interview as, "AT&T is doing everything it can to improve its network and its customer service to ensure our customers stay.  Here are some areas we have shown improvement and we are confident that our customers will stay."   Over the last 10 years most of the AT&T executives I have met have this same mentalltiy aside from a few internal management supporters of

Why can't more than 60 million customers switch carriers?  Because most of AT&T's customers are either in family plans or have business relationships with the carrier.  Business customers tend to be trapped as long as they stay with the same employer who is paying for their service plan.  Switching family plans get get very expensive if you have to buy additional phones. High switching costs due to early termination penalties is an additional reason why most people don't leave.  Phone contracts typically last 2 years and the the average person keeps their phone for only about 18 months.  

As soon as the phone unlocking / jailbreaking trend continues to get mainstream we are going to see lots of disruption in the service switching space.  Carriers are losing control of their customers and as more customers unlock their phones and discover that WiFi is free and VoIP works on it.  Defections are only going to get worse.  Google and Android Phones are likely going to be the drivers of this trend.

Why All Android Phones Are Not The Same

Android is a unique mobile phone operating system that any handset maker can use and modify. It has allowed manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, Sony, LG & Samsung to create a whole range of smart phones that run on its platform. However, consumers can also get very confused when shopping for these new phones and cannot assume that all phones that have Android are created equal. Unfortunately, I have learned firsthand that a phone with the Android OS doesn't automatically have all features I love. As an example here are 10 reasons why I may be returning my Samsung Vibrant for a G2 phone and both have the Android operating system.

Despite the Samsung Vibrant having a large beautiful screen and very fast processor, the phone has some software and ergonomic issues that I could not get fully comfortable with. The Vibrant is tremendously light, great media features and feels much better than the iPhone 4 but ultimately I think I am such a heavy Google user that I need the tightest integration with Google apps and therefore G2 is probably the best phone for me.

1. The GPS and interaction with Google Maps is not good. Not sure if it is a hardware or software issue and had a difficult time finding my location and using navigation. The G1 did not have this problem.

2. I don't like the hassle of a 2 step process of hitting the power button and swiping the screen up to use the phone when its dormant. Don't know how to remove or modify this process that seems necessary.

3. The lack of tight integration with Google Calendar and Maps creates some extra steps when using the phone. The lack of IM, Call and Email integration doesn't not make communicating with people as easy as the G1 and assume G2.

4. The Samsung Vibrant HD video and camera features were very nice and probably the think I liked the most about the phone. However, some of the navigation features within the media Gallery and integration with Picasa where not straight forward and kind of clunky. Each time my phone starts up it has to search for media files.

5. Holding the phone with one hand is not as easy as the G1 or G2 and requires an extra hand sometimes for touching areas on the screen. A long thumb is necessary for users to get comfortable with one hand.

6. Battery life was not very good and seems to only last about 6 hours without needed a long charge especially on WiFi. The G1 seemed to charge quickly and last a lot longer and and hope the G2 does the same.

7. Playing Avatar or videos from my phone on the TV through the Samsung Allshare App on my home FiOS network was kind of a scam. Pictures worked great but playing videos did not work and got bogged down by the file size. Plus Avatar was not available in 3D.  I hope the G2 has a networking feature like this or an app available soon.

8. I loved the amount of space available on the device but I felt like a lot of the apps that were preloaded seem to interfere with the apps I downloaded. TeleNav, MediaHub, GoGo, MobiTV, ThinkFree office, Visual Voicemail, Amazon MP3. Its not clear how to keep these apps dormant on the device so they don't load on startup.

9. I never felt like I was running out of memory but Advanced Task Killer kept killing 10 to 15 apps every hour. This lack of app loading control is not something I like.  The G1 did not have this problem.

10. I kind of miss using the trackball and keyboard to navigate around the screen to links and type. Its useful when trying to click on links and edit text. However, I think the Swipe feature for one handed typing is awesome!

Hopefully these 30 day return policies stay valid for carriers who sell Android phones.  This features have have not been differentiated very well by the carriers and the sales people are not very knowledgeable about the differences I mentioned above.

iPhone 4 Bars But No AT&T Service

Red Devil Lounge
1695 Polk St at Clay, San Francisco
"We Are the iPhone of Nightclubs . . .  4 Full Bars but Crappy Service"

Skype Mobile Not Available on T-Mobile

T-Mobile Spokeswoman Catherine Zeta Jones Should be Angry

Verizon seems to have cornered the Skype market as Skype Mobile apps are no longer available in the Android Marketplace for my T-Mobile phones.  Its a shame that Skype has sold itself out to Verizon and it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.  I guess an IPO will make you reach out for any revenue possible and sometimes that mean screwing your loyal customers.  Making phone calls over Wifi used to be possible with Skype and not with Google Voice.  Google Voice does not seem to work in Wifi only mode and I am very disappointed to see this.  Making calls while traveling internationally is a major rip off and Skype used to be the solution for this.  I will have to start using another VoIP app like Truphone to make my calls via Wifi while traveling.  

Pandora Activate Device Again

Why do I constantly have to reactive my Samsung TV each time I log back in and try to "like" a song?  I get the following message on my TV . . .  "You need to active again to listen to Pandora on this device after signing out. Do you want to activate again?"  I sent this question how to fix this to and we will see what kind of answer I get.   Stay tuned.

Compare Weight: Galaxy G2 iPhone Droid

The Galaxy S or T-Mobile's Vibrant weighs 4.2 ounces (117.9 grams) which is 20%+ lighter than the Apple's iPhone 4, G2 and Motorola's Droid X. The iPhone 4 feels much heavier at 4.8 ounces, the Droid X 5.5 ounces and G2 at 6.35 ounces.  The lighter plastic feel of the Galaxy gives it the lightweight feel.  The iPhone and Droid X feel heavier because of their metal frames.  The G2 is heavier because of its' slide out keyboard.  At similar form factor sizes, this is a big difference especially if you carry a wallet, keys and other items in your pocket.  Some people have describe the sensation of holding the Samsung Galaxy as cheap but I have to disagree.

The phone is very light and you can barely feel it in your pocket. Unlike, iPhone 4 which requires a bumper or case to minimize the antenna interference you don't need a protective bumper or guard for the Samsung Galaxy. Reception on the phone seems good and there don't appear to be any antenna issues.

When are Verizon FiOS 3D Channels Coming?

Verizon FiOS TV customers are waiting patiently for their 3D channels and programming as the NFL 2010 Football season is now in session.  But who has 3D channels?   Watching sports on a 3D TV is pretty close to being at the stadium or on the golf course.  Seeing the depth gives you a whole new perspective of what the athletes and fans at the stadium are seeing.  Its a brand new experience quite similar to what HD was back in early 2000.  Many executives downplayed the significance of HDTV back then and continue to do the same with 3D.  However, I think 3D is going to revolutionize TV once again just like HD.  It is impossible these days to watch any programming in a regular TV format or analog. 

I had my first 3D aha moment at Best Buy the other day while shopping for a new Samsung 3D plasma TV.  I was watching the Maui Open Golf Tournament on tape with 3D glasses and absolutely amazed at the different viewing experience it provides.  I thought I was actually on the green with the golfer reading the put while looking at the ocean in the background.  Then watching the golf ball come off the tee and travel down the fairway was incredible.   I was sold and in the process of purchasing 2 3D TVs for my house.

Android Phones: Samsung Vibrant vs HTC G2

Are you keyboard person or can't live without it or can you train yourself to use the new Swype digital keyboard?  Do you want the the faster HSPA+ download speeds or do you primarily use your phone on Wifi and can live with 3G?  Do you need the fastest processor?   Do you use your phone to read, look at photos and take video?  We try and answer these questions below . . .

I have been a long time T-Mobile G1 Android Phone user for the last two years.  I have been waiting patiently for the release of the new Android G2 which has a faster processor and refined hardware features.  However, when I walked into the T-Mobile store the other day to get a repair for my G1 something hit me.  The Samsung Vibrant Android Phone screen was beautiful and look strikingly similar to the iPhone.  However, when I picked it up it seem to be about half of the weight of an iPhone 4 which seems heavy.

The Samsung Vibrant comes a 1GHz processor that runs very fast. The G2 will be running on a 800 MHz processor. In day-to-day activities such as web browsing or checking email, the difference in power between the two devices won’t be significantly noticeable, but may make a difference for power users.

The T-Mobile G2 offers connectivity to T-Mobile’s next generation HSPA+ network, allowing the device to reach faster download speeds approaching or exceeding 4G speeds (3 – 6 mbps average). The Samsung Vibrant is limited to standard 3G connectivity. You need to ask yourself if you are mostly going to be connecting via Wifi or 3G. 4G or 3G HSPA+ is just not available in that many areas currently.

The G2 has a slide out keyboard and the Vibrant does not.  However, it features the Swype keyboard or the Android digital keyboard options.  The screen on the Vibrant is so large that the fat finger problem does not seem to be an issue.

After a few weeks of using the G2 we have notice some issues with the G2 SD card mounting read only.  So far there doesn't appear to be any solutions to fix the problem and we will keep you posted.  We have tried 2 different micro SD cards from SanDisk and the problem keeps occurring when trying to use the camera.  It appears to be an Android issue and we are being sent our 2nd phone.

One feature the Samsung Vibrant is lacking are the tight integration with Google Maps and comes preloaded with TeleNav.  One feature I liked on the G1 was the ability to click on the location of a calendar item and Google Maps would automatically open up.  I suspect that this feature will be fixed in future updates.

Samsung has a great networking feature Allshare if you have a Samsung TV or other DLNA devices. DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) technology enable the Vibrant to wirelessly act as a media server and sends video content from you phone to other devices, such as TV’s, monitors and laptops.

The Samsung Vibrant is running Android 2.1 with an upgrade to Android 2.2 approaching while the T-Mobile G2 will be shipping with Android 2.2.  I have downloaded many of the Google applications that I used on the G1 like Google Voice, Google Places, Google Maps Navigation, Google Voice Navigation, Google Fast Flip, Google News, Google Reader and Google Finance.

The Samsung Vibrant has a beautiful 4″ display which is one of the best displays I have ever seen. The G2 has a 3.7″ display which is similar to the Google Nexus One. Both displays will reduce their power consumption and reflection when in direct sunlight.

Avatar pre-installed on the Vibrant and it can be watched on any Samsung TV using their AllShare application sharing on a home network.

Both phones have a 5MP photo and HD video camera. However, the G2 will be equipped with an LED flash. The Samsung records video in 720p HD and has various camera settings which include night mode and panoramic capturing. The Vibrant also has an amazing panoramic mode which takes incredible pictures. The G2 will also come with 720p HD video recording as well.

One nice feature on the Vibrant is the 16GB internal storage which comes with a pre-installed 2GB microSD card. The T-Mobile G2 has 4GB internal storage and similar storage on the SD card.

Samsung is launching a Media Hub for renting or buying TV shows and Movies.  This feature currently does not work as says "coming soon" when you try and open it.

Samsung Vibrant also uses a proprietary charging device that looks a lot like a USB but its not.  You can charge it with their own USB cord but its a smaller dongle that fits into the fun.  Unfortunately, you cannot use your old USB or phone chargers.

The Samsung Vibrant comes preloaded with a number of unique applications like Avatar, TeleNav, AllShare, Facebook, GoGo, Kindle, MiniDiary, Mobi TV, The Sims 3, MobiTV & ThinkFree Office.

Related Post:
T-Mobile 4G Phones: G2 & MyTouch Compared
Why All Android Phones Are Not The Same

Mobile TV: Slingbox vs MobiTV FloTV Hulu

I have been a long time Slingbox user and a huge fan of being able to watch my Verizon FiOS DVR from my PC or my phone.  The Slingbox Pro cost me a one time store fee of $250 at BestBuy that I paid about 5 years ago. A Slingbox today sells for around $160 according to  Slingbox PRO still works great and does not require a monthly subscription.  That is a depreciating monthly cost of $4 and only getting better as I continue to use the Slingbox for me content.  SlingMedia is now owned by Dish Network and it will be interesting to see how long the service will remain free or if advertising will soon be inserted into the application as an overlay.

The great thing about Slingbox is whether you have AT&T U-Verse, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner or Cablevision, you can watch your live TV or DVR from anywhere around the world on your PC or MAC computer.  If you want to watch TV on a mobile phone the $30 SlingPlayer mobile phone application is available on most phones including the iPad, Android, Blackberry and iPhone.  Slingbox allows you to fully control your DVR with a digital remote that looks exactly like your TV remote control.  The Slingbox sits on top of your DVR uses infrared to change the channels just like you would with your remote control if you were sitting in your living room.

Some alternatives would be to subscribe to a service like MobiTV for $9.95 and watch the content on your Android or iPhone.   Another alternative would be to buy a FLO TV device for $100 plus a monthly fee of around $10 per month.  Some other alternatives might soon be Hulu but there application is not widely used as of yet on the mobile phone. Hulu has a great library of scripted content but it lacks sports and live TV.  If you are willing to dump your cable TV service read here on how to cut your cable TV cord.

AT&T interested in Flo TV spectrum Per Bloomberg & Qualcomm and AT&T are engaged in discussions over the possible sale of Flo TV spectrum. Qualcomm which is exiting the Flo TV business had paid $638 million for the 700 MHz spectrum.

Reset FiOS Router to Fix Samsung Galaxy

Verizon FiOS is a great home broadband service but their wireless router has caused some networking issues with my Samsung Galaxy phone's Allshare application and my Slingbox. For those customers who have had their Verizon FiOS router for more than a few months it might be time to reset the settings and start from scratch.  There are lots of settings and devices that might be configured on the router that could be interfering with your connectivity.

I have resolved two issues immediately after resetting my FiOS router back to the factory settings. A hard reset can be done by holding down the reset button with a pen for about 10 seconds (see picture below). After a reset is complete you will need to connect to your router via an Ethernet cord and reset the wireless to your previous settings. Remember the address of your home router is and your user name will likely be reset to "admin". You will be prompted to change your password immediately after being connected.

This should have resolved the issue of the device not being recognized by the network.  Try opening your Allshare application on your Samsung Galaxy S and adding pictures and video to the playlist.  Then it will ask you to select a device to play the video, picture or music on.  Its a pretty cool feature if you have a Samsung TV as well.

Kudos to Samsung for making such beautiful devices as I think the company is making great devices and could become a formidable competitor to the iPhone in the near future.  It remains to be seen what their Media Hub will look like but until they launch it I am optimistic that the devices will continue to sell as iPhone alternatives.

I am curious if anyone has any technical experience and could help me understand why this might have happened so it doesn't occur again?  Please submit your comments below.

Reset FiOS Router to Fix Your Slingbox

Verizon FiOS is a great broadband service but their wireless router has caused some networking issues with my Slingbox and Samsung Galaxy phone.  For those customers who have had their Verizon FiOS router for a while (more than a few months) its probably time to reset the settings and start from scratch.  Here are two examples of problems that were immediately resolved when I did a hard reset my router (see picture below).  A hard reset of the router can be done by holding down the red button with a pen for about 10 seconds.  After this is completed I would recommend connecting a computer to your router via an Ethernet cord and reset the wireless to your previous settings. Remember the address of your home router is and your user name will likely be reset to "admin".   You will be prompted to change your password immediately after being connected.  

My Slingbox Pro was not being recognized by the network and after reseting the router it began to work.  I spent many hours trying to configure the port forwarding settings on the router without much success.  Apparently, through all of the firmware updates the Slingbox was somehow removed from the network and I was unable to access the devices from a PC, Mac or Android phone.

I am not sure what settings were off but would appreciate any feedback from users.

How to Save Money on Phone Bills

One of the biggest expense items for companies who have large mobile workforces are the monthly cell phone bills.  Companies typically do their best to get all employees under one carrier in order to theoretically save money and get a deal.  However, how do you know that you are getting a deal?

1)  Are you buying new phones for each employee to be on the same plan?
2)  Are you auditing the monthly call activity over your employees?
3)  Are they getting the best service possible in your area?
4)  If all of your employees are on one carrier are you locked into a "good" price?
5)  Should you be encouraging your employees to use free WiFi more often instead of the expensive 4G or WiMax plans?
6)  What if you could give each of your employees a choice of which carrier and the handset or smart phone they wanted to use?
7)  Are you employees spending too much time managing their phone services and reporting expenses?
8)  Are you wasting valuable productivity time provisioning phones to your new employees and getting phones back from employees no longer with the company?
9)  Are you using VoIP for international calls?
10) Lastly, are you auditing and keeping track of the coverage service quality that your employees are getting and using this as leverage when you renew your contract?

Here are some companies that might help you make cheaper international calls with VoIP and audit your cell phone call activity through the carrier. Auditing your call activity is very important these days as dropped calls and coverage quality is actually getting worse as data speeds increase.  Most of these hosted solutions working with cell phones using unified communications tools and are sold directly to small businesses and directly to consumers.

Google Voice - Gives small businesses a second business number and makes voicemail more efficient.  It will also save money on international calls.
Skype - Great for video conferencing and making international calls and for businesses of any size.
Second Voice -  Large enterprises can audit and manage employee phones by adding a second number to an existing employee cell phone. 
Toktumi - Hosted PBX that gives employees a second number and has apps for your smartphone  
Truphone - Cheap VoIP calls from your mobile phone over WiFi
Ring Central - Get 800 numbers and virtual PBX with VoIP for calls
Vonage - VoIP phone service target to home users
Fonality - Viritual PBX in a box for small to medium sized enterprises
Virtual PBX - Hosted PBX for small business
Vbuzzer - VoIP software for PC

Cable Operators Have Verizon & AT&T by the Balls

Of the residential femtocell offers available today around the World, more than 50% require you to buy their wireline broadband service as well. This percentage will likely grow a lot as the market grows, and give the cable operators a distinct advantage who have an overwhelming market share in the US.  US cable operators will continue to quietly tighten the screws on the wireless operators.  The war is just beginning and this is one of the major reasons femtocells have not been promoted widely and will continue to be downplayed until the US cable operators get serious about a game.  Is it going to be Wifi or will they embrace femtocells from AT&T and Verizon who have 65%+ of the US market share.

Femtocells must be purchased and operated on their own proprietary mobile network unlike wifi. These mini cell phone towers form an extension of the macro cell phone tower network and connect through to the same telephone switches, routers, voicemail and billing systems that are used when outdoors. Since you are required to buy femtocells or microcells from your cell phone provider, they can determine whether you must connect it using their wireline broadband service or not. Service can be enforced by restricting the range of IP addresses which are routed into the femtocell gateway.

Some mobile and fixed network operators have chosen to allow any broadband connection to the femtocell. AT&T & Verizon a broadband service in many parts of the US with products called U-Verse and Fios. However, the most widely used broadband services are supplied by the Cable TV companies, Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision and Cox. As of today, cable operators have allowed a connection to the AT&T and Verizon networks through any available broadband service.  However, service qualities have been horrible in many cases and will likely get worse.

So why should network operators insist on customers using their wireline broadband? The obvious reason is that network operators can sell more services then they make more money. Based on recent technical problems with AT&T's Microcell it can be argued that the combined fixed and mobile operator may be able to engineer their network from end-to-end and so ensure the best possible service. Numerous AT&T Microcell customers have reported dropped calls moving from the macro to the micro network.  Its a big issue and no one is covering it in the media.

If network operators are optimizing and prioritizing femtocell traffic then surely having all services from the same provider will be the only way to go.  As cable operators being to get into the wireless game,  I believe the restriction that femtocells must be connected over the mobile operator’s wireline service will be more common.  I don't think network operators will be able to easily install and manage femtocells on their network without tight restrictions.  This will enable greater femtocell adoption and make installation much easier.  The market for integrated femtocells into DVRs and other devices will grow and should start to influence the growth opportunities.  The main benefits are ease of installation and remote maintenance, diagnostics, management of data and voice traffic.  I am still surprised that no network operator has offered a combined femtocell / DSL modem / Wi-Fi router / DVR.

Related Articles:
Winning The Wireless Home Race
How to Buy a Femtocell
VCs Betting Femtocells Will Coexist with Wifi
Cox Can Disrupt Wireless Operators AT&T & Verizon
Comcast & Cox Wireless Marketing Strategy

Apple is Shutting Mapspread Down

Its a bummer that Apple is shutting is shutting down on Sept. 30 due to the acquisition of Poly9 earlier this summer.  This is the second hosted mapping company has used that has been purchased by Apple in the last 3 years.  We were previously using which was acquired by Apple in 2007.  I would to claim its a conspiracy to shut our consumer generated coverage maps down but I can't say that.  I can say that Apple is preparing for life after Google Maps and is quickly hiring engineering talent in order to build a mapping platform that can compete.

We have used hosted mapping services for for the last six years and unfortunately we need to find a new home for our map database once again.  We are considering several services but as always open to user suggestions.

Why Mobile Phone Consumers Are So Stupid

These might some of the funniest videos I have ever seen making fun of today's consumer mentality.  The aspiring film maker Brian Maupin is brilliant and we would like to hire Brian to see if he can poke fun at the carriers.  It just goes to show how stupid corporate American thinks consumers are these days.  

Best Buy suspended and then try to reinstate suspended Independence store employee Brian Maupin.  However, Hollywood has now found discovered him and now looks to be move his career upward.  His films seen above compare the Sprint EVO verses the iPhone 4.  The video took him 30 minutes to make and made fun of iPhone fans for the frenzy to get the device.  The animated video features a sales person trying to convince a person looking for an iPhone to buy a Sprint smart phone instead.  He compares many features on the phone that are inferior but the iPhone fanboys still want their new device.

Brian who is an aspiring filmmaker isn't sure he wants to return to selling cell phones and other electronics.  Best Buy had suspended him while they investigated that and two other videos they thought disparaged the store.  The videos were posted on YouTube.

In a statement, Best Buy said, "This is an important situation for us because it involved balancing our social media guidelines with a commitment to creating a supportive environment for our employees." The company noted that Mauphin had removed the videos that disparaged Best Buy. "Contrary to rumors, Brian has not been fired and is scheduled to return to his job at Best Buy this Friday," the statement says. But Mauphin told KMBC's Robb Yagmin that he is weighing his options and may not show up.  "Right now I'm planning on taking a leave of absence so that I may survey my current career plans and the future," Mauphin said. "I'm not sure it would be comfortable returning to Best Buy considering the circumstaces, but I will definitely consider all options."

AT&T is Google's Largest Search Advertiser

Google's top advertiser in June was AT&T Wireless who spent more than $8 million on AdWords in June. This was a big month for the company which was supporting the launch of iPhone 4. AT&T is the 3rd largest US according to Ad Age who spent $2.8 billion on measured media and $1.3 billion on TV advertising in 2009.  I think AT&T is trying to milk every last customer they can who purchased an iPhone 4 before they lose their exclusive contract with Apple.  If you do the math what is AT&T hoping to achieve getting 8 million visitors to its web site?  Are they marketing to their existing customers who are frustrated with their service?

One thing that continues to disappoint me is the lack of advertising towards their Microcell or femtocell product.  I am surprised they are not doing more AT&T Microcell advertising to its' customers.  If the product worked as advertised they could make a lot of money helping customers fill in coverage gaps in their homes.  It remains to be seen if Cisco will continue to be the supplier of the 3G femtocell product or if they will switch to Ubiquisys.  Google is a large investor in the UK company Ubiquisys.

Burning Man Cell Phone Reception

Is there cell phone reception at burning man? The answer is NO and here is why below if you look at the coverage maps of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.  The Burningman even is located in the middle of the Nevada desert and the carriers have not provided any emergency cell phone towers as we understand it.

We have heard there is limited Wifi available but no cell phone coverage at all.  The event is located the northern Nevada outside of Reno and we would love some feedback from the attendees if the coverage improves. The event web site says there's no cell phone coverage, but satellite phones do work, if you bring one. The wireless cloud over Center Camp is usually up, but not always. The nearest pay phone is in Gerlach, Nevada.

I hear there are going to be 65,000 people at the event and what would happen if there is an emergency in the area without cell phone coverage. It also sounds like a network data congestions nightmare considering most of the attendees are the typical iPhone fans.  They will posting pictures and video to the internet in droves causing network congestion.  Any feedback in the comments section below would be appreciated.  The GPS coordinates are 40°45'13.83"N,  119°16'37.20"W.

As of now when I write this article we do not have any cell phone coverage complaints in the area for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile but that is due to the face that no one lives in the area.  Please do a search for Gerlach, Nevada and navigate to the location that has no cell phone coverage and add a pin to our cell phone reception map.

Here are the coverage maps for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint around the Gerlach, Nevada area which looks pretty dead.

How to Plan For a Hurricane

Are you and your family ready for hurricane season?  Do you have a family emergency communications plan for when you cannot reach your friends and family with cell phones?  Wireless operators cannot prevent the worst from happening and consumers and small business owners should be prepared before and after the storm hits.  Here are 10 tips that should help you be prepared for the worst during a disaster.
  1. Have a two phones during a hurricane.  One corded or landline phone and one mobile phone.  The landline phone is critical because it is not dependent on electricity in the case of a long power outage. 
  2. Make sure all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses are in your mobile phone. Police department, coast guard, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
  3. Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times and keep an extra on hand.  Have a plan to charge your battery in case of a long power outage using your car charger or generator. 
  4. Keep your wireless phone dry in a dry pack or waterproof housing. If you phone gets wet or is exposed to excessive humidity you might not be able to use it. 
  5. Track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device but don't use too much phone battery power. Thousands of homes will lose power during severe weather and if you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports through mobile TV.  
  6. Download one of the many weather apps if you have smartphone to track your local weather  Accuweather, Weather Undergound and are some of the best apps to see the radar. 
  7. Have a camera  phone on hand to take and send photos and video clips of damaged property or people in need of emergency help.  It is also helpful to document the damage for your your insurance company.
  8. Use location-based mapping technology from Google and other services to help with evacuation routes or avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines.  Download and use location based friend applications to track a family members and friends on wireless device in case you get separated.
  9. During an emergency cell phone networks are typically jammed by multiple people trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume or data traffic on the network can create network congestion, leading to a "fast busy" signal on your mobile phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, be patient and wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again. Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.
  10. Use text messaging as much as you can during an emergency as messages may go through more quickly than voice calls.  Text messages require fewer network resources and will get priority before voice calls.  
Wireless carriers do recognized the risk of their cell phone towers going down during an emergency and typically send out an arsenal of disaster response equipment and personnel that enable a quick response post hurricane landfall.  This usually prevents customers from having outages for for long periods of time after the destructive storm hits.  Most carriers will also provide enhanced network redundancy in hurricane-prone areas along the coast. This usually includes the installation of back-up generators at cell sites and switching facilities.  They also try and locate critical communication equipment in less vulnerable areas and try to upgrade copper wiring with fiber optic cable.  Also, elevation of switches on the network above expected flood levels and extra protection of physical facilities against flooding is also important.

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