• Carriers

    by Published on 05-17-2019 02:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Yesterday Canada's Competition Bureau released its 51-page submission to the CRTC, in advance of the latter's 2020 review of mobile wireless services in this country. You can read the press release here and download a PDF of report here. Spoiler alert: there's nothing in either that we didn't already know, but we can at least take some comfort that a government body is backing up what we've already figured out.

    The submission goes into some detail about the wildly varying cost of service in different provinces. From Page 10 of the report:

    As of April 15, 2019, the average cost of a 10GB plan sold by the national wireless carriers' main brands in Saskatchewan was $66.67, while the average cost in New Brunswick was $108.33. However, according to 2018 network quality data collected by PCMag, network quality in Saskatchewan is better than network quality in New Brunswick.
    Thumbs-up to The Bureau for recognizing 10GB as a decent monthly data bucket. Anyhoo, the obvious reason for this disparity in cost is the presence of a strong regional carrier, in this case the prairie operator SaskTel.

    One way to kick-start competition is to allow mobile virtual network operators; in a separate filing TekSavvy has expressed their strong desire to be an MVNO. As for our incumbent carriers, Bell's solution for cheaper rates is longer service contracts—to further subsidize ultra-premium hardware, as was common practice before 2013's Wireless Code. In answer to that, iPhone in Canada has perhaps the best advice for wireless subscribers:

    If you want to lower your cellphone bill, buy a phone outright and avoid contracts. Get onto a monthly bring-your-own-device (BYOD) plan and just keep jumping from carrier to carrier, as new promotional plans pop up throughout the year.
    Preach, brother!

    Source: Newswire via iPhone in Canada

    by Published on 04-30-2019 03:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    My history with JCR goes way back to 2001, when I rented my first keitai for my first-ever visit to Japan. Come to think of it, my first-ever experience with LTE was with a WiFi hotspot also rented from JCR. As the girlfriend and I have come to realize, however, one big drawback with such things is that both parties have to stay within range of the device—that is if they ever want to meet up after a solo side adventure. The solution, especially for our dual-SIM OnePlus phones, was separate data SIMs for each of us. JCR has been renting these for some time now, but this was my first experience using them.

    And the experience was generally very good.

    We chose two 7GB packages for our 14-day visit. With taxes our total charge came out to $170.64 USD / $228.67 CAD, charged to my credit card a few days before we set out.

    When we arrived at our first hotel an oversized package was already waiting for us, containing the two nano SIM cards, a SIM ejector tool, lots of paper instructions, and a return mailer. It's a bit unfortunate that prepaid disposable SIMs aren't available, like in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    Since JCR products use the DoCoMo network, set up was a breeze—or at least, half a breeze. One of the cards connected to the network right away and the other didn't at all. I managed to email support before passing out from our overseas flight and connection, and by the following morning the issue (on their end) was resolved. Both SIMs worked perfectly for the remainder of our trip.

    Here are the results of some random speed tests in Sapporo and Tokyo:

    For me on the Bell/Telus 4G network in downtown Toronto these numbers aren't actually that impressive—that is, until I recall the seemingly endless sea of people accessing the network at all hours of the day and night.

    Ending the rental was as easy as putting our SIMs in their prepaid mailer and handing that to hotel staff when we checked out. If you need to be connected for the ride to the airport you could also post your return package there.

    Over the years JCR has been quite dependable for me, so I'm willing to brush off the technical issue with the one SIM as a one-time blip. If you're interested you can rent your own data SIM from JCR right here.

    by Published on 04-04-2019 01:55 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    It looks like South Korea is the first country to see a wide release of 5G. According to Reuters, the services went live at 23:00 local time yesterday:

    On Wednesday, SK Telecom showed off K-pop stars and an Olympic gold medalist as its first 5G customers.

    Smaller rival KT Corp said it will offer cheaper 5G plans than its LTE service, with unlimited data and four-year installments to buy 5G devices.

    Samsung was the first to unwrap a 5G phone in February when it unveiled the Galaxy S10 5G, putting the world’s top smartphone maker by volume in pole position in the 5G race, some analysts say.

    LG Electronics Inc plans to release its 5G smartphone in South Korea later this month.
    So how fast is it? Someone on reddit reports that in the city of Busan you can get 5G broadband Internet with speeds of up to 10 Gbps for the equivalent of $88 USD per month.

    As for security concerns, only one South Korean carrier, LG's Uplus, uses Huawei equipment; the country's largest, SK Telecom, claims to have additional measures in place that keeps its network from being hacked.

    I might have to schedule a trip over there soon—for research only, of course.

    Source: Reuters via reddit

    by Published on 03-18-2019 02:45 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    First, the good news: an 8-year-old-boy who was abducted last Friday was found unharmed the next morning. More on that story herethis story, however, is about Canada's rather contentious alert system.

    As CityNews Vancouver reports, there was no shortage of complaints about the alerts on social media, some more legitimate than others. Many of the complaints centered on the loud alarm that accompanied the alert; an easy fix for that would be to put your phone on silent before you go to bed (or whenever you don't want to be disturbed), but that's not always possible—for myself it was only a few years ago when I needed my phone ringer on full volume during the night in case there was an emergency with an ailing family member.

    An interesting alternative to our current emergency alert system was posted by a redditor on the thread where I found the source:

    When I lived in the States before moving up here, their method of Amber Alert was pretty simple: a text message. The tone was the same one your phone was set to for an SMS message (and it didn't charge you if you didn't have SMS allowance), it had all of the vital information, and guess what? It worked.
    This arguably more elegant solution has since been "upgraded" to an alert system similar to ours, one which famously (and erroneously) warned Hawaiians of an incoming missile strike last year.

    Sources: @CstSmith, CBC, CityNews Vancouver via reddit, The Verge

    by Published on 03-11-2019 02:35 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    It looks like Canada's Big Three carriers have taken a second stab at low cost data options, and at least one of the plans is twice as good as it was before—or at least, only half as bad.

    iPhone in Canada reported Friday that Koodo, Public and Virgin have each launched a variation on the plan you see above (a screenshot from Koodo's Ontario page): $30/month for 1 GB of LTE data. Virgin is actually a bit cheaper, at $28/month, and enrolling in Public's AutoPay will get you the same rate.

    Nothing from Fido as of this writing.

    Calls are billed at 60¢ per minute (and presumably blocked altogether on Public); outgoing texts are 60¢ each on Koodo, but free on Virgin (I think?). I believe the idea for these plans is that the user would rely on messaging apps (ie. data) for communication.

    And indeed, this new 1 GB monthly data bucket is twice as generous as what The Big Three were proposing this time last year. If you're wondering why they can't just charge $25/month and be done with it, it's because users might then begin to question their egregious data overage rates, obviously...

    Sources: iPhone in Canada, Mobile Syrup

    by Published on 03-07-2019 02:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Here's a data point from reddit that might help you fight the recent rate increases on those Big Three 10 GB plans from December, 2017. In case you weren't aware, Bell, Rogers and Telus hiked the monthly rates on these plans by $5 last month, and the same increase was applied to plans under the Fido and Virgin Mobile brands—only Koodo seems to have been spared, for now.

    Anyway, someone on the Personal Finance Canada subreddit got the original rate restored to their accounts by calling in:

    I called Bell, and spoke with Customer Relations, and managed to get the plan back down to the original cost before the increase, guaranteed for 2 years. They threw in an extra gig of data and gave my iPad a free gig of data thus saving me about 20$ a month (my iPad is on a 5$ a month plan but it only gives 250mb of data, it jumps to 25$ for 1GB, it's only used for school). I have to repeat the process for the rest of my family but if you're polite and friendly the reps I dealt with were good and did say that they're getting a lot of angry phone calls.

    It's worth taking the half hour and just dealing with it.
    The "your mileage may vary" disclaimer definitely applies here, as the only bargaining chip you have is the threat of cancelling your service—leaving you with Freedom Mobile as the only other provider offering 10 GB for $60/month.

    If you are successful getting your $5 rate hike clawed back kindly let the rest of us know!

    Sources: reddit, RedFlagDeals

    by Published on 03-06-2019 01:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    This morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a new effort to restore net neutrality protections to the USA. Here's a direct link to the 3-page PDF, and here's the pitch:

    "86 percent of Americans oppose the Trump assault on net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a press conference announcing the bill.

    "With the Save the Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people and restoring the protections that do this: Stop unjust discriminatory practices by ISPs that try to throttle the public browsing speed, block your internet access and increase your costs, giving to entrepreneurs and small businesses a level playing field and ensuring American innovation can continue to be the envy of the world," Pelosi said.
    Yay partisan politics...

    Anyhoo, if passed into law the Internet (insofar as it's experienced by users in America) would once again be classified as a utility under Title II of the U.S. Telecommunications Act, as it was prior to 2017's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, passed by a vote (along party lines) by the FCC under Ajit Pai.

    Sources: CNBC, The Verge (1) (2)

    by Published on 03-05-2019 02:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Hot on the heels of a new CRTC directive proposed by Innovation, Science and Economic Minister Navdeep Bains (above) comes yet another public consultation, and with it a faint glimmer of hope for mobile virtual network operators in this country. From CTV:

    The CRTC's review of the wireless sector—which was already planned to begin this year—apparently begins with the view that smaller operators need some level of guaranteed ability to connect with the bigger networks.

    The CRTC says it's seeking public comment about whether MVNOs "should have mandated access to the networks of the national wireless providers (Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus) until they are able to establish themselves in the market.
    Canadians can submit comments on CRTC Notice 2019-57 online or by mail until May 15th of this year. A public hearing is scheduled for January 13th, 2020 in Gatineau, Québec.

    Sources: CTV, HuffPost Canada, reddit

    by Published on 02-11-2019 08:47 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Dear Verizon victims who lurk these parts: Your friends here on HoFo have told you... for what 4 years now... that Verizon is for old ladies who pay too much for flip phones and pay for groceries with checks...kidding.... We get it and understand the pain/embarrassment.

    Chin up to those of you currently disenfranchised with the Big Red death grip and currently on the fence to switch to Magenta! Word on the street from sources familiar with the matter claim that T-Mobile wants to focus on National Break Up With Your Carrier Day on February 13th.

    The Uncarrier decided to offer Verizon customers a bit more flexibility as part of its #GetOutOfTheRed campaign which gives a $650 in existing equipment installment plan balances per line using your existing compatible smartphone.

    A few new models will be supported starting February 13th. Here’s the full list with the new models in bold:

    • iPhone SE
    • iPhone 6s
    • iPhone 6s Plus
    • iPhone 7
    • iPhone 7 Plus
    • iPhone 8
    • iPhone 8 Plus
    • iPhone X
    • iPhone XR
    • iPhone XS
    • iPhone XS Max
    • Pixel
    • Pixel XL
    • Pixel 2
    • Pixel 2 XL
    • Pixel 3
    • Pixel 3 XL
    • Galaxy S8
    • Galaxy S8+
    • Galaxy Note 8
    • Galaxy S9
    • Galaxy S9+

    Don't have Verizon but still pining to switch to Magenta? Well there still is the $650 in EIP coverage with Carrier Freedom program that you could use but that requires that you turn in your old phone and purchase a new one.

    by Published on 01-26-2019 01:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. From The Forums,
    5. Carriers

    From the HMD Global press release:

    NEW YORK, NY January 25, 2019 – HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, today announced collaborations with three leading wireless providers in North America – Cricket Wireless and Verizon in the United States and Rogers Communications, Inc. in Canada. This is the next step in the company’s journey to offer great quality experiences to consumers across accessible price points and to work with best-in-class players in the industry for supreme purchase flexibility.

    HMD Global is proud to continue to deliver on its reliability and durability promise through purposeful, distinct design with best-in-class materials and craftsmanship across the portfolio. Furthering this and providing greater options for consumers, it is also expanding its award-winning selection of Nokia smartphones on Android™ with the launch of two wireless provider-specific devices coming to the United States this month and another coming to Rogers subsidiary brand, chatr, in Canada very soon.

    Nokia 3.1 Plus is the inaugural Nokia phone on Cricket’s 4G LTE network that covers more than 99% of Americans, based on overall coverage in the U.S.1 and Nokia 2 V is the first Nokia phone on Verizon. Nokia 3.1 Plus gives fans two-day battery life , an ergonomically placed fingerprint sensor and NFC-enable Google Pay at an exceptional value. Nokia 2 V provides a beautiful, Nordic design with metallic accents and delivers long-lasting entertainment with a 5.5-inch HD display, dual front-facing stereo speakers and a two-day battery life2. Each new device offers the durable and reliable craftsmanship that consumers expect from a Nokia phone.
    Nokia 3.1 Plus | Nokia 2 V


    by Published on 01-24-2019 02:05 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Fido (and Rogers) are saying "gong hei" to new customers with some special promotions for Chinese New Year.

    Mobile Syrup is reporting on a pair of plans for Fido, both of which include 1,000 complimentary long distance minutes to China PRC, Hong Kong, Macau and/or Taiwan ROC. Both plans are BYOD; options are as follows:

    $48/month for 3GB
    $58/month for 5GB

    As-is the plans include international SMS and 500 minutes of Canada-wide airtime; unlimited minutes can be had for an additional $5/month. The 1,000 long distance minutes must be used within 24 months of activation.

    iPhone in Canada reports a similar, soon-to-be-made-public CNY deal from Rogers, though theirs is for subsidized devices on a tab:

    $80/month for 4GB plus a 4GB bonus on a Premium Tab Plan
    $90/month for 4GB plus a 4GB bonus on a Premium+ Tab Plan
    $100/month for 4GB plus a 4GB bonus on an Ultra Tab Plan

    Here you're basically saving $20/month off of the usual rates, and getting the same 1,000 free minutes to Asia.

    Sources: iPhone in Canada, Mobile Syrup

    by Published on 01-22-2019 03:05 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Tefficient, a European consultancy firm, has released a new report on the global wireless market, with a not entirely-unexpected conclusion: that the availability of decent data-only plans results in high data usage. Austria and Finland are specifically called out, as is Canada.

    Let's cut to the chase, at the very end of Tefficient's 20-page brief:

    Our analysis shows a strong correlation between the data-only penetration of a country’s SIM base and the average data usage. Austria and Finland are the two data-only powerhouses of the world; Austria’s usage is higher, but Finland’s penetration is higher.

    But a prerequisite for this – and for high data usage in general – is that the total revenue per gigabyte is low. This is the case in India, Finland, Taiwan, Lithuania, Latvia, Thailand, Estonia and Austria. These countries are mobile data paradises for users.

    Canada and Belgium represent the other end. The total revenue per gigabyte here is roughly 70 times higher than in India and 23 times higher than in Finland. And consequently, mobile usage is lower than average.
    Put another way, Canadian mobile subscribers are collectively paying a lot of money for not a lot of value. And as I've written here before, super-fast 5G networks are going to be a tough sell here if prices stay high and usage stays low.

    Source: Tefficient PDF via Michael Geist

    by Published on 01-21-2019 04:05 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    In Vancouver Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou remains under house arrest, facing extradition to the United States. In mainland China Canadian citizens continue to be detained—with one previously-convicted individual facing a sudden retrial and resulting, perhaps arbitrary, death sentence. In this tense and escalating climate two of our Big Three carriers are taking steps to defend their use of Huawei infrastructure and handsets.

    Mobile Syrup reported over the weekend that some 30,000 Telus employees have received an internal memo from VP Eros Spadotto (great mob boss name, btw) detailing the innovative-centric (?) partnership between Telus and their Chinese equipment supplier:

    "Huawei remains a viable and reliable participant in the Canadian telecommunications space, bolstered by globally leading innovation, comprehensive security measures, and new software upgrades."
    Now another memo has leaked from Bell, instructing customer-facing employees to defend the carrier's sales of Huawei-made handsets:

    “The debate around Huawei involves the potential use of its wireless infrastructure equipment in new 5G wireless networks, which have yet to be launched. There are no concerns about the Huawei smartphones offered to Canadian consumers by Virgin Mobile/Bell and most other wireless providers.”
    While it would be nice to have the full text of these memos for context, one should still be able to appreciate the predicament that Bell and Telus are in, sharing infrastructure and, at least with Telus, a billion-dollar investment in Huawei 5G gear. It seems inevitable to me that Canada will follow the lead of other Five Eyes partners (most notably the US) and ban Huawei from our networks, sooner rather than later. That's bad news for Bell and Telus, but I imagine not quite so bad as being detained in a foreign country.

    Sources: CBC, Financial Post, Mobile Syrup (1) (2)

    by Published on 01-18-2019 03:18 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    I'm not sure exactly when 30-day BYOD contracts became exempt from the customary grandfathering that wireless subscribers are used to; maybe this is it?

    Customers who jumped on late 2017's 10GB holiday miracle here in Canada are about to get a $5 price increase, to $65/month. Cash-grabs so far have confirmed from Bell, Virgin, Rogers and Fido. If you think that Telus and Koodo will inevitably join in you're probably not wrong.

    For Fido and Rogers the new rate is already in effect, as of January 3rd. Bell and Virgin are holding off until March—but according to iPhone in Canada (who also whipped up the fancy lead graphic at the top of this post) Bell is also planning to apply the $5 price hike to all of their BYOD plans.

    So what can you do? Someone on Red Flag Deals managed to get a 3GB bonus by calling in to Fido to complain. Your mileage may vary, as they say, and there's no guarantee that this extra data will be permanent.

    Sources: iPhone in Canada, Mobile Syrup (1) (2), Red Flag Deals

    by Published on 01-17-2019 01:30 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Carriers

    Notice how I didn't say "best"... the fact of the matter is that of Taiwan's four national carriers—Chunghwa Telecom, FarEasTone, Taiwan Mobile and T Star—I've only ever used FarEastTone. And none of their SIM cards in my growing collection has ever let me down.

    If you're flying into Terminal 1 of Taoyuan International Airport you'll find counters for all four carriers just outside of immigration (to the right). But if you're flying into the yet-to-be-made-over Terminal 2 then you'll have to hunt down each one separately. I'm happy to save you that trouble: FarEastTone provides prepaid data SIMs charged by volume or by day, and you'll definitely want to choose the former because data is unlimited, and cheap! 5 days of service will set you back a mere $350 TWD, about $11 and change USD; my girlfriend and I got 15 full days for exactly $32.03 CAD each.

    Speeds, as you can see from my collection of tests above, were fine—maybe not as fast as peak 4G speeds on Bell in downtown Toronto, but perfectly usable. And because of the unlimited throughput I never once had to connect to hotel WiFi.

    So if there's a trip to Taiwan in your near future and you require a prepaid SIM then I think you'll be quite satisfied with FarEastTone. More on them and your other options at the links immediately below.

    Links: FarEasTone, Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki

    by Published on 12-21-2018 02:55 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    The CRTC released its 2018 Communications Monitoring Report yesterday (direct link to the 34 page PDF right here), and we already have an expert reaction to it, from Dr. Michael Geist:

    The data points to a market dominated by three big carriers, with retail pricing that creates all the wrong incentives for a country focused on innovation. Rather than encouraging data use, the current marketplace forces consumers to ration their data and to subscribe to cheaper data plans with the hope of not running into overage charges.
    He's not wrong; I had a quick look through the report myself, and found this graphic to be especially telling:

    I'm thinking that 5G is going to be a really tough sell in this country if over half of its mobile subscribers have a monthly data bucket of 2GB or less.

    It could be that we're just a nation of cheapskates, who simply don't see much value in mobile data. But the long lines at carrier stores for that 10GB holiday miracle this time last year would seem to suggest otherwise.

    Source: Michael Geist

    by Published on 12-17-2018 11:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Good news for mobile subscribers in Alberta and BC... Freedom Mobile has confirmed expansion plans for those two provinces. Expect their LTE network to launch in the cities of Red Deer and Victoria in February, 2019.

    Here's the planned coverage map for Red Deer. New store locations will be as follows:

    1. Parkland Mall
    2. Bower Place

    And here's the coverage map plus the five planned store locations in Victoria:

    1. Westshore Town Centre
    2. Mayfair Shopping Centre
    3. Uptown
    4. Hillside Shopping Centre
    5. The Bay Centre

    There's also some new coverage in the works for Ontario. Look for a 4G signal in the following cities:

    1. Belleville
    2. Brockville
    3. Cobourg
    4. Cornwall
    5. Pembroke

    ... Just not until March of next year.

    Source: Freedom Mobile via iPhone in Canada

    by Published on 12-12-2018 03:01 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Here's Magenta's latest holiday video. What are you guys wishing for this year under your tree?

    by Published on 12-12-2018 02:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers

    A Windsor, Ontario couple are recovering from a scary experience with Freedom Mobile and their Samsung phones. Kelly Smith observed her partner displaying acute symptoms of a heart attack, and was unable to call for an ambulance from either of their two phones—a Samsung Galaxy A5 and A8.

    She was eventually able to get through, and her partner is currently recovering in a local hospital. About a week later Freedom sent Ms. Smith the text you see above.

    The CRTC has looked in to the issue, and believes it to be specific to the Freedom-branded A5. As the text says, it was likely due to a faulty software update. A technician from Samsung visited to couple to examine their devices; after that came a phone call from a Samsung Canada executive, offering complimentary replacements.

    Since then there has apparently been another software update for the A5, this one promising better 911 performance over LTE. Has anyone here received that update, or the text message from Freedom?

    Source: CBC

    by Published on 12-03-2018 02:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers

    Look, I totally get that Freedom Mobile is in a tough spot right now, standing alone as the only (almost) nationwide alternative to The Big Three. But if the rumour about their latest promotion turns out to be true, I won't be the only Canadian doing this tomorrow.

    Let me first remind you of the predicament that FM is currently in. I don't think they're competing with the Big Three proper, per se—Bell, Rogers and Telus seem to thrive on family plans with shared data—but they are most definitely trying to win business from the second-tier "youth" brands, aka Fido, Koodo and Virgin. At the same time, they're being squeezed by third-tier carriers (Chatr, Public and Lucky) offering slower 3G data but at similar rates.

    So what they've come up with, according to an iPhone in Canada exclusive, is a $43/month plan with 3GB of LTE data and 6.5GB of 3G data. To alleviate the legendary suck of their legacy HSPA+ network they're also throwing in a one-time LTE "big binge" of 15GB.

    Confused? I'm pretty sure that's the point.... Most users won't realize how small their usable data bucket is until at least a couple of months in, when they've gobbled up their extra 15 gigs and, not coincidentally, any late-breaking holiday promos from Fido, Koodo or Virgin will have come and gone.

    Source: iPhone in Canada

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