Monthly Archives February 2013

Data-share plan customers the happiest: J.D. Power & Associates

A recently released J.D. Power and Associates study has found users who subscribe to data-share plans are happier with their carrier’s overall customer service than those who are on more traditional wireless plans. The company’s 11th annual U.S. Wireless Customer Care Full-Service Performance Study examined the performance of carriers’ customer service in three ways: in person, online and via telephone.

The biggest gap in satisfaction between shared data and traditional plan users when it came to service was that provided by a customer representative, in which the timeliness of resolving issues and the knowledge of the representative were identified as the biggest issues.

“The higher levels of satisfaction with shared data plans are partially due to the profile of its customers, particularly the early adopters who changed service offerings once the mobile data share plans were offered,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, in a press release. “For example, not only are customers with shared data plans more loyal than those without a shared data plan, but they also have a more positive perception of their carrier, in addition to spending approximately $30 more per household overall.”

Overall, customers report the highest level of satisfaction from utilizing an online chat function to solve problems, a service used by 41 per cent of mobile users. Nearly 70 per cent of people report using a mobile app to contact their carrier or monitor their account.

Those with data-share plans were found to have contacted their carrier more frequently in the previous six months than others with traditional plans, but reported longer wait times to speak with a representative.

“It’s not unexpected that customers who change or upgrade to these new mobile data share plans would initially be more likely to contact their carrier with questions or problems, particularly concerning how these service plans may potentially alter usage habits,” said Parsons. “It is important to understand that with any major service change, the need for simplicity is paramount. Additional investment is needed in support services to not only handle the increase in the number of customer interactions, but also provide service representatives with the necessary training and information across all contact channels to offer a timely and superior service experience.”

The study also ranked carriers when it comes to customer care satisfaction, with Verizon topping the list, followed by AT&T and Sprint Nextel. MetroPCS took the top spot in non-contract carriers, with Virgin Mobile and TracFone rounding out the top three.

Based on its research, J.D. Power recommends when choosing a carrier that customers ensure its technology is proven and that adequate customer service will be provided. It suggests the first point of reference when seeking information should be the carrier’s website, where the online chat option should be utilized.

“Many customers find online chat an especially efficient method of solving problems and getting questions answered,” stated the J.D. Power recommendations.

Finally, realize when buying into new technology you can encounter glitches which will result in you having to make contact with the carrier in one form or another.

Could POTS soon be a thing of the past in Kentucky?

Kentucky lawmakers may be ready to hang up on basic landline telephone service after agreeing to consider a deregulation bill earlier this week. The bill was passed by the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee Monday, pushing it forward to the state senate for consideration.

The bill was proposed by AT&T and suggests landline service be deregulated in areas served by AT&T, Cincinnati Bell and Windstream. If approved by the Senate, customers whose landlines are part of smaller exchanges may lose their right to the service, something that is currently enshrined in state law.

This is the second time the government has considered the move: Last year, a similar bill whipped up a storm of criticism before eventually being withdrawn. Opponents said deregulation could especially impact the poor, who would no longer be guaranteed access to plain old telephone service as a standalone option.

In a recent column published in The Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky Resources Council Inc. Director Tom FitzGerald spoke out against the bill, warning it is not in the public’s best interest.

“Deregulating basic local phone service based on the mere existence of a wireless ‘alternative voice service’ provider that can be an affiliate, does not assure access for all customers to voice and other basic exchange services that are functionally equivalent, competitively priced and comparable to the currently regulated landline basic telephone services,” FitzGerald wrote.

 

Rogers announces new U.S. wireless roaming plan

Canadian Rogers Communications customers may soon be able to catch a break on roaming charges while travelling in the United States. The company recently announced a new pay-per-use roaming rate which will allow wireless users to access 50MB of data over a 24-hour period for $7.99.

Customers will be in control of their roaming costs by receiving an alert letting them know when they are nearing their 50 MB limit.

“Our customers have consistently told us they want certainty and peace of mind when using their wireless devices to access the Internet while travelling,” said Raj Doshi, Rogers senior vice president of products, in a press release.

“Canadians’ connected habits are evolving, and our new roaming model is an important step in addressing the changing needs of our customers. With this simple and affordable roaming rate, customers will be able to use their devices while travelling just as they would at home.”

International roaming charges have long been a sticking point for Canadian consumers, who admit they are confused by the fees. An Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development study found Canadians paid the most for international roaming out of 34 countries examined, with the United States and Mexico in second and third place respectively.

As well, Rogers has announced changes to its unlocking policy to take effect next month, allowing users to unlock their cellphones just 90 days after activating their device. The move comes close to recommendations in the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission’s new draft wireless code, which suggests subsidized phones be unlocked within 30 days of activation and non-subsidized phones be unlocked immediately after purchase for no additional charge.

 

Could Wi-Fi/cellular hybrid be the next big thing?

A recent piece in the New York Times by Randall Stross examining a new trend in low-cost mobile phone plans proves to be an interesting read. He takes a look at Republic Wireless and its appealing hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular service, which utilizes Wi-Fi or Sprint’s 3G network when a hotspot isn’t available.

With a start-up cost of $259, which includes a dual-band Motorola DEFYV XT smartphone, Republic offers service for just $19 per month, plus applicable taxes, for unlimited talk, text and data. There’s no contract to sign and no overages.

Republic – which is owned by Bandwidth.com, which has worked with Google and Skype – asks its users not to be a “data hog” and to use Wi-Fi as much as possible. According to Bandwidth.com co-founder and chief executive David Morken, users are taking heed.

“We don’t have to force people, or even ask people, how to behave,” Morken was quoted as saying. “Over 60 per cent of the time that the phone is being used, on average, our users are using Wi-Fi and that number is only going up.”

While the company would like you to think there’s not a catch, there are always the typical limitations that come along with VoIP, including unpredictable call quality. Additionally, as pointed out by Stross, users will likely be frustrated by the loss of connection when moving from Wi-Fi to 3G coverage. Yes, that means you’ll drop your call. Republic says they’re working on a fix for the issue. And right now, there’s only one phone for use with its plan.

But why is Sprint keen to supply to Republic when it’s obviously undercutting the company’s own business? Sprint’s President of Global Wholesale and Emerging Solutions, Matt Carter, had an easy answer.

“If the world operated based on just economic decisions, people wouldn’t go buy the most expensive cars on the planet, right?”

Enough said.

FCC emergency communications hearings start today

The Federal Communications Commission is holding two field hearings today to analyze the challenges faced by U.S. communications networks during natural disasters or other crisis, such as Superstorm Sandy.

“The first hearing will facilitate a wider national dialogue about the resiliency of communications networks by focusing on the impact of Superstorm Sandy, and help inform recommendations and actions to strengthen wired and wireless networks in the face of such large-scale emergencies,” states a FCC press release.

The morning hearing was scheduled to take place in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The afternoon session will run 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The FCC will stream coverage on its website.

Last October, Superstorm Sandy knocked out 25 per cent of cell phone sites in areas affected by the storm, either through physical damage or power outages. Broadband, wireline and cable services were also impacted. It took several weeks to restore services in some areas.

The FCC hearings are expected to examine how future situations could be improved and services restored more quickly, along with the possible need for a more robust back-up power system and backhaul links. It also wants to determine if service providers took the necessary steps to protect their networks and inform customers of communications options before the storm.