Archives for Wireless

U.S Government considers building its own 5G network

The federal government’s security team is reportedly looking to build a “super-fast” 5G wireless network, according to a senior administration official. The network, among other things, would be an option to help counter foreign entities from spying on U.S. phone calls, reported Reuters.

The decision is apparently six to eight months away from being made executively. The government hopes it would address the threat of China to U.S cybersecurity, an issue that has been making news lately after AT&T was forced to give up its plan to sell Huawei devices to customers.

The option of a federally-run 5G network is an interesting one. The country’s major mobile players have all spent billions on 5G spectrum, and there may not even be enough for the government to launch its own network. The projected investments from wireless carriers into 5G networks, according to Accenture, is as much as 275 billion dollars. Could the government compete?

Reuters explains that, “last year, T-Mobile US Inc spent $8 billion and Dish Network Corp $6.2 billion to win the bulk of broadcast airwaves spectrum for sale in a government auction.”

AT&T is even set to launch the first 5G service in twelve U.S locations later this year. An AT&T spokesperson told Reuters that “Thanks to multi-billion dollar investments made by American companies, the work to launch 5G service in the United States is already well down the road.” If the government wants to develop its own network, it will have to move quickly.

Xfinity Mobile plans now available across the U.S. are worth considering

Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile plans were soft-launched a few months back in limited markets, but now they are available nationwide. According to BGR, they might just be worth considering.

These Comcast plans run using Verizon’s network, so you won’t have to worry about coverage dropping or otherwise poor connection. On top of this, users get unlimited data for only $45 per month, which is in stark contrast to Verizon’s $80 per month plan. The other plans include a soft cap of 20GB per month for $25, or the per-GB option which charges $12 per GB.

The catch is that you’re only eligible for this plan if you’re already a Comcast home internet customer. So this very reasonable package is not available to everyone, but if it applies to you, it’s definitely worth your attention.

As reported by BGR, Comcast is also “letting you mix and match different types of line on one account, which is unusual for a wireless carrier, and can help make a family plan a lot cheaper.” In other words, if different family members have different data usage needs, you can design your account accordingly.

Managing your personal network

Keeping expenses down while maintaining the speeds and data you need can be a delicate balance. Here are some tips for managing your own personal network to ensure you’re getting what you need without breaking the bank.

1: Assess what you’re paying for!

You need to make sure you understand exactly what you are paying each month and what you’re getting for those payments. Are you paying full price? Are you paying for services you don’t need? Are you paying for services you don’t even realize you have access to? Are you signed up for a minimum-term contract with penalties for breaking it? If you don’t understand, call customer service and have them explain it to you!

All this information is important not only for your own records, but because if you know exactly what you’re paying for, you’ll know exactly how to bargain for better prices. Ensure that you review your account information, billing information and contract so you have a thorough understanding of where your money is going.

2: Have a clear understanding of your needs!

It’s very important to separate the relevant from the irrelevant. Sometimes you see a deal that sounds too good to pass up, but you need to remember that a deal is only a deal if it’s something you’re actually going to use! Do you only use your smart phone and watch Netflix? Then why are you paying for a home phone/cable bundle? Even if you’re paying a reduced price, if you’re not using the product, it’s not worth your money.

3: Be timely and accurate!

Phone and internet providers want your business as long as you’re paying for it. As soon as you’re not making timely payments, your business is no longer a priority. Write down your payment dates and pay them in full, on time, every month. If you’re always paying and you’re always on time, you have leverage because the company wants to keep you as a customer! You can use that to bargain down prices.

4: Don’t be afraid to haggle!

So now you’ve assessed your payments, you’ve trimmed the fat and gotten rid of the things you don’t need and you’ve paid your bills in full and on time. The company wants your business! Now is the time to haggle.

Don’t accept the posted price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you can’t get a deal from the person you’re talking to, escalate the call and ask for the retention department. Come prepared with alternative options and services if they try to call your bluff – with the amount of competition, you can squeeze even the large companies to give you a discount.

Finally, remember to be polite and professional. Sometimes, discounts are discretionary – which means an employee can decide whether or not to offer them to a customer. If you’re rude and aggressive, you’re much less likely to be offered the discount.

Parents — Meet Comcast XFinity xFi

comcast complaintsThis week, Comcast released a new digital dashboard called Xfinity xFi, which enables its customers to monitor and control the WiFi usage of specific devices or users in their home. According to GeekWire, XFinity xFi also allows customers to see which devices are connected to their network, monitor data usage, set parental controls, change WiFi passwords, troubleshoot issues, and more.

The individual profiles XFinity xFi allows are quite interesting. Say you’re a parent making a profile for a younger child: You can assign specific devices to their profile, and pause the connectivity for all those devices when needed. This saves you from having to resort to turning off your internet altogether to manage your child’s devices. You could also opt to turn on a time-based curfew, where all these devices will automatically pause at specified times.

“Today, in most of our customer’s homes, our equipment is a black box to them,” said Patti Loyack, vice president of Comcast’s IP services. “We want to make sure we increase visibility to that box in their homes, as well as give them control.”

If you’re a Comcast user and you want to take advantage of XFinity xFi, you can download the mobile app for iOS or Android, access it via your web browser, or use TV with Comcast’s X1 voice remote. The service is free for Comcast customers who rent a compatible Xfinity WiFi device, which include the xFi Wireless Gateway and the xFi Advanced Wireless Gateway. These devices are already in ten million homes across the United States.

Huawei Working on Operating System

huaweiIt’s either Apple or Android, right? Well maybe not for much longer. Huawei, the world’s third largest manufacturer of smartphones, is reportedly working on its own operating system in case its relationship with Google fractures. The project is under way in Scandinavia, where a number of former Nokia employees are contributing to the development.

Huawei has recently begun focusing on software as a way of becoming more of a globalized electronics brand, and not just a dominant force in East Asia. This is worthy goal for the company since it hardly has any market share in North America.

As for its fear of losing touch with Google, Huawei is behaving interestingly. The same source that initially reported this story, The Information, last year reported that Google and Huawei were actively working to improve their relationship. Google has employed Huawei to build one of its Nexus devices as well as promoted the Huawei Watch in North America.

Huawei might not need to worry about Google, but it surely isn’t the only Android-using manufacturer to explore other options. For example, Samsung has said it will drop Android Wear in favour of its Tizen operating system for all of its upcoming smartwatches.

*Source: Mobile Syrup

Connected Cars are Gaining Speed

connectedThere are more people in the United States who own a cell phone than a car – think of those texting-addicted teens who are thankfully too young to drive. But cars are quickly gaining speed in cellular world. In the first quarter of 2016, connected cars accounted for one-third of all new cellular devices.

According to mobile industry consultants at Chetan Sharma, more cars were added to networks than phones in Q1. Since connected cars are still relatively new to the market, the possibilities are exciting.

Already, AT&T has 8 million cars on its network, and according to Chetan Sharma’s report is “probably the highest of any mobile operator in the world.” AT&T is adding more cars to its network than all other operators combined. It provides cars with everything from vehicle-to-vehicle capabilities, telematics, entertainment apps, over-the-air updates, and 4G LTE hotspots built into the vehicle.

Despite the fact more and more cars are being integrated into a connected world, many drivers still don’t know this feature is available to them. A survey taken of 3,700 drivers in Europe found four in 10 were unaware their cars had connectivity features. However, connectivity was rated “an important criteria at purchase” by 32 percent of the drivers.

*Source: Tech Crunch

Canadians Following the Cord-Cutting Trend

telemarketersThe last few years have seen a lot of people engage in cord-cutting behavior, retiring their landline phones to rely only on their mobile devices. Canada is no exception to this trend. New data from Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw, and MTS shows that carriers have lost a combined 540,000 landline subscribers in 2015 and 2016.

This number only accounts for the major carriers. Convergence Consulting Group estimated, when taking into account smaller regional carriers, about 636,000 Canadians ditched their landlines in 2015.

By the end of 2016, it’s expected that 37 percent of Canadians will be wireless-only households. This actually poses a bit of an issue for telecom companies, who made $5.2 billion from home phone services in 2014, according to the Canadian Radio-televivision and Telecommunications Commission. Most users do not replace their landline with a designated home wireless phone, but continue to use the cell phones they already own.

So what will the telecoms do? Focus their attention elsewhere.

“Know at the end of the day, broadband is the only product they’ll most likely survive with,” Macquarie analyst Greg MacDonald was quoted as saying.

*Source: Mobile Syrup

Mobile Carrier to Shut Off Ads

adsIt’s an interesting experiment that is bound to be popular with users, but not with advertisers. In mid-June, for 24 hours, UK wireless carrier Three will shut off ads at the network level. This won’t impact all subscribers – only those who have signed up to be part of the trial will go ad-free.

Three has identified three main reasons why the mobile experience should be free of advertising: data usage, security and relevance.

“Something needs to change and we believe that by working with the advertising industry, brands and publishers, that we can create more relevant, less intrusive adverts that increase consumer satisfaction,” stated the company, in a press release.

“The trial will test the ability of the technology to filter out advertising that damages our customers’ mobile browsing experience without impacting their network experience.”

Three hopes the move will force advertisers to improve their strategies and fix the “broken” advertising model.

Do Smartphones Need a Consumer Warning?

smartphoneOur smartphones are on us constantly; we hardly every have them off our person. The age-old argument over whether or not these devices are safe continues, with some calling for proper consumer warning labels outlining the potential danger.

The link between radio-frequency waves and illnesses like cancer is still entirely ambiguous, which leads to varying levels of suspicion where mobile phones are concerned. Advocates who believe there are health risks say that, like any other potentially harmful product, our smartphones should have a clearly visible label on the back of the device. People on the other side of this debate believe consumers will be unnecessarily scared away by unproven concerns.

Joel M. Moskowitz, a researcher and director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, believes manufacturers need to be more transparent about the possible risk associated with RF emissions.

“Manufacturers have a legal duty to provide warnings that are clear and conspicuous when products raise health and safety concerns. But, typically, RF safety instructions are buried in user manuals with tiny print, hidden within smartphones, or made available on the Internet,” Moskowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

He also points out that, “Even before we had scientific consensus about the public health threat from tobacco, Congress mandated warning labels on cigarettes in 1965.”

University of Michigan’s professor of neurology Larry Junck is on the other side of the debate. He believes there is not enough risk to warrant labels. He also says that labels would not prevent brain tumor deaths.

“Consider that brain tumors have not increased in incidence in correlation with cellphone use. If cellphones were an important cause of brain tumors, we would have seen an increase perhaps starting in the 1990s, when cellphones came into widespread use, or starting several years later, if it took several years of cellphone use to cause a brain tumor,” wrote Junck. “While the number of people diagnosed with brain tumors has risen, the increase has been mainly among the elderly, who use cellphones less than others.”

Learn more about both sides of the debate in this Wall Street Journal article.

Did Microsoft Just Give Up on Smartphones?

microsoft logoMicrosoft announced this week it intends to sell its entire feature phone business FIH Mobile – the Foxconn subsidiary – as well as Finnish company HMD Global Oy for only $350 million.

Microsoft has a rocky history with the mobile phone industry. In 2013, retiring CEO Steve Ballmer purchased Nokia’s weak mobile phone business, mostly because Nokia is one of the only brands that used the Windows 10 Mobile OS. And while Nokia is great at pumping out inexpensive handsets worldwide, its products didn’t fit into Microsoft’s software-based business model. This was evident when current CEO Satya Nadella laid off 18,000 employees from the Nokia sector in 2014 and cut 7,800 from the smartphone hardware business last year.

This purchase gives FIH Mobil all of Microsoft’s feature phone assets, including brands, software, customer contracts, and a Vietnam-based factory. In addition, 4,500 Microsoft employees will be transferred.

Although this is a huge move, Microsoft isn’t completely willing to part with the smartphone. The company will continue to develop Windows 10 Mobile for Lumia. However, it may be all for naught as Lumia and Windows 10 have not been able to compete with Apple or Android in the past and do not seem poised to take any major market share now.

*Source: CNN