TechJournal South Header

Posts Tagged ‘T-Mobile’

T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile crush AT&T in social responsiveness

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

TmobileWhen it comes to social media responsiveness, telecom brands T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA crush AT&T, according to the latest “Socially Devoted” report from Socialbakers (Q42012).

This Prague-based social media analytics company calculates which brands around the world are most and least responsive each quarter. T-Mobile USA comes out first in the US followed by Virgin Mobile USA.

At the same time, AT&T clocks in third least responsive.

Also, surprisingly, two of the world’s most notable social brands aren’t that social at all: Netflix is THE least “Socially Devoted” brand of all US brands, with a 4.41% worldwide response rate.

StarbucksStarbucks, well known for its visibility on social media, is among the least socially devoted brands in the world with a 3.05% worldwide response rate.

Telecoms rank high globally

Separately, Socialbakers has found that telecom brands around the world — including Personal Argentina, Safaricom Kenya, Orange Polska, Telia, and Telenor Norge are also standouts when it comes to social media responsiveness. They all rank high on the Socialbakers scale when it comes to answering user questions on Facebook.

“Socially Devoted” brands, according to social media analytics company Socialbakers, are market leaders in their responsiveness.

Calculated based on how many questions are answered per quarter, the best brands answer at least 65% of all that they receive. Socialbakers developed the “Socially Devoted” designation in June 2012 as a benchmarking tool for brands in the U.S. and around the world. Beginning in 2013, Socialbakers will also measure interaction on Twitter.

Shift away from just counting fans

“In recent years there has been a shift away from brands simply seeking to collect the highest number of fans. What is important is how you interact and serve them. There is no point in having a page that offers no value to your fans beyond pushing photos of your products.

Your fans will most likely see your posts as spam, hide your feed and then your online marketing efforts are seen by no one. As we continue to measure social media responsiveness, the good news is that we are seeing brands recognize the potential impact of Facebook users and engagement on ROI and brand image,” says Jan Rezab , CEO of Socialbakers.

Would you want your cell phone number listed in a directory?

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Attempts to create a cell phone number directory thus far have failed, but Verizon Wireless is trying to gauge support for it via a new website.

CellPhoneNumber.com, a website where cellular customers ask questions and receive answers about their wireless phones, has now received more than 8,000 responses to its poll asking “Should there be a cell phone directory?”

Votes were limited to one per person. Of those responses, an overwhelming majority, 91%, are in favor of a directory.

Attempts at such a directory have been made, but after coming under heavy criticism by privacy advocates, each such attempt has ceased.

  • In 2004, US wireless carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and others announced their intent to create a cellular directory. In 2005, the companies decided to pull back from this endeavor.
  • In 2007, Intelius, an information commerce company, launched their own for-profit cell phone directory. Months after its launch the company closed the directory stating it was “listening to its customers.”
  • Most recently, in 2010, Phonebooks.com, an Internet telephone directory and the company responsible for the CellPhoneNumber.com website, launched its own nationwide cellular directory. Phonebooks.com, in a joint effort with Verizon Wireless, suspended offering information on cell phone numbers last July. Following this suspension, the company launched the CellPhoneNumber.com website and this poll to gauge consumer interest in a cellular directory.

Last year the Washington Post cited a study that showed there are now more wireless devices being used in the United Statesthan people.

“With the growing number of households using cell phones only, a cellular directory seems inevitable,” said Aaron Rosenthal, president of Phonebooks.com.

For an example of how deeply cell phones have penetrated our society, including the scientific community, in September 2009, The American Public Health Association published a report in The Nation’s Health titled “Cell phone popularity a barrier for public health data collection: More Americans forgoing phone landlines.”

This article discusses how scientific studies, and even genetic research, which have depended on telephone data collection, will have their samples limited unless consumers become better educated and decide to opt into directories that accumulate cell phone numbers.

The goal of the CellPhoneNumber.com website is to better educate consumers on this and other topics relating to their cell phones. For more information on this website or the poll, visit: http://www.CellPhoneNumber.com.

Would you want your number listed in a cell phone directory? Sounds like a good way to start getting tons of junk calls to us. Personally, if we want someone to have our cell number, we give it them.

Apple’s iPhone leads mobile video messaging use, Samsung gaining

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

iPhone 4SThe Apple iPhone continues to lead mobile video messaging usage, increasing from 7.4 percent to 23.6 percent since August 2011, however the use of Samsung devices is quickly gaining ground, increasing from 2.9 percent to 21.9 percent over the same period.

These numbers are according to the semiannual 2012 Mobile Marketing Analytics Report released by Mogreet, a multimedia-based mobile marketing provider.

“As the installed base of smartphones surpasses 50 percent in the United States, MMS provides a unique opportunity for marketers to reach all of their consumers with high-quality, engaging mobile video”

Currently, over two-thirds of all multimedia messaging delivered by businesses to consumers in the United States is done via the Mogreet platform.

This saturation of the mobile market provides the company deep insights into what messaging consumers view on their phones, giving unique types of useful knowledge for mobile marketers looking to improve and strengthen their messages, according to carrier, handset type and geography.

In addition, the semiannual report includes the following key statistics:

Percent of mobile multimedia messaging (MMS) delivered by mobile carrier:

  • Verizon Wireless – 45.4 percent
  • AT&T – 42.9 percent
  • Sprint – 8.2 percent
  • Cricket (Leap Wireless) – 2.4 percent
  • T-Mobile – 0.7 percent

Percent of MMS delivered by handset type:

  • Apple iPhone – 23.6 percent
  • Samsung – 21.9 percent
  • LG – 17.8 percent
  • Blackberry – 5.1 percent
  • Motorola – 5 percent

Top 5 U.S. regions using MMS:

  • Atlanta
  • South Carolina
  • Phoenix
  • Texas – Houston
  • Las Vegas Area

“As the installed base of smartphones surpasses 50 percent in the United States, MMS provides a unique opportunity for marketers to reach all of their consumers with high-quality, engaging mobile video,” said James Citron, CEO of Mogreet.

The expanded report is available for download at http://blog.mogreet.com

Which wireless carriers have the fastest 3G-4G service?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

At&tWhich 3G and 4G wireless services are fastest in your city and overall? PCWorld found out.

Mobile internet service is a major monthly expense for most American consumers, and a very big business for U.S. wireless companies.

The marketing machines of those companies are now in high gear, touting their services as the industry transitions from 3G service to the much faster 4G. Problem is, everybody’s service is “4G”, “most reliable”, “biggest”, “fastest” and “best,” if you believe all the names and claims flying about on TV, radio, print media and the Web.

“The big surprise in this year’s study is T-Mobile’s performance”

That’s why PCWorld has once again hit the road to measure the real-world performance of the four major wireless services on America’s streets and in its coffee shops. During February and March of this year, PCWorld measured the speeds of the major U.S. carriers’ 3G and 4G wireless services from 130 locations in 13 major U.S. cities.

wireless chart

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STUDY

  • AT&T had the fastest download speeds of any 4G service, along with an HSPA+ service that’s very competitive with 3G services–a compelling service combination for AT&T dual-mode phones.
  • T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 service proved faster overall than comparable 3G services in our study, and the carrier’s high-end HSPA+ 42 service held its own with the 4G services of its larger competitors. Those services, and the array of flexible and affordable plans it offers, make T-Mobile a good choice for many wireless users.
  • Verizon has 4G service in many more locations than other providers, but in most localities the download speed of its 4G service doesn’t match AT&T’s (though its upload speeds are faster, more often than not). And Verizon’s 3G speeds have not improved much, especially when compared to the competition.
  • Sprint is a consistent laggard in the wireless speed races. The company appears to have virtually stopped developing its network while looking for a way to transition from its outdated WiMAX 4G technology to LTE.

“The big surprise in this year’s study is T-Mobile’s performance,” says PCWorld Senior Editor Mark Sullivan, who designed and managed the study.

“By offering data speeds that are very competitive with AT&T and Verizon along with its affordable data plans, T-Mobile is proving why its proposed acquisition by AT&T last year would have been bad news for US consumers.”

“The other (rather sobering) surprise in this year’s data is Sprint’s poor performance, both in 3G and 4G service. The carrier’s speeds suggest that both the Sprint CDMA and WiMAX networks have seen very little investment and upgrade over the past year—in a mobile data market where the rule is ‘grow faster or perish.’”

“While a majority of wireless consumers still use slower 3G devices today, most will transition to faster 4G devices over the next five years as carriers push them to upgrade to newer 4G devices when their contracts expire,” Sullivan says. Meanwhile wireless companies will continue to increase their networks’ data transfer speeds to compete for new customers and retain old ones.

FASTEST 3G AND 4G SERVICES BY CITY:

Atlanta — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Boston — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Chicago — 3G: AT&T 4G: AT&T
Dallas — 3G: AT&T 4G: AT&T
Denver — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Los Angeles — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Las Vegas — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
New Orleans — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
New York — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
San Jose — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
San Francisco — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Seattle — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Washington DC — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T

“Our annual speed study is an important part of what we do at PCWorld,” explains VP, Editorial Director, Steve Fox. “Many consumers look to us for an unbiased, independent, empirical assessment of the wireless technology and services being offered in the U.S. today.”

“It’s exciting to see the data speed wars heating up as the wireless providers move from 3G to 4G technology in their networks and devices,” Fox says. “We only hope that the competition eventually translates into better performance and better value for consumers.”

Read the complete article with detailed results and data at: http://pcwrld.us/HILktj

Widespread adoption of mobile payment systems expected by 2020

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Imagining the InternetWithin the next decade, smart-device swiping will have gained mainstream acceptance as a method of payment and could largely replace cash and credit cards for most online and in-store purchases by smartphone and tablet owners, according to a new survey of technology experts and stakeholders.

Many of the people surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said that the security, convenience and other benefits of “mobile wallet” systems will lead to widespread adoption of these technologies for everyday purchases by 2020.

Others—including some who are generally positive about the future of mobile payments—expect this process to unfold relatively slowly due to a combination of privacy fears, a desire for anonymous payments, demographic inertia, a lack of infrastructure to support widespread adoption, and resistance from those with a financial stake in the existing payment structure.

Here at the TechJournal, we recently interviewed an e-commerce expert for a top firm and he said once mobile payments are the norm, digital commerce will explode. So this is probably the next crucial step in the increasingly important world of e-commerce and mobile commerce.

As always with these Pew reports, the full text is worth reading. Here are a few excerpts:

A number of financial services and technology firms have set their sights on integrating mobile devices into the broader, multi-trillion-dollar retail economy. As a result, the infrastructure and tools for safe, reliable mobile purchasing has been advancing rapidly in recent years.

These mobile payment and transaction solutions currently take a number of forms. Some allow merchants and businesses to accept “on the go” credit card payments from customers using a special card reader that plugs into a smartphone or tablet computer.

Others facilitate direct person-to-person financial transfers using mobile devices—either by physically touching phones or exchanging electronic credentials such as a phone number or email address.

Google Wallet

Other solutions go even further, placing mobile phones at the center of users’ financial lives as an all-in-one payment device, identification system, coupon book and financial planner. In late 2011, Google launched Google Wallet in partnership with Citibank and MasterCard. Based on a technology known as near-field communication (NFC), Google Wallet allows users to store payment information in the cloud and pay for goods at participating retailers by tapping their phone at the point of purchase.

Another consortium (including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Visa, American Express, Discover and MasterCard) will be piloting a similar NFC-based mobile payment system known as ISIS starting in select cities in mid-2012. PayPal and Visa have also announced plans for mobile wallet systems, and many analysts predict that Apple will announce its own virtual wallet service in the near future.

Which brand of phones has significantly higher Wifi use?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

iPhone 4A significantly higher percentage of iPhones than Android phones connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi networks, according to digital measurement firm comScore.

“With the rise in adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices, network operators have seen a surge in mobile web activity and face new challenges in keeping up with data demands while maintaining their quality of service,” saidSerge Matta, comScore President of Operator and Mobile Solutions.

“As bandwidth usage increases and the spectrum becomes more scarce, operators, OEMs, and others in the mobile ecosystem should understand the different dynamics between the use of mobile and Wi-Fi networks to develop strategies to optimize resources and provide their customers with continued high-quality network service.”

iPhone Users Significantly More Likely to Use Wi-Fi than Android Users
A U.S. analysis of Wi-Fi and mobile Internet usage across unique smartphones on the iOS and Android platforms reveals that 71 percent of all unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks to connect to the Internet, while only 32 percent of unique Android mobile phones used both types of connections. A further analysis of this pattern of behavior in the U.K. shows consistent results, as 87 percent of unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks for web access compared to a lower 57 percent of Android phones.

Mobile and Wi-Fi Internet Connection Activity Across iOS and Android Smartphone Platforms
February 2012

United States and United Kingdom
Source: comScore Device Essentials

Smartphone

 Platform

% of Smartphones that Browse Only

 via Mobile Networks

% of Smartphones that Browse via

Both Mobile and Wi-Fi Networks

United States
iOS 29% 71%
Android 68% 32%
United Kingdom
iOS 13% 87%
Android 43% 57%

U.K. Smartphones Show Higher Incidence of Wi-Fi Use Compared to U.S.
The comScore analysis also revealed that 69 percent of total unique smartphones in the U.K. browsed the Internet via both mobile and Wi-Fi network connections, compared to just 38 percent of U.S unique smartphones. U.S. smartphones on the AT&T network were more likely to use Wi-Fi than those on other major operator networks, likely due to AT&T having both a greater iPhone market share and the largest Wi-Fi hotspot network in America. In the U.K., smartphones on the Vodafone, Telefonica and Orange networks were more likely to use Wi-Fi than were others on other U.K. operators.

“The difference in mobile and Wi-Fi network usage across the U.S. and U.K. suggests that there are a few factors at play affecting Wi-Fi utilization rates,” said Matta.

“In the U.K., the scarcity of unlimited data plans and higher incidence of smartphone pre-paid contracts with a pay-as-you-go data model likely contributes to data offloading among users wanting to economize their mobile usage. In addition, the current lack of high-speed data networks in the U.K. might also lead users to seek out higher bandwidth capacity on Wi-Fi networks.

“In the U.S., the increased availability of LTE, 4G and other high-speed data networks currently make it less necessary for smartphone users to offload, but it’s also possible that the diminishing availability of unlimited cellular data plans will eventually push more usage to Wi-Fi.”

Mobile and Wi-Fi Internet Connection Activity Across Carriers
February 2012

United States and United Kingdom

Source: comScore Device Essentials

Carrier % of Smartphones that Browse Only

 via Mobile Networks

% of Smartphones that Browse via

 Both Mobile and Wi-Fi Networks

United States
AT&T 42% 58%
Verizon 68% 32%
T-Mobile (U.S.) 68% 32%
Sprint 71% 29%
Total U.S. 62% 38%
United Kingdom
Vodafone 25% 75%
T-Mobile (U.K.) 44% 56%
Three 46% 54%
Telefonica 28% 72%
Orange 24% 76%
Total U.K. 31% 69%

About comScore

TracFone top rated wireless carrier in 2012 Temkin ratings

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

TracFoneA new research report published by Temkin Group, 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings, rates the customer experience of 206 large companies across 18 industries. This is the second year that Temkin Group has released these ratings. The research, which is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers in January 2012, includes seven wireless carriers: AT&TSprintT-MobileTracFoneUS CellularVerizon Wireless, and Virgin Mobile.

TracFone was the top rated carrier, but only received an “okay” rating. AT&TVerizon Wireless, and Sprint also earned “okay” ratings while the remaining carriers were rated “poor.”

The average ratings for the wireless carriers placed it 13th out of 18 industries in the study.

Temkin Group also analyzed the changes between 2011 and 2012 and found that customer experience in the wireless industry improved over the previous year.

All six carriers saw improvements

Led by Virgin Mobile and TracFone, all six carriers that were in both the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings had improved ratings. Sprint fell behind the other carriers with only a very slight improvement since last year.

“Customer experience improved across the entire wireless industry, but there’s still a long way to go,” states Bruce Temkin, author of the report and Managing Partner of Temkin Group.

This report can be accessed from the Temkin Group website at http://www.temkingroup.com or from the blog, Customer Experience Matters, at http://experiencematters.wordpress.com. The data can be accessed from the Temkin Ratings website,http://www.temkinratings.com.

AT&T leads in customer service as Sprint, T-Mobile lose ground

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

At&tAT&T took the lead in customer service quality in the last three months of 2011 as Sprint and T-Mobile lost ground, according to the latest study on phone-based customer service quality conducted by Vocal Laboratories Inc. (Vocalabs).

graphs

In telephone interviews conducted immediately following a customer service call during the three months ending December 31, 2011, 69% of AT&T customers surveyed were “Very Satisfied” with the experience, up from 65% a year ago.

Fifty-nine percent of Sprint customers gave the experience their top rating, down 12 points from the end of 2010; while T-Mobile posted a 17-point drop to end 2011 at 48% “Very Satisfied.” Verizon was effectively unchanged at 60% satisfaction.

“When companies get distracted, or focus on only one part of their customer experience or product portfolio, the overall customer experience can suffer. We will be watching Sprint and T-Mobile in 2012 to see if they can recover the ground lost in 2011.”

“Providing a consistently high-quality customer service experience requires ongoing commitment and focus throughout an organization,” said Peter Leppik, CEO of Vocalabs.

“When companies get distracted, or focus on only one part of their customer experience or product portfolio, the overall customer experience can suffer. We will be watching Sprint and T-Mobile in 2012 to see if they can recover the ground lost in 2011.”

 

HTC violated Apple patent; Lightsquared money trouble; AT&T drops T-Mobile merger

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

HTCThe U.S. International Trade Commission says Taiwan-based HTC’s Android phones violated two Apple patent claims in a ruling that goes into effect April 19.

While this is good news for Apple and its iPhone, it may not be so good for consumers. Of the half dozen smartphones we tested last year (all Android or Windows phones), we like HTC’s hardware the best.

The ITC decision says HTC infringed on Apple patent claims that deal with software to make phone numbers and addresses actionable links.

HTC has said it has created workarounds to the patent difficulties. But the decision will afffect the Droid Incredible, EVO 4G, Nexus One and other HTC phones running Android 1.6 to 2.2, says Gizmodo.

Lightsquared may run out of money

Virginia-based LightSquared, the wholesale wireless network firm, could run out of cash by Q2 2012, according to an analysis of its most recent financial statement by Reuters.

The company, backed by Philip Falcone’s $5 billion Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, had a $427 million loss the first nine months of 2011. The financial statement seen by Reuters notes that the company may not be able to “continue as a going concern,” if it cannot raise additional capital.

Lightsquared is wrestling with FCC concerns that its plans for high-speed 4G wireless broadband services interferes with the GPS spectrum. It has submitted a plan to the FCC to circumvent the problem.

AT&T gives up on T-Mobile merger

At&tJust two weeks ago, an AT&T public relations person approached me with the firm’s position at the time that it was still working on its potential merger with T-Mobile despite dropping its bid with the FCC to focus on U.S. Department of Justice concerns. Yesterday, though, AT&T threw in the towel.

It will have to pay T-Mobile USA owner Deutsche Telekom the $4 billion fee it agreed to pay if the merger fell through, but says it will enter a mutually beneficial roaming agreement with the company.

In a statement, the company said:

“After a thorough review of options it has agreed with Deutsche Telekom AG to end its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA, which began in March of this year.

“The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry. It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately.

“The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage.  In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.”

AT&T chair and CEO Randall Stephenson said, ““To meet the needs of our customers, we will continue to invest. However, adding capacity to meet these needs will require policymakers to do two things.

“First, in the near term, they should allow the free markets to work so that additional spectrum is available to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. wireless industry, including expeditiously approving our acquisition of unused Qualcomm spectrum currently pending before the FCC.  Second, policymakers should enact legislation to meet our nation’s longer-term spectrum needs.

 

Consumers Union urges stronger mobile payment protection from carriers

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Most cell phone and tablet users can purchase digital goods and charge them to their monthly bill or prepaid phone account.  But they may not get the protections they need to limit their financial liability if something goes wrong with the transaction.

The protections consumers receive will vary depending on their wireless carrier’s policies and what’s in their cell phone contract, according to a new analysis by Consumers Union.

“Consumers using mobile payments should get the same strong protections they currently enjoy when they make purchases with a credit card or debit card,” said Michelle Jun, senior attorney for Consumers Union, the nonprofit advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

“But we found that consumer rights can vary widely between wireless carriers and the protections carriers claim to provide are often nowhere to be found in customer contracts.”

In May 2011, Consumers Union called on the top wireless carriers to strengthen their contracts to protect consumers in the event that their phone is lost or stolen or if a merchant makes a billing mistake or the customer is not satisfied with a purchase.

Consumers Union urges carriers to provide stronger protections

The consumer group urged the carriers to provide the same strong protections guaranteed by law when consumers use a credit card or debit card.  In addition, Consumers Union pressed the companies to provide consumers across the country with the same protections California phone customers are entitled to receive as a result of regulations issued by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Since May, Consumers Union has been in communication with representatives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to find out how they handle disputed mobile payment transactions.  All four carriers maintain that they provide ample protections for consumers.

However, Consumers Union found that the protections these carriers provide fall short of what consumers get when they use credit cards and debit cards or when California consumers report a disputed charge on their phone accounts.

In addition, many of the protections that wireless carrier representatives described to Consumers Union are not disclosed in customer contracts, making it difficult to know whether consumers can count on these safeguards when problems arise.

“As new mobile payment options become available, consumers are better off sticking to services linked to credit cards or debit cards, which come with strong protections required by law,” said Jun.  “If wireless carriers want consumers to have confidence in direct carrier billing programs, they should strengthen their contracts with the protections consumers need.”

Below is a summary of the protections that Consumers Union analyzed and what is provided by the top wireless carriers:

Limit liability when phones are lost or stolen:  A credit card customer’s liability is limited to no more than $50 for unauthorized charges.  In practice, credit card issuers usually shield customers from any financial liability for fraudulent charges.  Verizon Wireless’ contract makes clear that its customers are not liable for charges related to a lost or stolen phone.

Contracts for AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile protect customers from fraudulent charges made after a phone is reported lost or stolen but consumers may be on the hook for charges made before making a report.

Limit liability for disputed charges:  If a billing error appears on a monthly credit card statement, there is no liability for the customer as long as the customer reports the error within 60 days.

“Billing error” also includes a dispute with a merchant about the delivery or acceptability of goods or services.  While all four wireless carriers insist they provide refunds for billing errors or when customers are unhappy with purchases, these rights are not clearly disclosed in their contracts.

Re-credit pre-paid customers within 10 days for disputed charges:  After a consumer reports a fraudulent transaction involving a debit card, the bank must either complete its investigation within 10 business days or provisionally re-credit the consumer’s funds within that time.

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile indicated that they strive to provide prompt refunds but none guarantee in their contracts that pre-paid customers will get a provisional refund within ten days after reporting fraudulent charges.  Verizon Wireless does not allow customers with pre-paid phone accounts to make mobile payment charges.

Give customers the right to withhold payments for disputed charges:  California’s PUC rule gives phone customers in that state the right to withhold payment of disputed charges while an investigation is conducted and requires investigations to be completed within 30 days.  Sprint’s contract indicates that customers don’t have to pay for disputed charges as long as they are reported within 60 days.

AT&T said that it gives all customers the right to withhold payments during an investigation but its contract only discloses this right to Californians.

T-Mobile discloses these rights for California customers but not for customers living in other states.  Verizon Wireless’ contract allows customers to withhold payment for charges related to lost or stolen phones but it does not indicate that consumers have this same right for other kinds of disputed charges.

Enable customers to set a cap on mobile payment charges:  The California PUC rule allows consumers to block third party charges on their accounts.  All four wireless carriers allow customers to block third party charges but AT&T and Sprint do not disclose this right in their contracts.

AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless set their own dollar limits on allowable charges (AT&T has a $100 limit per month per line while Sprint and Verizon Wireless limit charges to $25 per month per line).  AT&T enables consumers to set their own limits but charges $4.99 per line each month to do so.

For more details, see How Top Wireless Carriers Compare on Consumers Protections for Mobile Payments.  For Consumers Union’s mobile payment tips for consumers, see:  Mobile Payments Tip Sheet: What Can Consumers Do Now

Smaller carriers may provide better cell phone value to some

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
Consumer Reports

An issue of Consumer Reports magazine

When it comes to cell-phone carriers smaller may be better, according to a new satisfaction survey of Consumer Reports online subscribers.  

At the top of the Ratings for standard service providers were Consumer Cellular, a national carrier that uses AT&T’s network, and U.S. Cellular, which operates in just over half the United States.

Credo, which offers service to much of the country on Sprint’s network, also bested the major carriers. AT&T, America’s second-largest carrier, again found itself at the bottom of the Ratings.

The full report features carrier Ratings in 22 metropolitan markets and can be found in the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports and at www.ConsumerReports.org.

In this year’s annual Consumer Reports survey on cell-phone service providers, more than 66,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers weighed in about their service and customer support experiences with standard service (billed at month’s end) and prepaid providers.

Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon and Sprint were the better-rated carriers.

Verizon had an edge over Sprint in texting and in knowledgeable support staff, but Sprint rated better in value. T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced carrier AT&T, which recently withdrew its application to the FCC to merge with its better rival.

TracFone rated as one of better pre-paid carriers

TracFone was rated one of the better carriers among prepaid cell-phone service providers, with Straight Talk, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile. All of the top four prepaid carriers received above average scores for value. Readers who prepaid for their cell-phone service were more satisfied overall than respondents with standard service.

“Our survey indicates that prepaid customers and those with smaller standard service providers are happier overall with their cell-phone service,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “However, these carriers aren’t for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smart phones. A major carrier is still a leading option for many consumers.”

How to Cut Your Cell-phone Bill

  • Don’t automatically buy from the company store. Two-thirds of cell phones are bought at carrier stores, but Consumer Reports has found that prices can be lower at warehouse stores and mass merchandisers.
  • Consider a lower-priced carrier.  When Consumer Reports compared 100 plans to similar alternatives in 21 matchups covering the full spectrum of plans, both prepaid and standard, Consumer Cellular came out on top. It had the best deal most often – in more than one out of three cases. Savings usually ranged from $30-40 per month over pricier rivals such as Verizon and AT&T, though you might find a smaller selection of the hottest smart phones with smaller carriers such as Consumer Cellular.
  • Use Alternative Services.  Bypassing the carrier and using third-party services for texting and voice calls can be a real money-saver. New apps such as Heywire and TigerText let you send text messages for free over your data connection. With most carriers, that means you won’t have to pay 10 cents per text or $5 to $30 a month for limited-to-unlimited messaging plans.
  • Max out on Wi-Fi.  Consumers should avoid using their plan’s allotment of data by tapping into the rising number of Wi-Fi networks that are available. Those who own 4G phones should set them to connect only to 3G whenever its adequate such as when texting or streaming music.

T-Mobile introduces two easy-to-use myTouch smartphones

Thursday, October 6th, 2011
T-Mobile_myTouch-lg-

T-Mobile myTouch-LG

T-Mobile USA, Inc. today announced the upcoming availability of the new T-Mobile myTouch and the myTouch Q, both by LG, as the latest Android-powered smartphones to join T-Mobile’s line of myTouch products running on America’s Largest 4G Network.

The myTouch and myTouch Q, are designed to be easily set-up on the first day and continue to be easy to use. That’s been our biggest gripe when testing smartphones – their set-up is often not intuitive and takes a few hours of fooling around to feel at all comfortable navigating features.

In fact, poor human design is the single biggest flaw we find in many digital devices. These two phones attempt to address that problem and are aimed at first-time smartphone users as well as the more experienced.

The myTouch and myTouch Q are designed with a number of features that make them approachable, the comnay says, including the option of two different styles of hardware to suit customer needs: the myTouch touts a 3.8-inch touch screen and a virtual keyboard with Swype, while the myTouch Q is equipped with a 3.5-inch touch screen plus a physical slide-out full QWERTY keyboard.

The myTouch and myTouch Q also offer a number of useful tools, including the following:

  • Set-up Wizard: Simple instructions for quick e-mail and social network integration
  • Tips Widget: A quick “how-to” providing an overview of the available device features, including a collection of instructional videos
  • Genius Button: One-shot voice commands to call, text, or search the Web all with the press of a button

“When moving to their first smartphone, customers want a simple and uncomplicated experience without compromising on quality,” said Andrew Sherrard, senior vice president, marketing, T-Mobile USA. “With the introduction of these new myTouch smartphones paired with our worry-free data plans and fast 4G network, we’re making it easier than ever to step up to 4G experiences.”

Both devices are powered by Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and a 1GHz Qualcomm processor giving customers the power and functionality they desire. Additionally, the myTouch and myTouch Q are equipped with advanced multimedia features, including a 5-megapixel camera and 720p HD video recorder for capturing photos and videos while on the go. The myTouch also includes a front-facing camera with access to T-Mobile Video Chat powered by Qik for face-to-face video chat.

Both devices also offer built-in entertainment applications, including T-Mobile TV in Mobile HD, Netflix and YouTube for real-time mobile video streaming and on-demand TV and movies.

Both phones, exclusively from T-Mobile, are expected to be available in time for the holiday season.

*T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G network not available everywhere. See coverage details at www.t-mobile.com.

AT&T says it will bring 5,000 jobs back to the U.S. if T-Mobile merger closes

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

At&tAT&T said today that it will bring 5,000 wireless call center jobs back to the United States if its merger with T-Mobile closes.

The 5,000 new wireless call center jobs at AT&T will offer among the nation’s most highly competitive wages and benefits. AT&T, which has not yet determined where in the U.S. the new jobs will be located, is the nation’s largest employer of full-time union employees and the only unionized major U.S. wireless carrier.

“At a time when many Americans are struggling and our economy faces significant challenges, we’re pleased that the T-Mobile merger allows us to bring 5,000 jobs back to the United States and significantly increase our investment here,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO. “This merger and today’s commitment are good for our employees, our customers and our country.”

Today’s announcement represents the largest commitment by an individual American company to bring jobs back to the U.S. since the economic crisis began in 2008.

Also, AT&T has committed as part of the T-Mobile merger to increase its U.S. infrastructure investment by more than $8 billion.  According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute that was commissioned by the Communications Workers of America, AT&T’s increased investment is estimated to produce up to approximately 96,000 new U.S. jobs.

AT&T said today’s jobs commitment does not change its previous guidance on the expected overall merger synergies.

The company is pushing hard to have the merger approved despite some Congressional opposition. Some fear the merger would reduce competition and lead to higher prices for mobile services.

Touting merger benefits

It says that beyond the jobs created, AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA provides a fast, efficient and certain solution to the impending exhaustion of wireless spectrum in many markets, which limits both companies’ ability to meet the ongoing explosive customer demand for mobile broadband. The uniquely complementary nature of AT&T and T-Mobile’s network assets will allow the combined company to add wireless network capacity – the functional equivalent of new spectrum – sooner than any other alternative.

AT&T promotes a number of benefits it says the merger will bring. The additional wireless network capacity will enable AT&T to offer better service — fewer dropped and blocked calls, and faster data speeds. Plus, the economic scale, additional spectrum and other benefits resulting from the merger will enable AT&T to deliver high-speed 4G LTE mobile broadband service to 97 percent of the U.S. population, or 55 million more Americans than it would without the merger. Reaching 97 percent of the population with LTE will create a much more extensive and robust mobile broadband platform that will fuel growth and investment throughout the country, the company says.

It adds that the benefits of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger have been recognized by numerous elected officials throughout the country, including 27 governors, more than 100 mayors, 11 state attorneys general, 79 Democratic Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and more than 150 chambers of commerce from 40 states, as well as a dozen labor unions and dozens of high-tech companies, such as Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Oracle.

North American agreements advance mobile 4G use

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

VerizonIn a major development that advances the deployment of fourth-generation wireless broadband services, the U.S. government has reached agreements with Canadaand Mexico that establish the framework for use of spectrum in the 700 MHz band. The spectrum is being widely deployed for high-speed wireless broadband in the U.S.

Other providers, such as T-Mobile, are deploying 4G systems without changing spectrum.

“Verizon’s rollout of its 4G LTE mobile broadband network is going well, and we are pleased that officials at both the Federal Communications Commission and Department of State worked well with their counterparts in Canada and Mexico to establish and update agreements for 700 MHz spectrum-band wireless operations along our respective borders,” said Tony Melone, Verizon executive vice president and chief technology officer.

“These actions demonstrate that all three governments recognize the public need for reliable, high speed wireless broadband services, such as LTE, which will aid consumers and businesses along the borders in gaining access to the same reliable, fast and most advanced Verizon LTE network as in other parts of the U.S.”

The agreement with Canada is new; the agreement with Mexico amends a 2006 cross-border agreement. The agreements allow Verizon to operate its 4G wireless network near U.S. borders at operational levels that will maximize the benefits of the new LTE technology, which supports average data rates of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink. Without these agreements Verizon customers near the Mexican or Canadian borders might not get access to the full benefits of 4G LTE.

Verizon is the first wireless company in the world to broadly deploy 4G LTE technology. In fewer than eight months, Verizon has deployed the technology in 102 metropolitan areas; by the end of 2013 Verizon plans to bring 4G LTE mobile broadband to its entire 3G coverage area.

U.S. smartphone users want Wi-Fi service to lower call cost, improve coverage

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
smartphones

Most smartphone users want Wi-fi service to boost coverage

Seventy four percent of smartphone users in the United States are interested in a mobile operator-provided service that uses Wi-Fi to provide lower cost calls, according to a recent MarketTools Zoomerang survey of 420 smartphone owners.

The survey, commissioned by Kineto Wireless, also showed 72 percent of smartphone users are interested in an application that uses Wi-Fi to improve cellular coverage.

Additional highlights from the online survey conducted May 2011 include:

  • Nearly nine out of ten (89%) of respondents have smartphones with Wi-Fi.
  • 77 percent have Wi-Fi at home; 54 percent have it at their place of work.
  • 62 percent of people who own smartphones with Wi-Fi use the Wi-Fi four or more days each week.
  • 30 percent say they use Wi-Fi because it is faster than the cellular network; 19 percent because it is easy to access the internet.
  • 30 percent have smartphones with a Google Android operating system (OS); 26 percent use Apple iPhone OS; and 22 percent use a RIM OS.
  • 44 percent of iPhone owners would “definitely” be interested in an application that could be used to boost mobile coverage; and 47 percent would “definitely” be interested in a Wi-Fi service offering discounted calling.
  • Of T-Mobile subscribers, 55 percent use Wi-Fi on their smartphones four or more days each week or every day, 24 percent because it is easy to access the internet.
  • Of AT&T subscribers, 68 percent of AT&T subscribers use Wi-Fi on their smartphones four or more days each week or every day, 32 percent because it is faster than the cellular network.

“Wi-Fi has become pervasive in the smartphone market, and subscribers are interested in options that help them take better advantage of Wi-Fi for coverage and cheaper calling,” said Steve Shaw, vice president of marketing for Kineto Wireless. “This data helps reiterate the market opportunities for mobile operators.

Kineto says its Smart Wi-Fi Application  can improve service quality and develop subscriber-friendly services that drive mobile data offload.”

T-Mobile is the most aggressive of the US operators with its use of Wi-Fi to reduce churn by addressing in-building coverage and increasing data offload. In October 2010, the company relaunched its Wi-Fi Calling service

Wired Wisconsin chides Sen. Kohl for opposing T-Moble, AT&T merger

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Herb Kohl

Senator Herb Kohl

Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl has submitted a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing his opposition to the proposed AT&T – T-Mobile USA merger now under review by the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission. Kohl says the merger would result in higher prices for service and a reduction in consumer choice.

His move prompted some in-state opposition, however.

Thad Nation, executive director of Wired Wisconsin, issued this statement in response to the news:

“I am disappointed by Senator Herb Kohl’s decision to withhold his support for a merger that can provide real benefits to Wisconsin residents. As proposed, this merger would enhance and improve access to wireless broadband for Wisconsin residents through private sector investment in critical infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

“Individuals in many parts of Wisconsin often lack access to high-speed Internet, quality cell service and other amenities. This merger would help to change that by providing improved services and access to people throughout Wisconsin. Because of this identified, statewide need, I do not agree with Senator Kohl on this matter and I believe this is the wrong decision for Wisconsin consumers.”

Wired Wisconsin is the Wisconsin-based project of Midwest Consumers for Choice and Competition (MCCC), a non-profit organization of individual consumers interested in technology, broadband, and telecommunication issues with state projects throughout the Midwest region. The project will work to support an environment for innovative technology, high-tech job creation, and economic growth.

So what do you think? Will the T-Mobile, AT&T merger be good for consumers or will it, as Sen. Kohl maintains, result in higher service charges and less choice?

Top 10 ways broadband helps rural communities

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

IIAWASHINGTON, DC – Broadband transforms rural communities in at least ten meaningful ways, according to research released today by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans. Based on analysis from sources including the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the IIA points to ten major benefits, listed below:

Ten Ways Broadband Helps Rural Communities

1) Links local businesses to global markets

2) Allows consumers to tap into e-commerce savings

3) Expands access to educational opportunities

4) Increases local job growth

5) Connects patients to world class healthcare and reduces healthcare costs

6) Enhances economic options for younger generations

7) Provides new tools to farmers and ranchers to grow their businesses

8) Enables entrepreneurs to locate their businesses locally

9) Attracts customers to local businesses

10) Offers families low cost options to stay in touch using the latest technology

To view sourcing for the “Ten Ways Broadband Helps Rural Communities,” visit http://www.internetinnovation.org/rural-infographic.

The IIA supports AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA, which would result in significant wireless Internet expansion to rural communities across the nation. IIA Honorary Chairman and former Congressman Rick Boucher is championing the consolidation of the two wireless Internet service providers due to the improvements broadband would bring to rural areas like those in his home state of Virginia.