Author Topic: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1  (Read 115900 times)

I.P. Daley

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #300 on: October 21, 2015, 10:41:55 AM »
Short question - is there a way to make cell phone calls answerable on house wiring?

Long version - we have VoIPo, and are up for renewal soon.  We don't use it much, but it seems like when we have a need, it often needs a reboot, or, like Monday when I was trying to arrange plans with a bunch of people, it was mostly out altogether (per chat with VoIPo, after we'd rebooted everything from the wall out twice).

We dislike long calls on the cell, so we keep the landline for long calls like family and those interminable customer "service" calls.

Sorry to hear you're having problems with VOIPo. It sounds like the ATA might be going a little sour on you. Could be either the power supply or the capacitors in the ATA itself.

Regarding your question, however... the key phrase to hit Amazon with is "bluetooth to landline." There's a whole mess of options from simple bridges to wireless phone systems with it built-in.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #301 on: October 21, 2015, 09:32:50 PM »
However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?

Sorry to hear about the spanner, mate.

Looks like at this late stage, it's now T-Mobile prepaid as your easiest option. T-Mobile's been re-farming a lot of their services across their spectrum recently, and one of the things they've done is migrated HSPA+ from the 1700MHz AWS bands over to the 1900MHz PCS bands in most of their markets now. That might help. Also, data's not a big add-on here, unfortunately. Everyone wants to mine for big bucks on data, even on the MVNO end, since it's so blasted expensive.

WiFi is reasonably available in commercial areas, but be selective about what traffic you pass on those networks, and I'd recommend you stay away from private open hotspots. Use common sense and be security minded.
I know you're going to be disappointed with me on this one Daley.

I arrived at the airport a couple of days ago, couldn't find an AT&T or T-Mobile store. Later that day I saw a shop near the airport selling SIM cards,  and the person at the store said that most were $15-25 for the card alone,  plus the plan,  except for Simplemobile.

I bought one of the SIMs for them,  and then checked their website and it has 'Tracfone' at the bottom. Yep, America Movil, I know you're not a fan. It works OK,  but I can't find a usage tracker app. Oh well, no big deal, I'm only here for a couple of weeks.

I tend to get fairly consistent 3G, but it drops a bit indoors.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 09:45:38 PM by alsoknownasDean »

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #302 on: November 12, 2015, 02:06:43 AM »
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.  My phone shows up as a blocked number to the people I'm trying to call.  The service says to click a couple buttons and it'll text me a code, but the code has never shown up.  The Google forums are crickets on the subject. Anyone had this situation?

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #303 on: November 12, 2015, 07:49:06 AM »
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.
....
Anyone had this situation?

Question: Do you have a Google Voice phone number associated with your Hangouts account?

From Hangouts Help:
Quote
Caller ID for calls placed in Hangouts

When you make a call in Hangouts, the Caller ID will show the number as "unknown," and you can't receive phone calls back to your number.

But if you make a call through Hangouts with a Google Voice account, your Google Voice number will display on the Caller ID.

The long-short of it? You either need to grab a Google Voice phone number or port a number into Google Voice to get any outbound calls through Hangouts to display anything but "unknown number"... unless you're using Sprint postpaid, then we're dealing with a whole other beast.

If you're just using Hangouts to save money and reduce mobile minutes while home, try going Localphone instead. They have US calling subscriptions starting at 75/month for 250 minutes (4 hours 10 minutes), they have their own calling app that doesn't require any configuration to use, and you can set your outbound Caller ID to any phone number you can verify as having access to. Basically, it'll do everything it looks like you're wanting to do for a few pennies a month.
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Travis

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #304 on: November 12, 2015, 08:32:05 AM »
I started making WiFi calls using Hangouts, but I haven't been able to turn on my caller ID.
....
Anyone had this situation?

Question: Do you have a Google Voice phone number associated with your Hangouts account?

From Hangouts Help:
Quote
Caller ID for calls placed in Hangouts

When you make a call in Hangouts, the Caller ID will show the number as "unknown," and you can't receive phone calls back to your number.

But if you make a call through Hangouts with a Google Voice account, your Google Voice number will display on the Caller ID.

The long-short of it? You either need to grab a Google Voice phone number or port a number into Google Voice to get any outbound calls through Hangouts to display anything but "unknown number"... unless you're using Sprint postpaid, then we're dealing with a whole other beast.

If you're just using Hangouts to save money and reduce mobile minutes while home, try going Localphone instead. They have US calling subscriptions starting at 75/month for 250 minutes (4 hours 10 minutes), they have their own calling app that doesn't require any configuration to use, and you can set your outbound Caller ID to any phone number you can verify as having access to. Basically, it'll do everything it looks like you're wanting to do for a few pennies a month.

I've been doing it with my normal cell number.  Having a second phone number will probably confuse the people I'm calling just as much as being "unknown."  I'll take a look at Localphone.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #305 on: November 18, 2015, 05:14:40 AM »
However, none of the carriers with PAYG plans seem to have add-on data packs...except for T-Mobile. They've got their $3 a month prepaid plan with 30min/30 texts and a 7 day data pass is $10 a week for 1GB. Added bonus is I could probably pick up a SIM at the airport or a store anywhere. Even if the coverage is a bit shit outside of cities (especially as my phone works on 1900MHz 3G only, not the kooky 1700 they also use), it might be worthwhile if I can keep my data usage under 1GB a week. Free wifi's fairly widespread there, no?

Sorry to hear about the spanner, mate.

Looks like at this late stage, it's now T-Mobile prepaid as your easiest option. T-Mobile's been re-farming a lot of their services across their spectrum recently, and one of the things they've done is migrated HSPA+ from the 1700MHz AWS bands over to the 1900MHz PCS bands in most of their markets now. That might help. Also, data's not a big add-on here, unfortunately. Everyone wants to mine for big bucks on data, even on the MVNO end, since it's so blasted expensive.

WiFi is reasonably available in commercial areas, but be selective about what traffic you pass on those networks, and I'd recommend you stay away from private open hotspots. Use common sense and be security minded.
I know you're going to be disappointed with me on this one Daley.

I arrived at the airport a couple of days ago, couldn't find an AT&T or T-Mobile store. Later that day I saw a shop near the airport selling SIM cards,  and the person at the store said that most were $15-25 for the card alone,  plus the plan,  except for Simplemobile.

I bought one of the SIMs for them,  and then checked their website and it has 'Tracfone' at the bottom. Yep, America Movil, I know you're not a fan. It works OK,  but I can't find a usage tracker app. Oh well, no big deal, I'm only here for a couple of weeks.

I tend to get fairly consistent 3G, but it drops a bit indoors.

SimpleMobile worked OK for the trip, in many places along highways (Route 101, etc) where there was no T-Mobile coverage, it roamed on AT&T (slowly but it worked).

I think next time I'll aim for an AT&T MVNO (or roaming will be cheaper). Indoor coverage wasn't brilliant with there being no lower-frequency 3G, but it seemed to work fine in the cities.

I will say that 3G still works fine for most uses. I've been spoilt by consistent 4G LTE coverage nearly wherever I go in Australia, but as my phone doesn't support US LTE networks, I was on 3G for the entire trip, and the data was still perfectly usable (speeds were often similar to the ADSL I have back here in Aus).

I noticed one other thing. I took my iPad and my phone with me, but the iPad barely saw any use. Virtually all of my internet use was through my smartphone. Still I used about 2.8GB for the whole trip, including streaming.

I'll be heading back at some stage though, the PNW is very pretty in the fall. That and the craft brewery scene is amazing and I kinda wish I'd spent another day or two in Seattle, and that I was in the Yakima Valley around the hop harvest season instead of just after it had ended. Live and learn :)

I'm kinda debating about whether to change plans or providers or not though now I'm back in Australia. I'm currently with Optus, and get 8GB of data for $50 a month, but I could change to the new 3GB plan for $40 a month and my usage patterns would probably still fit. That or Amaysim with 5GB on the same network for $39.90.

Or Telstra's new prepaid offers, where I can get a certain amount of credit that can be used on the Google Play store each month as part of the recharge (so I can pay for Google Play Music with that instead of paying separately for a Spotify subscription). Although Optus now let me stream live cricket matches without it counting towards my quota. I'm a big cricket fan so that's a bonus.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2015, 05:20:10 AM by alsoknownasDean »

anneinpdx

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #306 on: November 19, 2015, 11:17:08 AM »
So I've been a happy Ptel customer since April 2014, mostly using the $10 plan on an iPhone4 and more recently a FirePhone running Cyanogenmod.  A few months ago we dropped our home phone service as we just weren't using it so I upgraded to the $20 talk/text plan with 250MB data.  This has worked great and I have been using between 100-150MB of data each month.  A couple days ago I received a message that I had used up all my data for the month and I would have to call and add money.  This was weird because my phone's tracking system (which usually is within 5% of billed usage) shows 94MB used.  Also Ptel's website showed 75MB used.  The phone rep told me it would take 24 hours to update.  Well, it's 3 days later and their online account now shows 92MB use (right in line with my phone's data).  I have spoken to 3 reps who cannot explain this disparity to me but just keep saying it shows I used the data "on the backend".  I know it's not all that much money but this unexplained disparity and the lack of helpful response is really irritating me.  I could wait a week until my new month starts but I have missed some MMS messages.   Does anyone here have a possible explanation?  I have an Airvoice sim and I'm thinking of switching over since their coverage maps are a little better in my area.   

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #307 on: November 19, 2015, 12:10:48 PM »
Does anyone here have a possible explanation?

Nope. That is peculiar, and I am sorry that you've run into support issues over it. I suspect the folks at customer support are equally flummoxed, but with my own experiences over the years, they usually can do something to tweak service on the accounting end to fix the situation if there's been a billing error. To that end, I'm a little surprised they're letting it ride without doing anything, but I'm also not sure they can easily fix this without completely resetting the data allotment and billing cycle, which might be why they haven't. I honestly don't know. A part of me is wondering if maybe it was a data usage glitch on the MMS end.

Maybe try to publicly (but politely) contact them through Twitter @ptelmobile or Facebook at /ptelmobile. Maybe explain it thusly:

I've been with you guys since April 2014, been happy, no problems. This month had my first billing error. I average 100-150MB a month. My phone says I used 94 out of 250MB this month, the account page says I used 92MB, but I got a message saying I used 250MB and still have a week left. Customer care is equally confused, and can't resolve it. I'd like to stay, but I'm losing messages and don't want to re-pay for service I already paid for, even if it is just $5. Is there anything that can be done?

Just remember: honey works better than vinegar with most customer support folks. Everyone yells and makes threats. Be neutral and make them want to help you out of kindness.

Beyond that, I'd give them at least one more month. If it's a screwball glitch, help 'em fix it so others don't get hit with it as well. If it becomes a trend that keeps happening, let me know and consider switching at that point. Just remember, Airvoice's $20 plan only provides 100MB, and only the first 50MB is unthrottled.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

anneinpdx

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #308 on: November 19, 2015, 02:35:06 PM »
Thanks Daley.  I have a brother who worked in a phone center for years so I'm always as polite as possible :)  I also know the reps probably have time limits they are trying to meet and I got the feeling no one wanted to spend time trying to sort it out.   I may try the social media option.  I don't mind paying if it's my fault but since I'm pretty sure I didn't do any data hogging activity and my phone says I didn't, I was feeling a bit put out.    Partly I just wanted to put this out there in case others run into a similar problem.  I appreciate all your work here.

adam

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #309 on: November 24, 2015, 10:44:04 AM »
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

Getting a new work phone today. If I can get one of those dual sim adapters I can go back to carrying one mobile device with both my work and private numbers on it.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #310 on: November 24, 2015, 01:49:12 PM »
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

It shouldn't be a problem.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

adam

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #311 on: November 24, 2015, 04:11:20 PM »
Will I have any problem swapping an airvoice sim into an iPhone 6 thats activated through Verizon? They have all the radios, right?

It shouldn't be a problem.

Initial results are promising.  I was able to put my airvoice sim in the iphone and make calls and texts, but no data (as I hadn't set any of the APN stuff).

Only thing I'd be concerned about now is when I get the dual sim adapter, I wouldn't want to change the APN settings for my airvoice sim and have them overwrite or delete the Verizon settings.  Something tells me work wouldn't appreciate that.  Thoughts?

I know looking at the googles that the dual sim on the iPhone is going to be one at a time, so I'd have to manually switch between them vs having them both active at the same time like on my Asus Zenfone.  Hopefully that implies it will keep the settings different for each sim that it recognizes?  More research is required...

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #312 on: December 02, 2015, 07:38:55 PM »
Do you have a recommendation of a reputable Ebay or Amazon shop that sells used, clean phones?

(I'm still deciding between Airvoice, Selectel, and TMobile.)

Thanks!

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #313 on: December 02, 2015, 07:42:28 PM »
Do you have a recommendation of a reputable Ebay or Amazon shop that sells used, clean phones?

Not off hand, to be honest. I typically just advise people to research the seller and read the feedback.

Mind if I ask why you're still deciding between three different networks and who your current provider is?

What about your existing phone, does it really need to be replaced?
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

AshStash

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #314 on: December 05, 2015, 09:36:31 AM »
I'm hoping to get some advice on my current MVNO/VOIP setup as I think it may be possible to further optimize it using Google Voice but there are some aspects of GV I'm not clear on and it may be possible for me to buy the services I need through other providers. I posted essentially the below on the GV forums but then realized this is really more of an MVNO/VOIP issue than a GV-specific issue. I'd also like to add that using The Superguide has both saved me a significant amount of money per year for the last two years and given me significantly more features, so a huge thanks to I. P. Daley for all the excellent info!!

My situation: I'm an American living in the UK. I visit the US for ~4-8 weeks a year, spread out over typically 3 trips/year. I have kept my US phone number (I'll call it phone # 1) active by various plans (first on an AT&T PAYG + feature phone, now on AirvoiceWireless PAYG +smartphone). I have a US Skype number (I'll call it phone # 2) as well, which is how my family and friends in the US call me. Right now, when I'm in the US I have an Airvoice SIM set to phone #1 in my old iphone 4s. I pay the $10/90 days activation for PAYG to keep phone #1 while I'm abroad and use this credit (with top ups) while in the US. In the US, I use a FreedomPop device to alleviate some of my Airvoice PAYG data use and to get data access on my UK phone (Whatsapp is huge among my UK friends but not so much with my US friends/family and I can only see my Whatsapp messages on my UK phone).  My issue is that I don't receive group texts from my friends, as Airvoice has an issue with MMS messages. This has been something that has become increasingly irritating over time and is the main issue I'm hoping to resolve.  I'd also like to drop my Skype # and have one single US phone number (phone #1) for American friends and family to use to reach me, wherever I am.

My current services:
1. Skype Number ($30/year, paid through Oct 2016, ideally I would like to stop using this number)
2. Skype Unlimited US& Canada ($2.99/month, renewable monthly. I am pretty sure I am going to cancel this after my visit to the US for the holidays because of #3).
3. 60 free World minutes on Skype (Free with my MS Office student license which was a 4 year subscription expiring in 2017)
4. FreedomPop device with 500 MB free 4G data for US use (ETA: I'm considering using the $3.99/month for 500 3G/4G mins to push all of my data use onto the FreedomPop instead of using AirVoice)
5. Airvoice Wireless ($10 4x per year to maintain number, I use whatever credit remains when in the US and top up in $10 increments)
6. When home in the UK I use Giffgaff (O2 MVNO)

My usage in the US: I seem to use between 500 MB-700 GB between the FreedomPop and Airvoice data. Closer to the 500 GB end but due to lack of 4G Freedompop coverage in certain areas, some of this data use has to be on Airvoice under my current set up. I try to make as many calls as possible over Skype to avoid paying Airvoice's $.10/min rate. I estimate for sending and receiving calls, between Airvoice and Skype I use 150 minutes/3 week trip. All but one of my friends and 3 members of my family have iPhones so between iMessage and Google Hangouts, most of my messaging is covered and I probably send ~40 SMS messages/3 week trip. The real issue is that I don't receive  group texts involving these 4 non-iPhone people but I'd really like to get the MMS messages, so my total message usage would be higher by an unknown amount if I actually received these texts.

My question: can I port my Airvoice number (phone #1) to Google Voice and use that via the Voice app/Hangouts on iOS on my UK iPhone 6 to make/receive calls, texts, and MMS messages over wifi/data in the US? When I'm in the US, my plan would be to keep cell data turned off on my UK phone to avoid charges and use my FreedomPop as a wifi network when I'm away from home. I'm a little confused because the guidance I have read so far suggests I would still need to maintain a US cell phone plan/active US sim card (creating US phone #3) to send/receive calls and messages via GV on the US number I really want to use, phone #1. I don't understand why I'd need to still have a US phone plan if Google Voice can work over wifi/data via the iOS Voice and Hangout apps. What am I missing? Is GV even a way/the best way to go to get what I want (maintain current US services, keep my preferred US phone (phone #1), use only my iPhone 6 and possibly a Freedompop or similar, and add in the ability to send and receive MMS messages). I'd like to only use 1 handset in the US and sell my old iPhone 4s but if I have to keep both handsets to make this work, that's ok.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2015, 10:03:37 AM by AshStash »

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #315 on: December 05, 2015, 06:16:54 PM »
Just heard the other day that California is introducing a tax (surcharge) on pre-paid mobile consumers, starting January 2016.  It's known as the MTS (Mobile Telephony Service) Surcharge, and there's some information about it here:

https://www.boe.ca.gov/industry/prepaid_mts_surcharge.html

From what I can tell (definitely not an expert, and I just heard about this recently), it sounds like the charge applies to anyone who buys pre-paid mobile service who lives in California or has a California phone number.  It also sounds like this charge has been around for a while, but it used to be paid by the service providers, not directly by the consumer.  Rates by city/county are here:

https://www.boe.ca.gov/app/mts_rates.aspx

Just wanted to point this out in case anyone hadn't heard.  I'd be a little mad about it, but I'm on Airvoice's $10 plan, so even though my city is charging >15%, it should still be less than $2/month for me.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #316 on: December 05, 2015, 07:42:41 PM »
I previously had Wifi calling on Tmobile, but it was always a pain in the ass. Dropped calls, not switching over, having to manually turn off Wifi when there was an issue. I'm sick of poor connectivity. None of the providers has a good cell signal in my house, or my office. I have strong Wifi at both. I'm also sick of the shitty/late Android updates via Samsung/Tmobile.

Notionally, Fi is supposed to seamlessly transition between Tmobile, Sprint and Wifi, automatically using the best connection. There are a million tested-good Wifi hotspots included, and the service is still in beta test.

The thing to remember is that both T-Mobile and Google Fi are using UMA for that GSM/WiFi call handoff. Perhaps you were having problems with the implementation and hardware while on T-Mobile, but the technology allowing that supposedly seamless switch is going to be identical. If you still have problems with it after the switch to Fi, I'd potentially look into your router as a possible failure point as well.

Calling has been cleaner on Fi, even the pure WiFi connection is better - some of that may be the phone, but I used a T-Mobile sim on that phone for a few weeks before going Fi. Much easier for me to get LTE service out in the world too - I'm guessing the areas I found weak on T-Mobile have the holes plugged by Sprint (such as my office, on one of my projects, etc)

Only real problem has been sending/receiving MMS on cellular - works great on WiFi, often problematic on LTE (instant fail on send or attempt to download.)  I'm seeing reference online that there may be an authentication script issue with Fi on Sprint for MMS. After 35-40 minutes troubleshooting with Fi customer service it was supposedly sent for escalation (this was Thursday) but I haven't heard back.  Sending SMS from the exact same location/same time is no problem.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #317 on: December 06, 2015, 08:00:37 AM »
Just heard the other day that California is introducing a tax (surcharge) on pre-paid mobile consumers, starting January 2016.

More info here, courtesy of Dennis Bournique:
http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2015/12/californias-new-tax-on-prepaid-airtime.html

Quote
Although I'm sure this post will get lots of comments blaming the new tax on greedy bureaucrats, the real culprits are greedy mobile operators and their influence on legislators. The taxes that make up the new MTS Surcharge are not new, they have been around for years but until now they were collected directly from the mobile operators as business taxes. The operator's CTIA trade and lobbying body sponsored and pushed AB-1717, the bill that authorized moving the taxes from the operators to end users. The change means a massive windfall for the operators at the expensive of consumers. It would be nice if the operators passed at least some of that savings on to customers but I'd be surprised it that happens.

It also sounds like this charge has been around for a while, but it used to be paid by the service providers, not directly by the consumer.

Correct. You can definitely thank the 800lb gorillas in the mobile space for this one, the big five and Slim's outfit to start with. It's effectively a rate hike without appearing to raise prices... like America Movil did with Page Plus after taking it over by shifting telecom taxes to an additional fee on top of the minutes charge, only now it's law that it has to be done that way in Cali. Yet another reason to support smaller MVNOs instead of bellying up to brands like Cricket Wireless or TracFone/StraightTalk/etc.



Calling has been cleaner on Fi, even the pure WiFi connection is better - some of that may be the phone, but I used a T-Mobile sim on that phone for a few weeks before going Fi. Much easier for me to get LTE service out in the world too - I'm guessing the areas I found weak on T-Mobile have the holes plugged by Sprint (such as my office, on one of my projects, etc)

Good to hear. Hopefully the MMS issue will get sorted, but it is yet another "beta" product from Google.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2015, 08:04:47 AM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #318 on: December 06, 2015, 09:47:24 AM »
My situation: I'm an American living in the UK. I visit the US for ~4-8 weeks a year, spread out over typically 3 trips/year. I have kept my US phone number (I'll call it phone # 1) active by various plans (first on an AT&T PAYG + feature phone, now on AirvoiceWireless PAYG +smartphone). I have a US Skype number (I'll call it phone # 2) as well, which is how my family and friends in the US call me. Right now, when I'm in the US I have an Airvoice SIM set to phone #1 in my old iphone 4s. I pay the $10/90 days activation for PAYG to keep phone #1 while I'm abroad and use this credit (with top ups) while in the US. In the US, I use a FreedomPop device to alleviate some of my Airvoice PAYG data use and to get data access on my UK phone (Whatsapp is huge among my UK friends but not so much with my US friends/family and I can only see my Whatsapp messages on my UK phone).  My issue is that I don't receive group texts from my friends, as Airvoice has an issue with MMS messages. This has been something that has become increasingly irritating over time and is the main issue I'm hoping to resolve.  I'd also like to drop my Skype # and have one single US phone number (phone #1) for American friends and family to use to reach me, wherever I am.

Okeydokey. This is a fun one, and I'm not sure that my advice is going to save you a great deal over what you're spending currently, but I know it's going to drastically simplify your life and you won't have to involve the sometimes hot mess that is Google Voice in the proceedings.

Truphone SIM. Prices are about comparable (if not better) to GiffGaff PAYGO, excuse their 20MB for 20p a day offer as incoming calls and texts are free, and outgoing is all 6p per minute/SMS/MB. The exact same rates will apply for you roaming in the United States. You also get the advantage of attaching an additional US phone number to your account for 5/month so people can either call or text you from either your UK or US number simultaneously. They also support number porting, and going this route would give you the added benefit of only needing the one phone no matter which side of the pond you're on, and you always being reachable by a local number no matter where you are without getting VoIP apps or additional numbers involved.

You'll find yourself paying a bit more for mobile data, but you may also save some cash on mobile calling, voicemail access, MMS use, call forwarding, roaming, and international calling rates. It eliminates the need for Skype entirely. It's also free per text and minute in and about a penny a minute/SMS cheaper than Airvoice without the monthly $1 maintenance fee eating away your balance with the added benefit of still having access to the number while in the UK. Granted, the 5 month number cost eats into your savings from eliminating Skype and the Airvoice service fee, but we'll get to that in a moment. It still beats trying to maintain a separate mobile account in another country and either swapping SIMs or phones when you get there.

That said, if you do want to still keep leveraging VoIP for cheaper calls over your FreedomPop device or your home internet connection or using your free incoming minutes, just completely ditch Skype and look into Localphone instead. They have apps for both iOS and Android that can use a local outbound number, WiFi or 3G data for outbound calling, they offer callback service, you can set outbound caller ID to any of your mobile numbers, and their pay as you go per minute rates to the US and UK landlines are 0.4p/minute, with UK mobile rates at 1.5p, and cheaper per minute monthly bundle rates as well. You can also find various calling card auto-dialer apps for iPhone and Android that do generic callback support, such as Calling Card Pal (which doesn't require an account with them to use). Even doubled-up and using the PAYGO rates terminating to your UK mobile number (instead of, say, that 5/month US number), using callback to place outbound mobile calls would only run you 1.9p/minute, 0.8p/minute otherwise. That is, if you want to add the complexity of an additional dialer that can interfere with potentially dialing 911/112 and another company poking around your phone.

Backing up a tiny bit and of speaking of FreedomPop, I'm not sure if you're aware, but their WiMax devices no longer work. Hopefully you have a 4G LTE capable device. The changes to calling methodology might help reduce data usage as well, as you don't necessarily have to use data to place and receive cheaper calls while in the US.

This route should be a bit easier as you have fewer moving parts, fewer businesses and accounts, but even more mobile flexibility and roaming than you're used to. Easier to keep up on billing, too. Hope this helps get you to where you want to be!
« Last Edit: December 06, 2015, 09:53:04 AM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #319 on: December 06, 2015, 11:33:23 AM »
Thanks! Truphone is incredibly tempting due to the sheer simplicity of it but I think it would cost me quite a bit more than I pay now in the UK due to data charges. I typically use Giffgaff's 10 goodybag (as they call them) which comes with far more mins and texts than I've ever used in my life and 1 GB of 4G data, no throttling.  I typically use around 700 GB/month but if I anticipate a lighter use month, I drop down to the 5 or 7.50 goodybag. When I'm in the US, I don't buy a new goodybag until I'm back in the UK.

The truphone idea did get me thinking laterally about 2 SIMs in 1 phone. Knowing the iphone only has one SIM slot, I googled to see if there is another solution and it looks like I can pick up a multi-SIM adapter for the iphone for around 20 letting me use the Airvoice and Giffgaff sims in the same phone, which will be more than paid for by the proceeds of selling my now-superfluous iPhone 4s (going for ~60-90 on ebay). I need to read some reviews about how wells these adapters work in practice but in theory this could solve my two phone issue and free up some cash for the 'stash.

I didn't know about the WiMax issue with FreedomPop but I've emailed them about my device and if it no longer can receive 4G, I've asked for a free swap (not sure they'll do it, in my experience their customer service is mediocre at best). Thanks for letting me know!

Thank you for saving me from complicating things with Google Voice (although if it would let me get group texts in the US via Hangouts, I'd still be a little tempted) and thank you for writing and maintaining the Guide, which has let me hang on to my preferred US phone number and have (almost) full and frankly gluttonous use of a smartphone during US visits for $71/year (calculated from all of my Airvoice top ups in the last 27 months). From 2011-2013, I was paying $120/year to AT&T to use a feature phone (not including some instances of paying Skype wifi rates for airport wifi because I didn't have mobile data). The Guide (and some UK friends) also convinced me to ditch my major UK carrier for an MVNO here, which has saved me about 180 and significantly improved my user experience (O2 billing and customer service is really dreadful).

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #320 on: December 06, 2015, 01:39:16 PM »
Thanks! Truphone is incredibly tempting due to the sheer simplicity of it but I think it would cost me quite a bit more than I pay now in the UK due to data charges. I typically use Giffgaff's 10 goodybag (as they call them) which comes with far more mins and texts than I've ever used in my life and 1 GB of 4G data, no throttling.  I typically use around 700 GB/month but if I anticipate a lighter use month, I drop down to the 5 or 7.50 goodybag. When I'm in the US, I don't buy a new goodybag until I'm back in the UK.

I think you could probably go on a data diet and offset that as even 700MB is a lot of mobile data, especially if you have a home connection. If you can strip your mobile data usage to under 100MB a month, that'd go a long way all on its own. Just remember, connect to your home WiFi as often as possible, and take advantage of your phone's storage capabilities. If you're using a lot of data for cheaper VoIP calling, remember, callback uses zero data.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #321 on: December 06, 2015, 02:38:32 PM »
700 MB is definitely a lot of data but is typical for months when I'm traveling within the UK and have less wifi access. Last month I used 211.73 MB and that's fairly typical of months when I'm just going home-office. I could certainly refresh my news and social media apps less while I'm off wifi, though. The biggest factor that will affect my use going forward is the fact that I've just finished a PhD and am now job hunting, so I have no idea where my next job will be so I don't know if my phone will spend its days on wifi or not. I will probably revisit my whole phone service setup once I have a new job and a hopefully Mustachian commute. Maybe I will get lucky and get a job with a corporate phone that I can use for all of my data needs :) (this is what I did at my pre-PhD job, with the company's blessing, and it was great)

I will keep an eye on my data usage and calculate what my Truphone costs would be over the next few months and see if a switch is worth it. The simplicity of one sim to rule them all is very appealing.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #322 on: December 07, 2015, 06:08:22 AM »
Got a chuckle out of this...


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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #323 on: December 07, 2015, 08:01:42 AM »
Congratulations Paul, you've just hijacked the thread.

This is no longer a discussion about communications and cell phones, but puppies.


That is all.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #324 on: December 07, 2015, 10:28:48 AM »
Alright, less puppies, more typing. How is RingPlus so cheap?!

I see their sugar plan at $13 + tax for unlimited talk/text and 1GB of 4G.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #325 on: December 07, 2015, 11:54:56 AM »
Alright, less puppies, more typing. How is RingPlus so cheap?!

I see their sugar plan at $13 + tax for unlimited talk/text and 1GB of 4G.

Datamining and captive advertising. The ringback tone with outbound calls are replaced with advertisements, for one. That's why they're not in the guide and only recommended as an alternative for Republic Wireless-level cheapskates.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #326 on: December 14, 2015, 11:44:18 AM »
Along with iOS 9.2, Apple is trying to push new Carrier settings. Multiple times a day. The only options are now and later. As far as I can tell, they're not for Airvoice, and will likely break my data connection (if history is any guide).

I don't know the MVNO forums well at all, but Google hasn't helped me here - I've seen nothing on this, just how a previous pushed carrier update messed things up for Airvoice before.

So I've just been declining, but is there a way to say "go away for good"?  Should I accept and then go to that unlockit.co.nz site and hope for the best?

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #327 on: December 15, 2015, 12:07:43 PM »
Any additional feedback on Google Project Fi?  I like the idea of getting refunded for unused data, but I don't like the idea of buying a new phone after dropping $299 on one 6 months ago.

Got the invite today. I had already been considering dropping my Airvoice from the $50 plan back to the $30, but what I really would like is something in the 1.5GB range.

I meant to look at my usage history but apparently my Asus Zenfone 2 doesn't maintain prior cycles, which seems weird.  Not sure why I hadn't noticed that before.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #328 on: January 04, 2016, 06:11:12 PM »
I wanted to post back with my results.

First, data. Good god were you right. I've used about 500mb cell data (4g) over the course of two-ish months, and less than 3 hours of talk time.

This included my usual road trip.

A 5 gig plan is massively overkill for me.

Next, provider. After much hemming and hawing, I got in on a family T-mobile plan with some friends. Total cost $30-35 a month. For that, I get _essentially_ unlimited data, talk, text, etc - some of those are in fact "unlimited" and others have caps far above what I actually use.

So how was the service in East Bumblefuck? Shockingly terrific. While I sometimes have little reception in the middle of silicon valley, I still got 4G in shockingly many places. Basically anywhere that had a town got me 3G or 4G for miles, including many national parks. I got some cell service (enough for emergencies) just about anywhere that people lived. True, I got no service in the middle of the desert, but neither did any other network.

And the phone? I got the 6S+, for $200 out of pocket with applecare+ after various discounts. I routinely get 3+ day battery life based on how I use it; even where it struggles for signal, still like two days. It works on pretty much all bands, so a simple sim card change would let me use a different network, in this country and others.

This is quite a bit cheaper than what we discussed above. It's way better than $50+ per month. And I hate Verizon. It's not as good as republic wireless's price, but way better than their service and speed.

tldriphone 6s+ on t-mobile family plan works fantastically well, even in bumfuck egypt.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #329 on: January 04, 2016, 07:09:44 PM »
I wanted to post back with my results.

Good to hear! If you weren't roaming off T-Mobile any, your usage pattern might open up the P'tel $20 unlimited talk and text with 250MB plan. It also means that AT&T coverage is probably plenty decent, too, as there's very few places that T-Mobile services that AT&T doesn't. That also opens up H2O Wireless' easyGO $20 unlimited talk and text with 100MB of data and $10/GB data add-ons that roll-over. At the rate you're going, that $10 for 1GB of data would last a good six months. There's also Puretalk USA which has either their Simple 250 plan or their 160 minute rollover family plan for $10/month plus 400MB of add-on data for $9.95. None of the three are a huge discount over what you're currently paying at around the $20/month price point, but it brings you just that much closer.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2016, 07:13:00 PM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #330 on: January 04, 2016, 07:12:34 PM »
I was definitely roaming off T-mobile a bit. I was using AT&T data some of the time, and I was definitely on cell networks for some random bit players (didn't use them, but they were the bumfuck nowhere but some people live here types of networks, which means they're my emergency backup.)

Thanks for the advice. I will look into it, but the last few bucks of savings might not be worth the hassle or potential downsides. I will check though!

I will say that $30-35 a month is a pretty reasonable cost, nothing remotely like other peoples' $100 a month, but there is always room for improvement.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #331 on: January 05, 2016, 06:09:15 AM »
Alright, I've decided that I need a good arse-kicking and a change of habits (that time of year, yeah I know).

I'm sick of Facebook and I'm on my smartphone too damn much. Time to shift to a dumbphone for a little while to kick the habit. :)

There lies the issue, I don't have a dumbphone lying around, and neither do most of my family members. The only spare dumbphone I know of is one my grandparents have spare (they'd likely let me borrow it if I asked), and it's locked to a different carrier to what I'm currently using (and it doesn't support my current carrier's 3G bands).

I've checked Gumtree (and even Freecycle), and there's not a lot of dumbphones for sale nearby, in fact, many of them are advertised for a higher price than what I can get a new phone for.

What should I do? Changing carriers isn't difficult, but I'd want to change back when I go back to my smartphone.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2016, 06:23:22 AM by alsoknownasDean »

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #332 on: January 05, 2016, 06:39:49 AM »
Just remove the timesucking apps from your smartphone.

After removing Facebook and the banking apps from mine, the compulsive checking went to near-zero. I still use it everyday for podcasts and as a kodi remote, but no more mindless tapping about.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #333 on: January 05, 2016, 06:47:40 AM »
Just remove the timesucking apps from your smartphone.

After removing Facebook and the banking apps from mine, the compulsive checking went to near-zero. I still use it everyday for podcasts and as a kodi remote, but no more mindless tapping about.

I removed the Facebook app months ago, and use the mobile website instead.

Still no good. The issue is I keep on compulsively checking it, along with other sites. Honestly the issue is probably more 'compulsively checking shit online' than anything else.

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« Reply #334 on: January 13, 2016, 01:37:35 PM »
Funny aside...Thanks to IP Daley, our small business and personal outlays for phone/internet/cell/cable have gone from $495/mo to $112.60.  (Now $30 each for Airvoice, and $52.60 for internet at the office, 2 voipo phone lines and 1 nextiva fax number).

We just had a Verizon business team cold call us at the office, and when they found out we were paying $50-something/month, they were visibly impressed and basically backed slowly out the door...

Market data aside: not sure if this is true in all markets, but the cold callers claimed that Verizon business grade internet (dedicated pipe) plus 3 copper phone lines would run about $160/mo, vs. Time Warner internet (shared pipe, guaranteed uptime) & 3 voip lines is $300-plus.  A big part of our savings was switching to residential grade internet - we do very little streaming of anything, so email and remote file access work just fine with a smaller shared pipe.  Have so far had one outage over 30 minutes in 16 months.  The cable company thinks this is being used by the apartment upstairs (they "don't" provide residential grade service to business addresses...) - conveniently we own the whole building, and the installing technician really didn't care (we were very clear with him).
Trying not to complicate my simple ;)

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #335 on: January 20, 2016, 05:16:32 PM »
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

We're currently using PagePlus, with a iPhone 4 & 5.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #336 on: January 20, 2016, 05:19:24 PM »
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

LTE Verizon phones that can do 3G GSM, yes. It'll be AT&T tower service.

If you want to stay on the Verizon network and support a smaller MVNO, though, you'll need to go Selectel.
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #337 on: January 20, 2016, 05:32:05 PM »
Does PureTalk support Verizon phones?

LTE Verizon phones that can do 3G GSM, yes. It'll be AT&T tower service.

If you want to stay on the Verizon network and support a smaller MVNO, though, you'll need to go Selectel.

Thanks!

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #338 on: January 20, 2016, 05:34:10 PM »
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

I just found out and got confirmation myself. At least we have a heads up.

After fifteen years, P'tel and Giv Mobile is closing shop. End date is January 31st, last day to port your numbers out is January 26th. More info here.

This is a sad day to see one of the best MVNOs of 15 years shut down like this. It's also probably the first of many smaller shop closures as a consequence of the major carriers undercutting their own wholesale service with brands like Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, users of America Movil brands, and all the short sighted people who want more data and cheaper service than smaller bills and higher quality customer service.

Recommended escape plan for most is going to be Airvoice Wireless, Puretalk USA, Truphone, H2O Wireless/easyGO, Consumer Cellular and Ting depending on your usage levels.

Of that list, only Consumer Cellular, Ting and Truphone are really large enough to weather longer term. As it is, the wife and I will probably be going to Puretalk USA, trying to support the smaller shops for as long as possible.

Prepare to port out now if you want to keep your number. They have switched all account numbers to your phone number and the PIN to 0000.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 08:40:06 AM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #339 on: January 21, 2016, 07:52:09 AM »
Reposting from another thread regarding the fate of P'tel:

Wow.  What happened?  Did they just become insolvent?

Don't know for certain, but when an MVNO closes shop, it's usually due to finances. P'tel had survived for a decade and a half in an industry of thin margins, but this past year was the first time they had to genuinely compete against the major carriers undercutting them.

Unfortunately, MVNOs in this country aren't like the ones in most other countries where there's government regulation and a mandate for equal wholesale network access to enable competition. In this country, it's not too much different in that the MVNOs are buying wholesale airtime from the major carriers, except there's nothing stopping the major carriers from undercutting the wholesale pricing with their own product. That's exactly what's started happening with the major carriers to reclaim customers who'd defected to cheaper prepaid MVNOs in this country over the past five years. Of course, the options being offered by the major carriers are still overpriced, but they've lured people away in droves with promises of "cheaper" data and "unlimited" talk and text versus their own postpaid plans using stealth brands like MetroPCS (owned by T-Mobile), Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T), Boost Mobile (owned by Sprint), etc., using huge ad campaigns, massive boilerplate loaded with gotchas, even crappier customer service, hidden fees, cute gimmicks, funny math, and new ways to bring back the hidden mandatory contract through subsidized phone sales and minimum service times before unlocking handsets.... and the people slurped it up in droves. Even a fairly significant number of people on these very forums openly boasted about how they didn't give a crap, they just wanted more for less, even after I warned them of the longer term game plan with these boutique corporate owned MVNOs. Nobody cared and I even got ridiculed for saying so on a couple occasions.

Telecom regulation in this country is so lax and screwed up, that it took overpriced wholesale sellers repackaging overpriced airtime into smaller package plans over a decade and a half to break the price dam stranglehold of postpaid pricing in this country and force the carriers to be more competitive. Now the carriers are fighting back to eliminate this competition so they can raise prices back up.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost because of consumer sukka tendencies in this country and even in these forums, and one of the oldest and most financially stable pioneer MVNOs in this country, one of the MVNOs that helped BUILD this prepaid market and save people genuine money over the postpaid alternatives without sacrificing quality customer service and support after fifteen years is having to shut their doors. This is the first casualty in this new prepaid mobile market without regulation and required competition. We're losing what little genuine competition that was left in the mobile market now, and without a miracle will probably be soon left with nothing more than Carlos Slim's monopolistic empire America Movil, and their MVNO brands here in the states (Tracfone, NET10, Page Plus, SIMple Mobile, Straight Talk, Total Wireless), the big four carriers pretending to be other independent carriers (Cricket, MetroPCS, GoSmart Mobile, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and their in-house prepaid brands), and hopefully the likes of Consumer Cellular and Ting.

At this point, I'm not holding much long term hope for many on the recommended list in the guide anymore. For those staying with them to support the smaller shops through the end, prepare in advance with an exit strategy. Stay on top of closure reports over at Prepaid Phone News, and remember that the good MVNOs usually wind up giving between 7-14 days notice before closing, which is better than no notice as a lot of the bad MVNOs have done over the years.

As the casualties mount up in the months ahead, and the last of the good independent competition dies off, expect to see prices creep back up again and current offerings either getting more expensive or new offerings with less replacing what's available at the same price. These price changes will start with the major carrier owned prepaid rebrands.

Consider this a warning to everyone here. Stop chasing after excessive data access with slightly cheaper prepaid plans, that's how these independent shops are being undercut and killed off, as well as how the major carriers are tightening the financial noose around your own neck. Start pushing for stronger regulation and proper wholesale access for competition in the mobile industry and stop directly financially supporting the big four now if you want to keep mobile service in this country affordable. As it stands, our future is starting to look a lot like Canada's mobile landscape... and that 'aint good.



Any chance of them getting acquired by a bigger MVNO?

Nope. Even if they did, about the only company who does acquire MVNO brands here is Carlos. I'd rather see P'tel shut its doors than be taken over by them and turned into Yet Another Zombie Tracfone brand.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 08:36:54 AM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #340 on: January 22, 2016, 08:27:40 AM »
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

UPDATE: To help people secure SIM cards faster than shipping for people wanting to port out of P'tel before the crush, the following options are available for people not choosing America Movil/Cricket/MetroPCS/AT&T/T-Mobile:

Consumer Cellular SIM cards are available at most Sears locations.
H2O Wireless SIM cards are available at most Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations.
Airvoice Wireless can activate new, unactivated AT&T SIM cards, which can be obtained from any location that sells AT&T phone service.
Puretalk USA SIM cards are available at select K-Mart and Sears locations in addition to phones at both Sears and K-Mart.
Ting GSM SIM cards are starting to become available at select Staples and Kroger locations (not listed online yet, call or visit stores directly).
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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #341 on: January 22, 2016, 10:57:05 AM »
ATTENTION P'TEL/GIV CUSTOMERS!

Some of you may know already, and some of you this news might not apply to you currently, but it still might apply to someone you know. I recommended P'tel to a lot of people over the years, and the current news is sad and a little unexpected, but the news needs to be spread as P'tel is swamped as it is. The more who know and can pass on the info to others, the better, and the info needs to be consolidated down into a single location.

On January 20th, P'tel announced to their dealers and began the process of informing their customers that after fifteen years of business, P'tel and Giv Mobile will be shutting down on January 31 and that January 26th should be the safe guaranteed number port-out date. It's short notice, it's unexpected notice given there were no early warning signs, but it's notice all the same. I'm trying to help get people out as best as possible given I helped get them in, and for what it's worth my own family is in process of dealing with this first hand and porting out as well.

For anyone who has P'tel/Giv and are looking to switch to one of the other carriers from the communications guide and are wanting to keep your number, it is important to port out sooner than later as P'tel is running on a skeleton crew currently. This means obtaining SIM cards locally as opposed to getting them shipped. Fortunately, I can provide the most useful information to help most people port out now. Here's the pertinent details...

Treat January 26th as your safe number port out deadline, so the sooner you port, the better.

Account information:

Your current P'tel account number is your ten digit phone number (ex: 8185551212)
The PIN associated with your account will be 0000

You can obtain SIM cards for the following carriers from the guide at these locations:

Consumer Cellular SIM cards are available at most Sears locations.

H2O Wireless SIM cards are available at most Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations.

Airvoice Wireless can activate new, unactivated AT&T SIM cards in a pinch (though they prefer not to), which can be obtained from any location that sells AT&T phone service.

Puretalk USA SIM cards are available at select K-Mart and Sears locations in addition to phones at both Sears and K-Mart.

Ting GSM SIM cards are starting to become available at select Staples and Kroger locations (not listed online yet, call or visit stores directly).

SIM cards for major carriers not listed in the guide such as Tracfone, NET10, StraightTalk, Cricket, MetroPCS, etc., can be found at nearly any brick and mortar store that carries cellphones. Tracfone, NET10 and StraightTalk historically have a higher reported failure rate with number porting (both in and out) than most other carriers. This isn't to say it can't be done, but there may be a higher risk of number loss if your number is really important to you. This is reported only for the sake of general awareness.

It's sad news, and not a good sign long term for the independent MVNO industry when one of the longest surviving brands shuts its doors. If you remain with the smaller independent carriers, be alert, pay attention to MVNO industry news, and keep an escape plan with SIM card handy. Unfortunately, without wholesale wireless regulation, the major carriers are now undercutting their own wholesale customers to increase profits and bring back lost postpaid customers with in-house prepaid services offered through older purchased network brands such as Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T) and MetroPCS (owned by T-Mobile). This strategy is working. That means there might be more surprises in the future from other long time and seemingly stable independent MVNOs, and as the network operators gain back direct billing control over customers, price increases might not be far behind.

Be well, all of you. May the ports that need to be done go smoothly for one and all.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

GodlessCommie

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #342 on: January 25, 2016, 03:57:03 PM »
I.P. Daley suggested TextNow as a better company with a "seamless switch to WiFi" model, and just before Christmas I pulled the plug. By that time me and my two boys were on Republic's 2nd gen 500MB plan, using a bit over 100MB a month and getting regular rebates. My wife was still with an outrageous AT&T iPhone plan. She is not a heavy caller or mobile data user, but we live in a black hole, WiFi calling has been a saving grace for us, and I am too lazy to replicate mechanics of routing through WiFi myself. So it was essentially between Google Fi, Republic, and TextNow.

Google Fi dropped first - phones were too expensive.

Despite the bad rep it gets here, we were actually pretty happy with Republic, especially after they came up with rebates. But $20 for an unlocked Moto E with stock firmware through TextNow was enough of an incentive to go with it.

Set up was surprisingly NOT straightforward. Phone got stuck on one of the provisioning steps, and no information was available online. But then came Customer Support, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Not only was the guy helpful and knowledgeable, he sounded like someone you know helping you with staff he likes. No corporate BS, like a friend helping a friend. Dealt with my problem in 15 minutes.

It was smooth sailing since then. The only annoyance my DW reports is that it takes five rings on the caller's side for her phone to start ringing. 

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #343 on: January 25, 2016, 09:54:31 PM »
It was smooth sailing since then. The only annoyance my DW reports is that it takes five rings on the caller's side for her phone to start ringing.

Glad to hear TextNow treated you well and got everything set up properly. Provisioning new handsets on CDMA networks can be a bit of a PITA sometimes. especially if you've never done it before. It's good to see and hear that even with my cheap slumming provider advice, it's still a notch above most of the alternatives. :)

Regarding the ringing issue, it's usually something that happens on the WiFi end of VoIP, and happens with Google Voice, Republic, Ring Plus, and others, though not consistently and can vary from provider to provider depending on the sensitivity and overall VoIP service settings. It's usually tied to SIP/RTP keep-alive issues with firewalls on the home network, and using a wireless device exacerbates it. Now, if it's doing this while on the Sprint mobile network as well... never mind. Just might be quirky. Call back and see if they have any ideas on how to reduce the lag in ringback time before the calls finally ring through on your end.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #344 on: January 26, 2016, 10:33:05 AM »
We used GivMobile for a long time before moving to back to ATT coverage. It's hard to compete when the major companies, like T-mobile, offer all kinds of "benefits" with their post paid plans (10gb per line, after which is throttled; free music streaming, free video streaming) The math to me didnt add up when T-mobile said that 2 lines, each with 10 gb of data (and throttled there after) would be $100, making with taxes and fees somewhere around $110 on a given month. When 1 gb of data usually goes for $10, and service at a minimum for phone/messages is $20, the major carriers are certainly willing to undercut themselves to attract customers and cut out the competition.  And when 90% of the population knows of 4 carriers, they tend to go with those. Then the next in line are the ones who advertise (cricket, metro, straight talk). 

I'm not glad Ptel closed its doors, but I am glad I switched well before this, would hate to have to do that dance in a hurry.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #345 on: January 26, 2016, 12:47:15 PM »
We used GivMobile for a long time before moving to back to ATT coverage. It's hard to compete when the major companies, like T-mobile, offer all kinds of "benefits" with their post paid plans (10gb per line, after which is throttled; free music streaming, free video streaming) The math to me didnt add up when T-mobile said that 2 lines, each with 10 gb of data (and throttled there after) would be $100, making with taxes and fees somewhere around $110 on a given month. When 1 gb of data usually goes for $10, and service at a minimum for phone/messages is $20, the major carriers are certainly willing to undercut themselves to attract customers and cut out the competition.  And when 90% of the population knows of 4 carriers, they tend to go with those. Then the next in line are the ones who advertise (cricket, metro, straight talk).

That's part of the problem, the hideous markup that the carriers pawn off on both the general public and their wholesalers versus actual internal costs. Mobile network capacity is finite, and it costs a fair bit more per byte than wired networks due to spectrum limitations, but it's nowhere near the costs they pass along to all their customers, despite the tax incentives and subsidies from the government and the taxpayers over the decades these network operators have received for promises of larger infrastructure, cheaper prices, and greater competition on top of their profits. They're also gaming statistical odds to increase profit margins further. Most people who sign up for these ridiculous unlimited with data plans don't use a fraction of what's actually offered. At least back in 2014, the average mobile user in this country clocked every month between 400-1300 minutes, 700-3400 SMS text messages, and around 2.5GB of total data with less than 900MB actually billed on the mobile network as opposed to general WiFi usage. Minute and text usage has been decreasing a lot here lately, too, as data-based app alternatives such as WhatsApp have risen in popularity.

Carriers didn't start "lowering" their prices until they started hemorrhaging customers (despite most of them still turning profits) flocking to cheaper prepaid wholesale MVNO options offered by businesses who were actually offering cheaper and better service despite being nothing more than middle-men a couple years back... but even since then, it's mostly been a shell game of overkill package selling and handset financing to hide the price increases after "ending" phone subsidies. Also, Cricket and MetroPCS aren't actual MVNOs, as they're the exact same major carriers using a different brand with disgruntled customers which appears to be what was once an old regional competitor. Customer service gets further gutted in overall satisfaction and quality in addition to tacking on additional hidden service fees, playing the same underused usage odds games with the "unlimited" service plans, and saving even more money by eliminating most partner roaming agreements on these products while they advertise the living daylights out of these alternate brands to bring the more financially exhausted and soured customers back in under direct billing to increase profit margins further with the additional simultaneous benefit of eliminating their own wholesale competition without actually shutting down wholesale access by undercutting their own rates short term as you observed.

The only exception to this of the three carriers you specifically name-checked is StraightTalk, owned by Tracfone, which is a subsidy of America Movil, one of the two monolithic, monopolistic mega-telecoms in Latin America (America Movil and Telmex) that are both owned by the second richest man in the world and have kept firm control over prices south of the Rio Grande for decades. They just oversell and play the odds game themselves and are large enough to negotiate lower wholesale prices. This is a telecom that mega-telecoms in our own country aspire to be if only not for the blasted Federal Trade Commission interfering with their visions of world domination... but don't worry, they're working on that!

Yes, I'm a bit jaded about the overall situation of our telecom industry in this country. It happens the more you learn.

I'm not glad Ptel closed its doors, but I am glad I switched well before this, would hate to have to do that dance in a hurry.

Yup, but by the same token, our own migration though stressful feeling at first, has been pretty leisurely all things considered. We're officially with Ting as of this morning ourselves. Thank the good L-rd for that.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 02:17:41 PM by I.P. Daley »
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #346 on: January 26, 2016, 01:38:43 PM »
A very big THANK YOU Daley for the notice regarding P'tel. My wife and I looked at some options to keep costs low and went with H2O Wireless. We picked up the sim cards from Best Buy for $2.99 each(not every store has them on stock). We are officially ported over and using their(AT&T) network. We received more consistent coverage/access at our house on the T-Mobile network so we're not happy about that change but we still have our Google Voice number for wifi calls and texts so shouldn't be many growing pains. On the positive side we will no longer be without cell access when visiting our families in Iowa since AT&T covers that area whereas T-Mobile did not.

If anyone has any questions about porting their number to H2O Wireless feel free to message me and I'll help as much as I can.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #347 on: January 26, 2016, 01:44:56 PM »
A very big THANK YOU Daley for the notice regarding P'tel. My wife and I looked at some options to keep costs low and went with H2O Wireless. We picked up the sim cards from Best Buy for $2.99 each(not every store has them on stock). We are officially ported over and using their(AT&T) network. We received more consistent coverage/access at our house on the T-Mobile network so we're not happy about that change but we still have our Google Voice number for wifi calls and texts so shouldn't be many growing pains. On the positive side we will no longer be without cell access when visiting our families in Iowa since AT&T covers that area whereas T-Mobile did not.

If anyone has any questions about porting their number to H2O Wireless feel free to message me and I'll help as much as I can.

What was the $2.99 H2O sim package like? The only H2O sims that I could find at our Best Buy yesterday were $9.99 smart sim 3-in-1 sim card starter kit.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #348 on: January 26, 2016, 01:51:30 PM »
What was the $2.99 H2O sim package like? The only H2O sims that I could find at our Best Buy yesterday were $9.99 smart sim 3-in-1 sim card starter kit.

It's H2O's older mini/micro dual SIM card, and it's $3 because it's on clearance. Other than not being pre-punched for the 4FF nano size and the silk-screened decorations and packaging being a bit different, it's effectively the same thing.
Hi, I'm Daley, the Howard Cosell of MVNOs and the Technical Meshugana. I'm also the author of the Frugal Communications Guide and our own Superguide.

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Re: Communications & Tech Discussion Thread #1
« Reply #349 on: January 30, 2016, 12:00:22 PM »
Big thanks to I.P. Daley for the heads up on Ptel. I switched my phone and my parents to Ting. The number porting went smoothly. Not sure how long I will still after the $75 service credit runs out but I learned my lesson and got a 1 cent shipped from Amazon H2O SIM card as a backup.
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