Monday, September 22, 2008

Everybody Loves Data! And Carriers Love Money

Back in "the olden days," cell phones were used as phones (and a 5 minute call to Mom cost about 20 bucks) and people accessed the internet by plugging a phone cord into a modem and waiting through an hour of busy signals so that we could wait 10 minutes for a website to load (and a ridiculous hourly fee to AOL for the privilege).

Times have changed! These days, just about every cell phone is capable of email and/or web browsing of some sort and the use of wireless broadband service is becoming more and more popular all the time (just ask all of us who work at 3G Store!). According to a study, from June of 2007 to June 2008 the number of Americans who had access to social networking sites via a mobile phone rose 93%. The same study reported that about 58% more people sent photos with a phone than in the year before, and the number of Americans with an unlimited data plan rose 58%. With everything mobile data service can do for us (email everywhere! Better yet, Facebook everywhere!) and the uber-popularity of devices like Blackberries and the iPhone, it's no surprise that more people are signing up with data service.

The problem, though, is the COST! Over the past couple years both Verizon and Sprint lowered their EVDO monthly rates, but other than that the cost of data has risen - a lot. Despite the fact that providing data service is actually cheaper now than it was a few years ago, text messages can cost up to 20 cents, and unlimited data plans for PDAs can be up to $30/month in addition to your voice plan. What's worse, we're paying more for LIMITED data access, as evidenced by all those nasty 5GB caps, and all those fancy applications we like to use on our phones eat up a lot of bandwidth (interesting related sidenote: T-Mobile has reportedly begun offering incentives for developers whose apps use less than 15mb).

There's another problem, too: can carriers handle the demand for data? Plenty of people have experienced dropped calls and signals or slower service when demand is extra high, and if networks want to stay competitive in a market that looooves their data service, the networks are going to have to invest more money in expanding their services and stabilizing customers. If a network can't keep up with their competitors and people are experiencing slowdowns and dropped calls, there's no doubt that people will start abandoning that ship to go with companies that are more focused on expansion and improvement.

It's clear that rising costs and even bandwidth limits aren't going to slow down the wireless data trend and that even if the cost of providing the service goes down for networks they don't seem to have much interest in passing those savings on to us consumers. If prices DO go down, it's going to be due to increased competition in the industry. Until then... be careful with those overage charges on your texts.

No New Taxes From Verizon Wireless??

I think we're all used to paying taxes on everything from soda to cable TV, automatically adding a few bucks in our head to the cost of an item or service. We do this with our EVDO bills too, of course - we all know it isn't REALLY $59.99 per month.

In a very nice move, Verizon is speaking out against any future implementation of exorbitant taxes to wireless subscribers, both individuals and businesses. They sent some "expert witnesses" to a hearing in Congress last week and asked that a stop be put on "new discriminatory wireless taxes from being imposed." The bill, H.R. 5793 or the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2008, calls for a five-year moratorium from any new discriminatory wireless taxes.

What is a "discriminatory wireless tax," though?

Read the full press release on EVDOinfo.com

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Need a Sprint EVDO Modem and Service? How Does $0.00 Sound?


If you're in the market for EVDO service with Sprint, 3Gstore.com has an awesome deal on the popular Novatel u727 USB modem! For a limited time, you can get the u727 for FREE - you don't even need a mail-in rebate. If you were to purchase the device directly from Sprint, you'd pay $129.99 minus the $50 rebate.

This offer is ONLY available to customers that sign up for a 2-year service contract through us for Sprint. If you're already a Sprint EVDO customer and are just looking to upgrade, you have to be 22+ months into your contract to qualify for this deal. Also, please note that if you order a U727 and cancel within 30 days, the USB modem needs to be returned to 3GStore - if you keep it with no service contract you will be responsible for paying the full retail price.

This deal will only be available for a short time - so if you're in the market for Sprint service and a modem, jump on this now!

One more note: Even though the device is FREE without a rebate, you will receive a rebate form when you receive the card. There is a CHANCE that if you fill it out and send it in, Sprint MAY honor it and send you a $50 rebate - meaning you would MAKE $50 on the card. Again, we DO NOT know if they will honor it, but it only costs you the price of a stamp to find out!

Order your U727 from 3GStore.com now


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

EVDO in the Sky (and a New Kind of Mile-High Club)

If that headline doesn't make you want to read on, I don't know what will.

American Airlines recently started providing WiFi (for a fee) via AirCell's EVDO service on their flights, and passengers have been pretty excited about being able to stay connected on those long boring flights.

Some folks might be getting a little too excited about mile-high internet, though. Apparently, an x-rated problem has come up: passengers are looking at pornography while sitting just inches from their seat-mates and right in the faces of unsuspecting flight attendants. The problem has become so common that flight attendants have been complaining to The Powers That Be, asking them to please do something to curtail the sexy surfing.

It's unclear what can or will be done by AA. Hopefully, they will find a solution allowing them to block "adults only" sites (just ask worried parents how they blocked Myspace from their kids) SOON - even EVDO access in the sky isn't enough for me to put up with an eyeful of my seatmate's porn-fest for 5 hours.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Verizon's New "Open Development" Policy

Verizon doesn't exactly have a good track record when it comes to relinquishing even a tiny bit of control to another company (think iPhone and Android), but at CTIA today Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam chatted a bit about their new policy: Open Development.

The policy is
designed to speed up approvals for folks who want to use different CDMA devices on Verizon's network, and they showcased an example of this today. A new voice and text phone was unveiled today that will cost just $69 and will be available on a pre-paid basis through wireless company AirVoice. It reportedly took just 4 weeks for the phone to go through Verizon's approval process (weeks or months faster than average), a very positive sign for other small wireless companies that want to hitch their CDMA devices onto Verizon's powerful network.

The most interesting thing noted by McAdam is that he has high hopes that the Open Development policy will open the doors for advances in EVDO machine-to-machine communications - he would like to see a future where every appliance in your house connects to your network (I can't figure out why our popcorn poppers need broadband, but what do I know?). A CDMA EVDO device sure would be nice, though...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Long Live EVDO Rev A!

If you've been concerned about your EVDO equipment and service becoming outdated as the 4G technologies we keep hearing about start making their debut, don't get too bent out of shape just yet. WiMAX, the technology that carriers like Sprint and Alltel will be using, may actually be on its way, but its competitor, LTE, is going to take MUCH longer to make its way to consumers.

LTE, which is the 4G broadband technology that Verizon (and others) have decided to hitch their 4G stars to, has been talked about as becoming available in the USA sometime around 2012, but industry experts are now speculating that it will be more like 2015 when it finally rolls out on a major scale.

Here is what wireless consultant Andrew Seybold had to say about the matter at his conference (which is being held in conjunction with the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference in San Francisco):
  • There is no huge rush on the part of the carriers to provide 4G services
  • LTE likely wont become available until 2015
  • LTE download speeds of 71-143 Mbps are entirely theoretical and will be considerably slower when they are applied to the real world.
  • Handset and chip-makers are pushing to get LTE out there, not carriers
Seybold failed to mention anything about how WiMAX will effect 3G technologies, though - which is unfortunate since that is the technology that is actually becoming available as we speak...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Say Goodbye to Verizon Rebate Checks


Don't worry - Verizon IS still offering rebates on MANY phones and data cards, but they have officially abandoned the tried and true "send us your form and we'll send you a nice check" policy. Effective this week, customers will instead be receiving pre-paid Verizon-branded Visa debit cards in partnership with CitiBank.

From Verizon:
"Effective September 2, 2008, Verizon Wireless branded Prepaid VISA cards will replace Rebate Checks for all mail-in rebates, offering customers more choices to access rebate funds. Customers will have the option of spending their rebate card immediately, redeeming for cash, completing a bank transfer or requesting a paper check. Customers will also have the ability to track the status of their rebate by visiting www.verizonwireless.com/rebates or by calling Parago (800) 457-0864. Customers can check the balance of their cards by visiting www.verizonwireless.com/rebates, emailing VZWrebate@citiprepaid.com/rebates, text messaging BAL to #VZWR (8997) or by calling Citi (877) 899-8980. The rebate card may take up to 6 weeks to process."
At first glance, this doesn't sound like a bad idea. You get the card in the mail in the same timeframe as you would have received your check (up to 6 weeks or so) and the new format allows you to use the rebate as you would use your debit card or a any pre-paid card. To some folks, this option is a lot more convenient than having to go to the bank and cash a check or deposit it and wait for the funds to clear - you can access your money immediately.

On the other hand, what if you don't WANT to spend your rebate money? Surely there are some of us that just want to put it in the bank. Verizon does say that you will be able to request a paper check or a bank transfer, but how long will that take? And is it worth the wait?

They also state that you can redeem it for cash immediately, but they didn't elaborate on how you would go about doing that. Can you do it at an ATM? Another downfall is that they explicitly say that if your card is lost or stolen, it can't be replaced. With a check, if it hasn't been cashed, Verizon has the option of canceling the lost check and re-issuing a new one. That seems like a major downfall.

We'll be very interested to hear how consumers feel about the new rebate format. Are we ready to ditch the old-fashioned check and go plastic?

Discuss this topic on EVDO Forums