News and views on the Canadian telecom industry, and tips and tricks for saving on your cell phone bill.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What LTE Networks Means for You

If you've spent any time in Ontario this September, you've probably seen some form of Bell advertisement announcing their launch of something called LTE. These ads are covering billboards, adorning the sides of buses, blaring on television screens, and inundating website banners all across Southern Ontario. So what is all this LTE business, and what does it mean for you? Well basically, LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, and is a new network technology that will allow for much faster, efficient, and reliable data access. LTE is an upgrade from Bell's current HSPA+ network, and is anticipated to be about three times faster. As a CBC report states, "The company said it expects typical speeds for the network to be between 12 and 25 megabits per second. Bell's HSPA+ network offers typical speeds of 3.5 to 8 megabits per second and 7 to 14 megabits per second in areas where it offers HSPA+ with dual carrier technology." LTE is being referred to as a "4G" network, in keeping with the standard network "_G" nomenclature (i.e. 2G, 3G, etc.). Of course, Rogers is following suit with their own LTE adoption, and their "Beyond 4G" (hubris much?) network will be launched September 28th. Interestingly, the "Beyond 4G" tag has generated significant controversy, as consumer advocacy groups have claimed it to be misleading. Truth in advertising issues have surrounded the "_G" tag for years now, and with good reason. But that's an issue for another post...

LTE-capable USB turbo sticks are available from Bell now, but they say the release of LTE smartphones and tablets is on the horizon. Rogers is making the same claims, which means that sometime in the near future you can bet that we will all be carrying around LTE-capable phones, downloading and uploading faster than we've ever done before. So where does this leave us? Well the most obvious outcome is greater ease and speed in emailing, internet browsing, gaming, and downloading of images, music, videos, games, and other applications. With theoretical LTE download speeds of 150 Mbps and upload speeds of 70 Mbps, data-based processes on your phone or tablet are about to get a heck of a lot faster. We can also expect greater network reliability as well, resulting in an overall smoother and more painless data experience.

However, you can definitely expect to pay a price premium for LTE-enabled devices, both for Rogers and Bell (and whoever releases LTE-enabled devices in the future). While new hardware release pricing obviously works in a similar manner (release a new device, jack up the price, lower the price in the coming months), the premium on these devices will likely be a bit higher than normal. But the real cost to consumers will likely be seen on the data usage line of their monthly phone bills. Interestingly, once Rogers and Bell have set up these LTE networks, the marginal cost of providing data to their consumers is actually less than HSPA+. Some analysts have predicted this will lead to a drop in data prices, as the telecom giants pass on the savings to their customers. But I'm betting this won't be the case, especially in the beginning. While cost competition is a burgeoning trend in the industry, LTE represents a lucrative opportunity for Canada's Telecom giants to jack up profits even further. Chances are the costs of data packages will stay the same, and we may even see unlimited data packages released by the Big Three. With download/upload speeds so high, I can definitely see those with LTE-capable smartphones racking up ENORMOUS cell phone bills. With speeds like that, it's not unrealistic to assume that users' downloading and web surfing behaviours will accelerate as well. Think about it. Say it originally took me about a minute to buffer and stream a YouTube video on my 3G enabled BlackBerry 9780. With an LTE-enabled phone, I could stream said video and be ready to watch it in maybe 15 seconds. With speeds like this, I'd be far more likely to watch tons of videos, comment on them, share them with friends, and so on. All these actions use significant amounts of data. With this increased data consumption, original data plans might not be sufficient anymore, and huge data overage costs could start appearing on my bill. If I don't notice these charges at first, the cost to me could potentially be thousands of dollars.

Of course, the remedy here is to be a conscientious phone user and monitor your bills carefully. This is still important regardless of what network speed you're on, but will become increasingly crucial if you're one of those LTE early adopters. If you are near or over your current data limit, you may want to think about upgrading your data package (which MobileVantage would be happy to help you with). It's important to monitor your data use, understand how much data is takes to perform certain actions, and even think about downloading an app that tells you how much monthly data you have left. LTE has the potential to enhance your smartphone experience exponentially. But it also has the potential to cost you a small fortune if you're not careful. So as MobileVantage always preaches, be a conscientious phone user, and monitor your bills and usage. If you do that then you really have nothing to worry about, and you can enjoy every advantage that LTE has to offer.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Android Taking Over the World

Every time I stumble upon a new set of data depicting the Android's ever-increasing dominance in the global smartphone market, my jaw is left hanging around my pasty white ankles. Each figure is more impressive than the last, and it seems like each time I check out MobileSyrup, a new report is being released which discusses some statistical milestone the Android's market share just hit, or some global market the Android just took over. And as the current leading smartphone OS in the US and the world, I certainly wasn't surprised when I came across this Mashable report. It would appear that Android has surpassed the iOS, and is close to leapfrogging Nokia's Symbian as the top smartphone platform in Europe (at least among the EU5). What's particularly impressive about the Android's growing foothold of the European market is just how quickly the transformation is taking place. As of July 2010, Google was only the 5th most popular platform with a 6% share, behind Symbian (53.9%), Apple (19%), Microsoft (11.5%), and RIM (8%). But in only a year, they climbed 16.2 percentage points to now hold a 22.3% share of the EU5 smartphone market, which puts them in second place to Symbian's 37.8%. Symbian actually dropped 16.1 percentage points in this time period as well, and Mashable asserts it's because former Symbian users are giving up on Nokia and are making the switch to Google. If this trend continues, Google will soon have take the leadership share in Europe, and further cement their status as the Number 1 smartphone platform on the planet.


SAR Radiation How Worried Are You?

I worry about SAR radiation from my phone. (For more info on SAR check out However, there is so little information out there on the proven effects of SAR that its hard to know what theimpact will be on our generation of cell phone addicts. In my office we have no fewer than 5 mobile products including tablets, smartphones, blackberries and a 3G router. Naturally I feel my exposure is pretty high.

Phones like the Atrix and Bold 9000 are among the worst. ( Avoid calling when the signal is low too to limit your exposure because weaker signals mean a stronger SAR.

Its a wonder its taken this long for a company like Pong to come out of the woodwork but they are very impressive. Pong claims that they can reduce your SAR exposure by 95% below FCC limits. The do this by selling you a SAR protective case on your phone for the low price of $50USD. ( I suspect this company will do very well by playing off of consumers' natural suspicions and concerns.

Do you know your phone's SAR rating? It may be something to consider if you are a high user of your phone, don't use a headset or for guys... keep your phone in your pocket.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Limitations of Unlimited

Remember a couple years back when everyone was competing to be "Canada's Fastest Network"? And it seemed like everyone wanted to have the distinction of the most G's. And who's G's meant what?

Well in today's mobile world the new buzz word is "Unlimited" it seems. With the distinction of Unlimited coming to Public, Wind and Mobilicity, Rogers is trying to jump on to it as well. The difference being that Public, Wind and Mobilicity ACTUALLY have unlimited plans.

Lets compare Wind Mobile's Unlimited plan to Rogers' Unlimited Plan.

Wind Mobile's Genius Plan: $45.00
Unlimited Local Calling
Unlimited Long Distance in Canada
Unlimited Long Distance to the US
Unlimited Text Messaging in Canada
Unlimited Text Messaging to the US

Add Unlimited Blackberry data on there for $10.00

Total: $55.00

Now lets take Rogers's Unlimited Student Plan: $42.97

Unlimited Social Networking on Select Popular Sites
Unlimited Extreme Text Messaging
Unlimited 6pm Evenings and Weekends
Unlimited Picture and Video Messaging
Unlimited Music Downloads for one Year
150 Daytime Minutes
100 MB of Data

I love that Rogers sneaks in at the end after using no fewer than 5 "unlimited's" and one "extreme": 150 daytime minutes and 100 Mb of data.

Given that voice and data are the bulk of the plan these days its ridiculous to me that these two things are at the bottom of the plan and are so lacking. This is a plan that is designed to make you go over. And this is the fundamental difference between a company like a wind and a company like Rogers.

Rogers makes their money on overages. Wind doesn't.

So consider this before you sign up for gimmicky plans that use the word Unlimited and examine what is really being offered. Rogers for their part should be ashamed of what this is actually providing people with. I don't know what's worse, Rogers offering this knowing people will fall for it, or the people who will fall for it.

For those of you who are taking this Unlimited Student Plan, hit the books and don't use your phone.