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Posts from October 2014

My Deskphone is My Chromebook

Back in April I posed the question "Is the Chromebook Your Next Deskphone" and now that Firespotter, the team behind UberConference has put Switch in the market, the value of my Chromebook as a regular part of my daily workflow just went up.

Two simple Chrome extensions plugged in is all it takes, and given the audio quality found in the Dell Chromebook, the question I posed is now answered. The quality of the calls on Switch is high, the interface clean and easy and the ability to move a call from laptop to mobile easy. Ironically, Gizmo was the first to have that feature back in the heyday of it hoping to rival Skype. 

When you look at the prices of Chromebooks, adding Switch makes it a very useful phione in addition to being a very good personal computer, especially if you lead a GoogleCentric life.


T-Mobile's CEO JohnLegere Gives A Damn About Social Media

Love him. Hate him, but give T-Mobile USA's CEO John Legere credit as he is astutely aware of social media and the power it has. And, he doesn't duck and hide like his peers at the competition. He rises to the challenge, takes the reins and engages. More importantly, when a problem rises, he's on it. Instead of the usual CEO ducking and hiding style and pushing things off to the PR team, Legere and team took action, got to the bottom of the problem(s) and now have a fix. Legere to his credit has been engaging with me this morning via Twitter. 

As a result of my post of last night  a call first thing this AM from his SVP of Customer Service came in. And on that call I didn't get the usual soapy, syrupy apologies and silly excuses. I got facts. Action and promises of things being made right. Try that with AT&T or Verizon and see what you get. Crickets would be the first thing you'd hear...nada, nothing...and maybe even more of the silent treatment, ignoring the customer. That's all old school telco. Legere and team and new school mobile and know that the GenX and Millenial market wants solutions, fixes or they're GAWN FAST.

This is now the second time in a few months where I've seen how well T-Mobile "listens" to their socially aware customers. Each time the person responsible for the issue, not the Customer Service team, dealt with the problem, owned it, and managed it. Honesly, in over 30 years of having a mobile phone, I've never seen such transparency, honesty, candor and a willingness to immediately correct the problem that wasn't mine, but which impacted me.

Hat off to John Legere and his team..they clearly get the point that your customers who care, don't hate you, they help you.

 

 


T-Mobile USA's John Legere Makes A Claim His Company Can't Fully Back Up

Today the news broke about AT&T locking the new Apple Universal SIM once a customer activates it. Over Twitter T-Mobile's charismatic and always pugnacious CEO John Legere tweeted:

@WaltBTIG iPads bought in Apple Store with apple sim, if activated on @ATT it locks, if @TMobile it doesn't..it stays flexible.

Upfront I've been a fan of what Legere and his team have done with growing the business, outfoxing AT&T on a merger deal, acquiring spectrum, buying up MetroPCS, refarming their spectrum to be more universal and roaming friendly, offering all kinds of "FREE" connectivity, staging promotions, pulling pranks and basically providing value to the customers. Under Legere T-Mobile's numbers are up and candidly, his style is refreshing in a industry that is stodgy at best, and where innovation on all levels comes from outside.

But, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and today, with his comment above Legere kicked sand in the face of AT&T while not yet having his own house in order. Here's why...

After picking up my new Apple iPad Air2 and reading about the AT&T move to lock the SIM and Apple's reaction to say "you can buy another Apple SIM" with the teenie weenie issue of them not really being available yet for sale (minor and created by AT&T's move no doubt) I made the decision to simply go with T-Mobile, thus giving Legere and the team there another net add (new subscriber addition.)  I got home, went through the activation sequence, got to the cellular data page, selected T-Mobile, and then went to the Doubler Your Data option, as an already existing subscriber to T-Mobile with a share plan. 

The Double Your Data deal means that for $10 a month more I can add 5GB to my existing plan and use that on the iPad vs. pay $30 per month through January, and then pay $40 a month for the same 5GB of data, but it seems to do that, you need a T-Mobile SIM...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The double your data plan would be in line with the Tweet above as to me the flexible nature of the Apple SIM is I can go just about anywhere, get LTE data without having to stand in line, buy a local SIM card, get top up, etc. But even with Mr. Legere's best intentions aside, if you're a T-Mobile customer you can't add the iPad to your existing T-Mobile account with the Apple SIM and get the deal. No matter what you try to do or who you talk to. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. After three attempts of going through the on device activation, and receiving a sorry message, I followed the instructions/directions and called into T-Mobile support. The first person said to take advantage of Double Your Data he needed the phone number associated with the SIM. Well, given that it wasn't activated I couldn't provide what I don't have so he transferred me to activations, which operates out of a call center over in India or somewhere.

Once on the line with activations group they (wrongly) told me I already had too many devices on my share plan and they needed to refer me to another department to remove one. Forget the fact that I really didn't, and that one of the lines was a non-revenue on demand device that is long out of service as it was a 4G non LTE device that was replaced when T-Mobile upgraded to LTE and a new number created. That was back in the era where net adds meant higher valuation when Legere and the team were trying to sell T-Mo...but I digress again.

Once we agreed which number to deactivate I then was told I had to have the transaction approved by the Customer Retention Department. There I was transferred to a nice lady, now the 4th person I spoke to in Salem, Oregon who complained about my call quality. Funny, but I was on my iPhone6 using T-Mobile's WiFi service here at my house (100 megs of connectivity), and the issue wasn't the my call quality, but the fact that the call has been bounced all around the globe and back on T-Mobile contact center network. I even switched off WiFi and it only improved a bit, with awful latency, delays and packet loss, and that happened while the call was on T-Mobile's own LTE network to their switch, not because the network is bad here (it's not) but because the way the call was being handled, routed, and the way the media gets degraded with each handoff. When she called me back the call quality was perfect..But I digress more.

As she removed the on demand number from my account, she then said "I can't do anything about activations and wanted to transfer me back to that group, but after hearing that I had an Apple SIM--which she, like most of the people I spoke to at T-Mobile had no clue about, checked with an inside support person who instructed her to send me to Apple to get it resolved because the issue was the Apple SIM not T-Mobile's platform..well he was half right. It was good to send me to Apple because there I got someone who was a good sounding board and looking to eliminate the Apple SIM from the problem..as was I.

Over at Apple, Will became as perplexed as I, but we walked through the onboarding/provisioning process and I suggested when we were out of options that we try activating it as a Pre-Paid SIM on T-Mobile, which meant creating yet another account. With that, it makes T-Mo's PrePaid numbers and subscriber numbers look better, even though it really means one subscriber has two accounts, vs. another device on the network, but from an existing subscriber. Yes, I do remember that course in college too call stat 101, which those of us also named "how to lie with statistics"...and I never took it.

It worked, and T-Mobile now has me paying $30.00 vs. what should be $10.00. I then was transferred back to T-Mobile and spoke to Ceasar who insisted he knew what the problem was, that I didn't need to have taken any devices off (I know) and that he would explain to activations about it and the problem would get handled by them.

Honestly, at this point I felt like I was in the middle of "Who's On First" skit by Abbott and Costello. The call went back to Asia and there no one had a clue, but one person of the 12 or so people I must have spoken to said "we don't think the Apple SIM can be used with an existing account." Now this was two and a half hours into the ordeal when I should have been enjoying dinner with friends. At that point I asked for a supervisor in the USA, got transferred another know nothing in Asia, who then transferred me to someone who couldn't hear me in the USA, and where the DTMF tones also didn't work likely due to the number of transfers and the shift of the call off net to Apple and back most likely.

So I called back, worked my way up to a supervisor, explained the ordeal and got a very sincere we're sorry but still no resolution but was still being given a lot of partial knowledge from a "supervisor". I then said "how about this. Until you guys can figure it all out, how about a $20.00 credit on my monthly bill" which he did along with the promise of a Manager level call on Monday.

To me, he was the first person who came close to understanding the problem, but even his solution was also counter to Legere's slam at AT&T. To correct the situation at first he wanted me to put a T-Mobile SIM in the iPad so I could link it to my account. That's not really in line with "flexible" and the Apple SIM or T-Mobile's own value proposition that they have spent the better part of 18 months or so driving home externally as well as in theory internally.

Like I said, "people in glass houses......"

To me, Legere's comment about flexible today applies if you want to pay more for that opportunity, to make his subscriber growth in pre-paid look good, but in reality I don't think that's the way he really wants to go.

My honest view is he really wants to offer the flexibility that the Apple SIM brings to the market, but his company has let him down by not removing the offer for double data on the activation page or having the mechanisms in place to make it so. But the big falling down is the number of people working at T-Mobile who have so many different ideas of wrong, took so many of the wrong steps and all the way thought they are being helpful. 

This whole ordeal isn't over yet. But I for one don't like the idea of paying more than I have to.....especially when the online offers and claims made indicate I don't. Neither should you. Call up T-Mobile and ask for your discount if you have the same problem....

 


Wanna Use Skype's New Video Message App...Not So QIK

I just started digging into the facts around the new Skype QIK video app and candidly, given the kind of expertise Skype and the QIK team have with video streaming, I would have expected MORE.

Let's start with a side by side comparison of some of the more popular messaging apps that offer video messaging/chat:

Video Messaging Competitive Matrix

For starters, it doesn't stream. It's a download using a very old school approach of store and forward. Services like Glide leverage the cloud and have an almost INSTANT ON feel. Second Skype's 42 seconds isn't that long message but it is longer than SnapChat's 10. It also doesn't offer text messaging, but it does include group messaging, likely from GroupMe. The other thing is for all the efforts around the cloud with Azure and Office 365 at Microsoft you would think there would be a cloud approach more deeply integrated, ala what Glide is also doing. The Glide approach avoids the running out of storage on a mobile device problem by putting it all up above the fog, in the cloud. You would also think given the efforts behind Windows Mobile they would have looked at that approach too....

So, what do I think this really is.. JUSTIFICATION.

You see, Skype bought QIK and GROUPME but really, other than incorporating the assets into the various interations of Skype, they haven't done much with what they bought.

So now what's left of those teams get to show their new works before they all likely end up working at Yahoo for Jeff Bonforte. 


The Case For Wi-Fi Calling

I'm on the move. Well, in reality, I move around, alot. I have been a global nomad for more years than I can count, and I've also been a road warrior as well as a telecommuter since I was 14 when I started working in pro sports PR, dealing with the press and media at training camps, on the road at games, inside the press box, press room and from just about anywhere. Team buses. Hotels (my first office was in the late, lamented City Line Avenue Marriott in Philadelphia), so the idea of working in places where phones weren't always readily available, nor accessible, always challenged my ability to get the job done.

Knowing where the phones that could make a long distance call, a credit card call no less, was usually the first thing I tended to do when I arrived somewhere, and knew I needed to be in touch with the team's PR director, Sy Roseman (whom I credit with teaching me more than he ever knew he did) and then the media.

It didn't matter that at 14 I had a phone in my room, and at 16 my own phone with a very massive answering device from Bell of Pennsylvania that allowed remote access back in 1976, to me, the ability to phone from anywhere and stay connected to any of 30+ media outlets at any given time was paramount and drove my entire day as a high school student, and then as a college student, learning where every payphone was on campus before I was able to convince some friendly faculty members (thank you Dr. Michael Jackson at Temple University) to let me use their office at times as my own (in exchange for providing their graduate students internships under me and others at the Flyers while I was till an undergraduate.

You see, my life was never exactly, normal, and the work I was doing, what today would be called an embedded reporter or publicist, was really farther ahead of its time than I ever understood. I just did what was at the cutting edge, and still tend to.

That's why I need to state the case for WiFi calling so clearly.

For starters, for the next week or so I'm residing in a high-rise in Miami, 44 floors up. From my work in the past with BridgePort Networks, started by now F5 Wireless and Mobile Operator head Tom Carter, I know that unless a highrise installs a DAS, carrier specific or neutral, the chances of mobile service working really well that high up is limited. So while the mobile operators are doing their best to flood the coutry with LTE coverage and soon LTE-A, including in my own neighborhood, the challenges mobile network operators have is far greater than a wired network build out with Wi-Fi on the edge of it.

So while it may be ten years later, the vision that Tom Carter had is now a reality, and people like me who understand the value of Wi-Fi handover and network convergence are taking advantage of it.

On the 44th floor of the ICON Brickell, or even the 32nd floor of the Intercontinental Hotel in SF where I stay on average of two to three nights a month, and work out of, depending which side of the property I'm on, or how much traffic is driving by causes the Totem Pole effect for mobile networks to dictate just how good (or bad) my coverage is, and in turn the connectivity. And, for data, that is a big, big challenge. Thankfully the apartment here in Miami has its own HotWire provided fiber connectivity, and while it's only 50 megs down and 10 up compared to my own home of 100+ down and 20 up, its more than enough for working the way I do. 

Most importantly, using T-Mobile's recently upgraded Wi-Fi calling is working perfectly for me. It's giving me the constant connectivity on my iPhone 6 and basically preventing the dropped calls I'm seeing on my AT&T iPhone 6 Plus and Verizon iPhone 5. The one bar that I have on T-Mobile's mobile network means nothing to me. Nor does the sometimes two bars on the other two carriers which fades to one bar from time to time which has could cause calls placed or made to drop. Heck, I'm even answer calls on my iPads using the handover so once Yosemite comes out on the Mac I'll have the same fucntionality of people using Rogers One Number (powered by CounterPath which now has all of the BridgePort Networks IP in their offerings.)

To me, Wi-Fi calling has arrived, and in time. How this impacts global roaming is anyone's guess, but if past behavior on T-Mobile and Blackberry devices that had WiFi calling using a prior technology from Kineto called UMA at work, the need for local SIM's will be reduced, and the need for better, more stable Wi-Fi and broadband will only increase. 


My Take on Marriott Fined $600K for Blocking WiFi Hotspots

This comes out of the "stupid is as stupid does" department as clealy, someone inside Marriott's legal department, which is likely based right inside the Capital Beltway, doesn't know the basics of the Communications Act of 1934 nor the simple fact that jamming or causing interference that prevents reception of signals being sent over licensed spectrum is against the law.

But the excuse they are using about protecting against rogue hotspots is a reach and purely spin in this longtime practiitioner of crisis communications management's mind and eyes, as well as a long time user of Hotel Broadband and WiFi. Marriott paid the priced for being greedy and given how mobile operators have massive lobbying budgets, have spent billions on LTE spectrum, likely pay for a DAS in some hotels and do all they can to make their customers happy, the last thing anyone on the mobile network operator's side to hear is how some convention center is blocking the use of their devices when they've already invested money to upgrade their network footprint. Nor does the FCC, and with that came the fine...a really big fine.

For starters, doing what Marriott allegedly did, inside a convention environment, where the customers are basically a "Captive Audience" is on par with having the price of a hotel room rise when airports get shut down due to weather. Oh, right. Hotels already practice that, so this idea demonstrates that the apple's not falling far from the tree. 

As someone who has suggested to multiple hotel operators in the past to get better at understanding the data tsumani that will impact them, this kind of shortsighted move by Marriott amplifies how little the hospitality industry is aware of what's ahead of them.

For starters, technology already exists to provide bandwidth on demand, to provide "clean air" and to work around the issues cause by third party Mi-Fi interferance. But the reality is hotels aren't investing in the technology infrastructure that can make problems turn into opportunities. Instead, by charging exhorbitant prices for WiFi they actually are stimulating the idea of BYOB (bring your own broadband) and by also providing inferior speeds, poor connectivity and a less than desireable customer experience, they actually are encouraging the use of MiFis and the hotspot features of smartphones and tablets. To then turn around and block/jam/interfere is simply saying "we need to make as much money as we can" to an informed audience. 

To me, this is a wake up call to all hotel and convention industry types to look to what can be done and not just thing purely about profits. With the Internet of Things, sensors, beacons and monitors about to be relevant to people's health and well being, being greedy today may be really costly in the future.


Time To Switch To Switch

Take a little bit of GoogleVoice, throw in some Bandwidth.com, hook in some UberConference as the spice and you get--->SWITCH. perhaps the UBERphone for businesses of all sizes and the service that in my mind will wreck havoc with the likes of 8x8 and RingCentral to name a few. Right now it's in private beta and they are taking requests. To me, their "we're here" blog post explains a lot, and TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler has more details.

So with Switch Craig Walker, Vincent, T.R. and the gang have taken a swing at three of the giants in one time at bat. Let me tell you.....

Why (to) Switch?

For starters the guys and gals behind SWITCH know Voice and mobile very well. They have been doing it together since their DialPad days, and really did change the way people use phone numbers with GrandCentral. So, from a pedigree perspective, they get it. They also have funding from Google Ventures and A16Z, so together their collective insight into cloud, Google Apps and opportunity is well known inside the business. Lastly, and most importantly, the changes inside Google with GoogleVoice and Hangouts, as well as the API's around Google Apps, make this a timely market entry with a really well thought out mobile PBX play.

For starters, Google Apps/Works adoption is growing, and the defections are coming from the world of Microsoft Exchange thus making Switch (an awesome name by the way) a formidable rival out of the gate to Lync. What's more when you look at how many services via IFTTT and ZAPIER can interoperate with GoogleApps and then bring in SWITCH the degree of eco-system competency they will have is astounding, trumping Lync and Exchange out of the gate. But there's more reasons for this.

For starters Google Voice is limited to one user. Switch overcomes this in spades. How? imagine porting your GV number over to Switch and making it possible to transfer calls over between colleagues...next is the addition of video conferencing without hardware using Hangouts. To me, after Microsoft feels the pain comes the hurt to Polycom. For years Polycom has been chasing the ITSP to sell their solutions. They've partnered with Broadsoft for a cloud solution that was so expensive it was cost prohibitive to both the ITSPs and their customers  it was so costly that not many of the ITSPS really sell it much, and those that do aren't making any money. That makes the next loser Broadsoft. Can you call this move by the Firespotter team has made "the Broadsoft disConnection (a pun I came up with after talking to a now former Broadsoft partner.) That's three strikes to the competition all in one pitch.

So for Firespotter founder Craig Walker, who loves to coach his son in Little League skills, the opportunity ahead for him with SWITCH may just end up being his perfect game!