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Cell Phone Service Degenerates Further 675

An anonymous reader writes "Almost everyone I know has been complaining about their cell phone service lately. These companies continue to add more subscribers, overloading their networks to the breaking point. They hold you hostage by not allowing you to switch providers and won't invest in new infrastructure. Customer service ratings are dismal for all the major providers. Doesn't look like it's going to improve any time soon."
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Cell Phone Service Degenerates Further

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  • by Tsali ( 594389 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:46AM (#4697108)
    Damn Leonids.
  • by palutke ( 58340 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:46AM (#4697109)
    The only thing that will give the providers incentive is if they start to lose subscribers. As long people limit themselves to grumbling and complaining, nothing will happen to make the situation better.
    • by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:52AM (#4697190)
      That's part of the problem. You get your free phone and tie yourself into a 2 year contract with a provider. If you want to break that contract you're charged a fee that's high enough to pay for several months of service. Either way, they're getting money without providing service. They'll never turn away anyone. They couldn't expand fast enough if they wanted to, and they have no motivation to do so anyway.
    • Grumble all you want, but most companies (in the US at least) either force you or "highly encourage" (read: force) you to sign a 1 or 2-year contract. In return you get a neat-o phone that you could have purchased on your own anyway or you might get a few extra minutes or text messaging for free. This way, when service gets crappy, and you say.."I want to cancel, your service sucks!" They say "That'll be $150 early cancellation fee, please."

      Here we go with the obligatory 1/2/3 business model for cell phone companies:
      1. Get subscribers to sign a commitment to our service
      2. Give those subscribers crappy service, sit back as they call in wanting to drop, and remind them of their commitment
      3. Profit!
      • by grumpygrodyguy ( 603716 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @12:00PM (#4697940)
        Grumble all you want, but most companies (in the US at least) either force you or "highly encourage" (read: force) you to sign a 1 or 2-year contract.

        Yep, and in all those "socialist" countries the cell networks are in pristine working condition. The next time you want to vote to privitize electricity(california?), or gas...think of the cell phone industry. The cell phone industry is a clear example of private enterprise and competetion failing to improve service. We're seeing the same thing in broadband services as well.
    • I don't have a cell phone because I've been holding out for a better deal. It doesn't seem to be working.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:46AM (#4697111)
    Your federal government could easily solve this problem by re-allocating the spectrum to the technologies set to use it in the future. Right now an large portion is still dedicated to UHF television. Of course they can't let the free market take a stab at it any time soon, because they have already priced future spectrum auction proceeds into the Federal budget.

    Cell phones are but one service that is starved in spectrum allocation. If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum, an entire new universe of wireless network services could become available.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:54AM (#4697213)
      > If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum,

      Yeah. Free market will solve everything. Bandwidth ? Free market. Energy ? Free market. IP laws ? Free market. Pollution ? Free market. World hunger ? Free market. Greed ? Free market.

      How lucky you are about having a religion that gives you an answer to everything.

      > If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum,

      one company would have ended with a de-facto monopoly on the spectrum.
      • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:14AM (#4697452)
        one company would have ended with a de-facto monopoly on the spectrum.

        That's what you ALREADY HAVE. The feds have monpolized this space and auction it off to special interests. Broadcast spectrum for educational channels alone take up an absurd amount of UNUSED spectrum.

        At least the free market would allocate space to services that people want! Right now the services people want occupy a few slivers of the spectrum. Take a look at how the spectrum is divided up before you make any more uninformed comments.

        • by ChrisDolan ( 24101 ) <chris+slashdot&chrisdolan,net> on Monday November 18, 2002 @01:47PM (#4699256) Homepage
          Do you really believe that the free market would have done better than the FCC has? If there were no FCC, there would be no radio astronomy. Your TV signal would get interference from the cell-phone bearing people walking down the sidewalk.

          The Iridium satellites' frequency band was closely examined and approved by the FCC. When they launched however, it was found that they were broadcasting in a sideband well outside of that permitted band, rendering radio telescopes useless (like shining a flashlight down an optical telescope) so the FCC decreed that the Iridium transmitters had to be turned off as they passed over certain geographical regions.

          Tell me how the free market would have solved that one. Ruled in favor of science or dollars? Free market favors the majority when a conflict arises. The government also keeps the needs of the minority in mind.

          Further reading: Wired article [wired.com]
      • by runlvl0 ( 198575 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:23AM (#4697538) Homepage Journal
        > If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum, Yeah. Free market will solve everything. Bandwidth ? Free market. Energy ? Free market. IP laws ? Free market. Pollution ? Free market. World hunger ? Free market. Greed ? Free market. How lucky you are about having a religion that gives you an answer to everything. > If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum, one company would have ended with a de-facto monopoly on the spectrum.
        Basil Exposition: The cold war is over!
        Austin Powers: Well! Finally those capitalistic pigs will pay for their crimes, eh? Eh comrades? Eh?
        Basil Exposition: Austin... we won.
        Austin Powers: Oh, groovy, smashing! Yea capitalism!
    • by mikeplokta ( 223052 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:56AM (#4697229)
      They don't need more spectrum, they need more transmitters and more regulation of mobile phone companies. The UK is much more densely populated than the US, has much higher mobile phone usage per head and no more spectrum available for mobile phone use, but has generally excellent mobile phone service.
      • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:10AM (#4697403)
        The UK is much more densely populated than the US,

        Parts of the US being sparsly populated might be part of the problem, but no real excuse for poor coverage in urban areas.

        has much higher mobile phone usage per head and no more spectrum available for mobile phone use, but has generally excellent mobile phone service.

        The whole point about a cellphone system is that you don't need huge amounts of spectrum. In an area of dense usage you simply have smaller cells with lower powered transcievers.
      • Please reread Illusion of Spectrum Scarcity [slashdot.org] before you give the local Bells and a few other select jackasses their telcom monopoly back. Most of the airwaves are empty. If your old TV tunners 50 blank channels don't prove that to you, I'm not sure what will. If you are still unaware of new technology that can fix the problem, please read the above article.

        People who invested their money in the Clinto Airwave Auction Scam took a big risk and should reap the consequences. Yeah, it sucks to lose but it happens all day long. Make a promise, keep a promise. Those big fat companies do not deserve a rescue as they stomped on others to get what they have.

        Further regulation to protect these ineffient opperators will only preserve the problem. They did not build when the money was good. Now their technology is obsolete, paid for or not, it should be trashed to alow new entrants who will serve us better. That is how a free market works.

        The New York Times Article is a troll on it's own, and has to be some kind of AP trash. "Oh the poor little telcos," they cry, "their problem is so hard and they are working so hard to fix it." The quotes about "robust competition" is a particularly bad joke. Clueless BS, all of it. There is no further technical reason to restrict radio transmisions.

        • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:59AM (#4697927)
          Yes there is no spectrum scarcity in the sense that more signals can't be broadcast, but you need the government's permission to do so. That is the entire point! The government has dedicated spectrum to services that are dying or don't need it. If the free market was allowed to allocate some of this space, UHF stations for one would sell out in a second to newer network services.

          The fact that there is huge tracts of underutilized spectrum is why the government needs to get out of the auction buziness.

          • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @01:18PM (#4698939)
            There is no doubt that the regulation regime must change. It totally fails to take into account new technologies. I do not, however, buy the argument that the "free market" alone is the solution. As someone who has installed radio transmitters (admittedly amateur radio repeaters, but the issues are the same), there does need to be regulation and enforcement. It is too easy for transmitters to create spurious signals and interference. A regulatory system is, IMHO, infinitely preferable to the only other recourse in a "free market," namely, the courts.

            So, while I do think the present reulatory system needs to be demolished, I think it does need to be replaced with a regulatory scheme that takes TDM and spread-spectrum technologies into account.

            The present model is based around uni-directional broadcasting. Dedicated "channels." That needs to change.
    • To much regulation (Score:4, Insightful)

      by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:56AM (#4697239) Homepage Journal
      To much regulation? Deregulate cries the geek!

      Of course! this explains why the USA's cellphone infrastructure is so much better than Europe's - the EU is just over-regulated!!

      NB: That, like US cellphone systems, was a joke.

    • If I could mod you up to +10, I would do it in a split second.
    • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:02AM (#4697322) Homepage
      Uh... yeah, a large portion is still dedicated to UHF television because it's in use.

      Until HD takes off, that spectrum will continue to be in use. Once 80% of US households are capable of receiving HD then the old UHF (as well as VHF) analog frequencies will be reclaimed and reallocated.

      Cell phones are but one service that is starved in spectrum allocation. If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum, an entire new universe of wireless network services could become available.

      Yes. And we'd have no conflicts at all from different companies rampaging across the "free market allocated" spectrum, right? Because that never happens. Nope. No interference between wireless networks and wireless phones. No interference from jacked up CB transmitters either. And we know that unallocated spectrum won't ever have two wildly conflicting technologies [slashdot.org] utilizing it, right?

      Not to mention that the free market does tend to ignore certain costs and needs. Part of the VHF/UHF reallocation will be used to greatly expand the number of emergency channels for police, fire, ambulance, and other services. Think the free market will care about that? Doubt it.

      It's funny, because generally I'm against government interference in things, but I think the kinds of interference that would occur otherwise are far worse.
    • "If the government was to let the free market allocate the spectrum, an entire new universe of wireless network services could become available"

      And they'd all conflict with one another. Company A would blame it on company B's product interferring and vice versa. One thing companies are not very good at is agreeing with one another. Therefore, a free market with a small, but necessary regulation is what we have. As for the UHF stations, you simply blink them out of existence? Far be it from them to broadcast their signals (read: be in business) if it causes static in your call to Aunt Martha, so you'd basically have to wipe them out to bring on your new 'universe'.

      Does the Federal government do a lot of messed up stuff? Absolutely. Is dividing up the spectrum in such a way as to ensure the quality of each signal one of those messed up things? Well, I don't think it is, but why don't you ask whales [go.com] what happens when you let just anyone start tossing around any signal they like.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:07AM (#4697378) Journal
      Spectrum scarcity is not the problem I'd say. Cells can be placed quite densely to support many concurrent users, or they can be placed at large intervals to provide good coverage over a large, sparsely populated area. You'd need a lot of phone users to overload a network that uses the most densely possible cell placement.

      This is more a case of the phone companies "overselling" their networks, by taking in more and more customers but not upgrading their network and placing additional cells to accommodate the increased load. ISPs are also notorious for this.

      Of course many telco's find themselves strapped for the necessary cash to place additional cells in overloaded areas. One of the reasons is the enormous amounts of money they paid at the spectrum auctions... which is interesting: the telcos over here own rights to spectrum bands which go largely unused for lack of money to place transmitters to use that spectrum.
    • Thing is, here in Cali, it's routing infrastructure that's broken, not tower coverage.

      Back when Cingular and tmobile were the only GSM providers, it was pretty common to get "Emergency Only" coverage. But Cingular and tmobile *shared* *towers*. So if you were getting coverage from the competitor, and not your own provider, it was because they weren't routing your packets properly.

      Of course, it happened equally often with both companies, so it's not like you would even switch if you could.

      Now with AT&T GSM coverage in the area, we tmobile users see "Emergency Coverage Only" all the time, but that's 'cause AT&T has many more towers, and they really are better. Now if only they'd buy Voicestream... nah.
  • by MattCohn.com ( 555899 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:46AM (#4697112)
    I've gotten a lot of calls recently at the radio station from people on cell phones that I couldn't understand. Much more then normal. This is the exact same thing as Cable Internet providers overloading their nodes and expecting us to put up with the speed. Well, we payed for a service whether that was phone service, or 'high-speed' internet and I'm mad as hell about this.
  • by TiMac ( 621390 )
    Just crap.

    I get a signal about 50% of the time...and it has this nasty habit of going from full signal to zero (dropped connection) and immediately back up to full signal....what happened in the middle?

    Sons of bitches...do NOT get Sprint...they seem to have a "random service droppage" policy...or a major bug in the system.

    • Network Development (Score:3, Informative)

      by neurostar ( 578917 )

      ...they seem to have a "random service droppage" policy...or a major bug in the system.

      Yeah, something is up with them. When I got my latest cell phone, I had a somewhat in depth discussion with the sales rep about the various carriers. He said that although Sprint has some excellent protocols and ideas for new network services, they are relatively new to cell phone service. As a result, they don't have as much experience with networks as Verizon or VoiceStream do. So that could be the source of your problems.

      The sales rep also said that Sprint has problems with reception inside buildings (more so than other providers). I ended up going with Verizon as a result.

      neurostar
    • Not my experience (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sand_Man ( 81150 )
      I have Sprint PCS and use it all over the country (it's 85% for when I travel). I've been pretty happy with the service I have gotten.

      Sure its not your phone?
      • With Sprint it really can depend on the phone. I had a defective Samsung 8500 a year back and it dropped calls all the time and really was awful. I upgraded to a Sanyo 5150 and since then my problems have dissapeared. The quality difference is amazing, and calls are crystal clear.
    • by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:07AM (#4697379)
      I would avoid any PCS service. The high frequencies of PCS (1900MHz) don't penetrate walls as well as cellular (800MHz). Verizon is mostly cellular except for a few states.

      Also, I've heard from some network engineers who claim that the cellular carriers have better tower placement, in bigger cities, because they came well before PCS.
    • by daoine ( 123140 ) <{moruadh1013} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:39AM (#4697729)
      Buying a cell phone requires research -- most importantly 'do I have coverage in the areas I'll be in?'

      It's a relatively well known fact that Sprint PCS seems to work great in the major metro areas on the East Coast (I have a couple of friends with it, so this isn't personal experience...but I can hear them when they call...) As long as you're within 15 miles of a city, PCS is great. Don't even think about going out of that range, though.

      That's why I *didn't* get Sprint PCS. While it works well in Boston, it doesn't work so well out where I work. It works well at my parent's house outside NYC, but my sister is too far out.

      It's the all important research-before-you-buy. Verizon's the *only* carrier that can make it through 5 stories of brick into my apartment...and knowing they work where I need them to is why I picked 'em.

      It's just really too bad you can't take a phone for a test drive...I would really like to take a phone into my apartment, on the drive to work, and on the drive to my parents before purchasing it. I hate locking myself into a contract that can't provide what I need.

  • Sounds like the unprepared ISP market 4 years ago when it boomed. I'm sure the cell companies will get their act together and beef up.

    The non stop aggressive advertising for cell services and the general status of a cell phone in daily life no doubt caused an explosion they weren't ready for. The constant rate wars make it harder and harder for them to invest heavily in infrastructure. A rates increase (timed charges? yay!) is probably the only thing that will pull the industry up again.

    Would you pay a bit more for a better service, or will you always go for the most minutes?

    • My complaint right now is that my new motorola, the shiny gray one that Altell made me give up my StarTac for, echos. It is annoying, disconcerting and something that I've never had a problem with before. If I had a choice I'd stuff their forced obsolencence down their throats and get my old relalible phone reconnected.

      That's actually a thought....
  • Yeah, I've noticed. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Xzisted ( 559004 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:47AM (#4697126) Homepage
    I live in a pretty packed section of LA (Hollywood Hills) and I have noticed over the two years I have been here that my cell phone has always been between 1 and 2 bars in my apt. out of 4 (signal strength) yet I used to be able to make phone calls and now I spend half the time not even on the network. The cell towers have gotten so crowded that when you call AT&T they tell you that only about 68% of all calls made from that area are able to get through due to overcrowding. Yet they have no plans to expand in our area for the next year.

    It kinda sucks. And I'm locked in by a contract.
  • by bearclaw ( 217359 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:48AM (#4697132)
    Does anyone else find it slightly odd that cell phone companies are allowed to make cell phones that only work with their network? For instance, I can't ditch Sprint and use my Sprint PCS Samsung phone with Verizon service. Why is this allowed? I mean, what if Verizon required you to have a special type of phone for your local (land line) service. If you wanted to switch to a different provider, would you have to buy a new home phone? Most people would freak about that.

    Thoughts?

    Mike
    • by Foochar ( 129133 )
      Part of the problem is that there are several different standards for digital cellphones here in the states. Some networks use CDMA technology, some use TDMA technology, and some use GSM technology. If you are switching between carriers that use the same technology then you can probalby keep your phone. This is also how out of area roaming works. I have Dobson/Cellular One phone. AT&T Wireless uses the same technology as Dobson, so when I get out of my local area I start using AT&T phones. If you look at the model numbers of cellphones you'll often model numbers that only differ by one digit. A Nokia 8260 and 8290 for example. These phones are basically the same except that one can talk TDMA and the other talks CDMA.
    • There's a reason for that. It's called "Free Market".

      Rather than mandating one type of service *cough*GSM Europe*cough*, they're letting all the standards duke it out.

      AT&T is TDMA, Sprint and Verizon are CDMA (I Think), T-Mobile and Cingular are GSM.

      Eventually, the best service will win out.
      • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:17AM (#4697479) Journal
        GSM in Europe I think has more free marketability than the mish-mash of conflicting standards and provider lock-in in the States. I can switch providers merely by changing the SIM card in my phone. No need to buy a new handset. Most customers coulnd't care less if the phone uses CDMA, TDMA, GSM etc. so long as it works.

        TCP/IP may not be the best protocol in the world, but imagine if there were three or four incompatible standards used by the major ISPs, and you had to buy an operating system locked into that ISP's infrastructure to use the net...that's what the cellphone situation is like in the US. Everyone singing GSM is like everyone talking TCP/IP. You know your handset will work regardless of the provider you choose.
      • by radish ( 98371 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:29AM (#4697592) Homepage
        I am not aware of things being mandated. The "rest of the world (tm)" use GSM because of the free market, because consumers want to be able to use their phone anywhere without worrying about whether it will work. Which it will. Anywhere. Except the US. Doh.
    • GSM (Score:3, Informative)

      by warnerpr ( 9286 )
      While many GSM phones are locked to a provider, some times they will unlock them after a certain time (likely after your contract period expires). And if you buy your own phone of course it won't we locked at all. Then you can choose between Cingular, ATT and T-Mobile.

      This will be great for competition once people realize they can do this... Right now many are probably unaware of this.

    • Does anyone else find it slightly odd that Apple is allowed to make software that only works with their hardware? For instance, I can't ditch my iMac and use my OSX with a Dell PC. Why is this allowed?

      OR

      Does anyone else find it slightly odd that satellite television companies are allowed to make receivers that only work with their network? For instance, I can't ditch DISH Network and use my DISH receiver with DirecTV service. Why is this allowed?

      Sheesh!
    • by Steve Cowan ( 525271 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:45AM (#4697796) Journal
      There are a two reasons why we can't switch our handsets between different networks.

      The first: Different cel phone networks have different underlying technologies that make them work. In Canada we have TDMA (Rogers/AT&T), CDMA (Mobility/Telus/Sprint), GSM (Microcell/Fido) and iDEN TDMA (MIKE/Nextel). Each of these phones uses a different modulation scheme - it's kind of like when 56 K modems emerged and we had X2 and Flex.

      Each technology has its pro's and cons, I'm not going to get into them here. Suffice it to say that the technologies are different enough that a CDMA phone for example cannot be made to work on a TDMA network.

      The second reason is revenue protection. Even here in Canada, where, for example, CDMA technology is used by both Mobility and by Telus, phones are sold with "activation lock codes" - essentially built-in passwords unique to each handset, so that you can't get into your phone's programming and change the network that it connects to. This is because the phones are sold deeply discounted, and the only way the provider can recover that money is to lock you in to a contract, and ensure that the phones they cel will only generate airtime revenue on their own networks. You'd be a fool to think your cel phone, with its big bright display, li-ion battery, speaker phone, vibrate, digital and analog technology in both the 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum, all in a package so ultra-miniaturized that it's almost a choking hazard, only costs $38... but it has to be marked down that way because competition is so fierce between different providers' handsets.

      My suggestion: when you first activate your phone, your provider may quickly step you through some fancy key combinations to program in your new phone number. If not, then before you have your phone disconnected, try to get your phone number changed the day before so that your provider will have to step you through reprogramming the phone. When they do, write down every code you are given. The lock code is on file with your provider and is specific to your handset's serial number (ESN). You can possibly use this later to reprogram your own phone.

      • It was definately the latter (Revenue protection)

        He was talking about taking a Sprint phone to Verizon, which uses the same technology (and has quite heavy phone overlap - The Kyocera 6035 for example).

        Sprint subsidy-locks phones, Verizon does not. Why?

        It has everything to do with how Sprint and Verizon sell phones. Sprint allows you to buy a phone from a large number of places (CompUSA, OfficeMax, etc.) without getting a contract. But that phone is pretty worthless without the service. Now if someone buys a Sprint phone and activates it on Verizon, Sprint is losing a lot of money.

        Verizon, on the other hand, doesn't s-lock phones. That's because you can only buy a Verizon phone at a Verizon store or from Verizon's website (or by landline phone). As a result, you can ONLY get the discounted price on a new phone at contract signing. You can get a phone without a contract from Verizon, but they'll charge you a lot more. (For example, the Kyocera 6035 was $380 without a contract subsidy, $250 with subsidy.)
      • A friend of mine shared this little tip with me and said it would work, but I've never tried it myself so YMMV.

        After your contract expires (and they have finished subsidizing the phone) there is really nothing to keep you from jumping ship, so they are much more open to unlocking your phone if they think it will keep you as a customer. Call them up and tell them you are planning on traveling to Europe and would like to use some of the pre-paid calling SIMs available there, but you need them to unlock your phone for it to work. If they balk, tell them how you like the service, but if they can't help you, you'll find another provider who can. Apparently, once they unlock it in this fashion, it cannot be relocked. Has anyone else tried this?
  • Verizon (Score:5, Funny)

    by jzs9783 ( 612647 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:48AM (#4697134)
    "Can you hear me?" "No" "Good!"
    • Operator Can you hear me now ?
      user Yes
      Operator No ?
      user YES...
      Operator So you can't hear me ?
      User YES
      Operator So can u or can u not ?
      User Can I or Can I not what ?
      Operator WHAT ?
      User WHAT ?
      Operator Yes ?
      User Yes ?
      Operator Hello ?
      User Yes
      Operator Good
      User Good What ?
      Operator WHAT ?
      User Oh never mind ..
      Operator GOOD..
  • by tweek ( 18111 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:49AM (#4697141) Homepage Journal
    Don't sign any contracts that extended beyond that period.

    At least here in the states, cell phone carriers will be required to institute true number portability on cellphones. They've been pushing it back for about 4 years now but the FCC told them it was do or die time.

    This is from: clarkhoward.com:

    "Cell phone portability stays alive - July 18, 2002
    If you are one of our listeners who took the time to write to the FCC about the cell phone industry, Clark wants to congratulate you. A law passed in 1996 allowed you to take your cell phone number from company to company if you changed providers. It was called "true number portability" and the cell phone industry was terrified of it. So, they have tried everything they could to postpone the law going into effect. The FCC asked for you comments in this matter and your voice was heard. The FCC has issued a decision, saying the rule will stay in effect and you'll be able to keep your number. But reinstatement will not go into effect until Thanksgiving 2003. So, we will be able to take our number with us, but not for a while. And, when this goes into effect, many cell phone companies will go away because of mergers. As long as we have four major players, we will have a decent amount of competition."

    Here's [clarkhoward.com] the original link.
  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:49AM (#4697144)
    Capitalism = who rips off best wins

    This may be modded as a troll, but in modern economics, it is a truth.
  • Someone correct me if I am wrong (And i think i am), but was not the justice department investigating the major cell providers for illigaly forcing customers to only use certain cell phones? For example, that nice new shiny Nokia I want will only work with AT&T wireless, not Sprint or Verizon. That, and some back door deals with the cell phone makers to restrict options raised some eyebrows, if i remember right.
    • The simple reason for this is they use different cell technologies. Verizon uses CDMA, AT&T uses the older TDMA, and I believe Sprint uses a GSM variation.

      Finkployd
    • Isn't the reason the shiny new Nokia only works on AT&T Wireless and not Sprint or Verizon because THAT shiny new Nokia is only for one type of mobile network?

      The US has 4 different mobile phone technologies doesn't it? I'm sure it's at least 3. iDen, GSM (Crippled on a stupid frequency) and Sprint's PCS?

      Why should Nokia make all their phones work on all the US networks when the market for them is the US and that's about it. They have better things to do making lots of lovely GSM 900/1800 dual band handsets for the hundred of GSM mobile networks around the works.
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by iiioxx ( 610652 ) <iiioxx@gmail.com> on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:50AM (#4697158)
    ssssshhhclickpopclickhhhsh What? What was that? shshshshshclicksssshh Hang on, let me step outside...
  • by Adam Rightmann ( 609216 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:50AM (#4697159)
    quoting Johnson.

    These cell phone providers keep trying to do more and more without improving their infrastructure. They add games, text messaging, video, web browsing (who can tolerate browsing on a 320x320 screen with no keyboard?) without adding enough towers to add capacity. They spend millions on inane advertising, trying to brainwash the multitudes into thinking they need to spend $50 a week to be interrupted constantly, without upgrading transmitters, or even moving to a better transmission scheme. All gimcrackery and glitz, with poor underpinnings.

    Yes, they want to be everything to everyone, instead of just providing cell service, Johnson's quote is relevant here.

    "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

    Similary, a video web surfing cell phone is like a dog walking on his hind legs.

    • Actually, there is a lot of money going into improving infrastructure, although it is much harder to get telecommunications capital since the big stock market meltdown!

      Several companies are upgrade to next generation systems. These will provide higher bandwidth and presumably this can be used to allow more phones per tower in addition to more bandwidth per phone.
  • GSM in Sweden (Score:2, Informative)

    by pxnoll ( 627075 )
    We're starting to have the same problem here in sweden with our GSM network. All the major companies are emptying their pockets trying to build the new 3G infrastructure in time, and with the financial down they don't have much over to spend on good ol' quality assurance ;/
  • Bandwidth (Score:3, Informative)

    by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:51AM (#4697173) Homepage
    Not that they're not all horrible for locking you onto phones that aren't cross-provider friendly, but....

    One of the biggest problems we have now is bandwidth. When the law restricts the percent of bandwidth each provider is allowed based upon the number of providers in a coverage area, quality ends up sucking.

    Specifically, if Company A has ten times the number of customers as Company B, they still each get the same frequency spread. Company A quality ends up sucking, and switching to Company B isn't obvious since there aren't any good stats published on "coverage" area and quality, other than those pretty maps that are often provided and anecdotal references from friends.

  • Sprint PCS is Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nate@baxlREDHATeys.org minus distro> on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:52AM (#4697183) Homepage Journal
    I live just south of Kansas City, which is Sprint's home base, but I have had nothing but good coverage from Sprint. Even driving home to Illinois I get good coverage. If I take I-70, I keep my signal the whole way, taking a smaller road, I lose the signal several times, but not for long stretches. While were in Illinois, I still get pretty good coverage even off the beaten path were my folks live. More importantly, when my phone reads a good connection, I get a good connection. I don't drop calls for no reason, only when I go out of range (except for elevators, hate those elecators). I use a 3 year old Samsung 3500 flip phone and it has worked great for me and my wife who has the same model. I've heard others complain about PCS, but I for one am sold. My biggest gripe with them is that they keep moving back when their "Night & Weekend" minutes start. On our plan it's 8PM, new plans start at 9PM, and I think the older plans started at 7PM. Aside from that, I love the service.
  • But alot of people I know use their cell phone as their primary home phone line. They don't really care if they can carry it with them everywhere they go. For these people I would suggest trying cable telephony as an alternative. The pricing is certainly competitive, and if you actually go with a telephony service provided by your cable company it will include life-line support. Meaning that their will be redundant systems less than a heart-beat a way from each other ready to switch over immediately should one system fail. This is a slightly biased opinnion since I work in the cable broadband industry but I've need had any problems.
  • by jimand ( 517224 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:53AM (#4697194)
  • by scotch ( 102596 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:53AM (#4697200) Homepage
    No one is holding a gun to your head to have a cell phone. We got along years just fine without them for years. Very few people really need them - the rest of you just seem to use them to show off, be annoying, or create hazardous driving conditions.

    • ...the rest of you just seem to use them to show off, be annoying, or create hazardous driving conditions

      Harumph!

      I really do... need... it.

      Umm... so I can find out where to go drinking!

      Yeah, that's it!

    • Re:Simple Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by runenfool ( 503 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:59AM (#4697285)
      What does that have to do with companies giving us poor service? They promise us a product, and whether we need it or not they should deliver it.
    • NIMBY (Score:4, Interesting)

      by T1girl ( 213375 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:27AM (#4697581) Homepage
      I went to a community meeting last summer about how to keep a 60-foot cellphone tower out of our little "historic neighborhood" and noticed I was the only person sitting around the conference table who wasn't packing a cellphone. Everyone wants to complain about their cellphone service, but no one wants a tower in their line of vision. Actually, we tried to steer them to a couple of churches who could have used help with their crumbling steeples. A lot of people were surprised to learn that the tower would benefit only those who were using Cricket phones, not wireless communication in general, and that there is no limit to how many companies can build towers within the same area. There was also some grumbling about Cricket, with its short range, being the choice of "hookers and drug dealers." As it turned out, Leap Wireless [yahoo.com], hardly has enough money to keep their NASDAQ listing, much less fight a bunch of pitchfork-wielding homeowners, so they never built the tower.
    • I am with you brother! Let us abandon these soulless 'horseless buggies' and return to simpler times of man and animal, united by the bond of reins.

      You dick.

      -Nano.
  • I don't know about everyone else, but here's my experience:

    I had a SprintSpectrum GSM phone when they first came out, loved it, then Sprint dumped it and went to CDMA SprintPCS. And I've had one of those since. Ever since it's deployment, service has gotten steadily worse in the Washington, DC area, and there are parts of major roads where you are guaranteed to drop a call.

    Then I moved, and my phone got even more odd. I've been through several, and each has this behavior. If I stand up in my apartment, I have tolerable reception, if I sit down, zero. Seriously. I called Sprint, they said "well, we don't guarantee it will work in home or office, only outside". Wow, isn't that helpful.

    So, since most of my friends travel a lot, they have GSM phones from Voicestream (now T-Mobile), and I decided to get one of those spiffy new SonyEriccson T68i phones for $50 from Amazon. When I finally got it from back-order, it was ready to go, and weighed nothing, and had excellent coverage at home, office, car, and has only dropped one call, when I was driving by the CIA.

    Now, I didn't want one of the overlay numbers for Northern VA (571 area code), so I called them, and they thoughtfully changed my number to a 202 on the phone. Effective immediately. No cost, thank you for being a customer.

    I have had only one problem with coverage, and that's my new office, in the middle of nowhere. But Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile work only sporadically in the building, so I don't take it personally. It's just annoying.

    I do think what they do in Europe is more normal... you can get a cheap phone that's locked, or you can pay a bit more for an unlocked phone (T-Mobile gave me the unlock codes for my phone). Then, since *everyone* uses the same system, you can change carriers as you see fit.
  • by twfry ( 266215 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:57AM (#4697243)
    I have Sprint PSC and love it. It worked great in Seattle and now works great in Boston.

    That said everyone I know complains about Sprint's coverage and has sworn them off, something I couldn't figure out. Then this summer a bunch of use started to do a phone comparison. And you know what, almost everywhere I had a few bars while they were dropping to roaming.

    Then we realize that my older (and slightly larger) Samsung must have a more powerful antenna. All my friends super cool $300 migit phones made a signal strength vs. size tradoff.

    So don't complain if you cant get signal in doors. You should have bought a larger phone....

    • So far I haven't seen a post that seems to truly understand the CDMA quality of service situation.
      Here are some things as I understand them:
      There is a huge difference between signal strength and capacity. Signal strength, measured in terms of the Pseudo-noise offset level of the spread spectrum signal is one part, and the Ec/Io (that's "Eee-See over Eye-Naught"), the difference between the signal strength and the noise floor, which is the available capacity. When your phone reports signal strength in bars, it's actually making an estimate using some kind of formula to simplify this pretty complicated technology. You can have a strong signal but not be able to make a call. You could be sitting under the tower but but there are already a few thousand other people using it.

      Also, for those of you who have older phones who experience better service with "more powerful antennas," please know that it has little to do with the antenna. It has everything to do with SID vs. PRL. When cellphones really exploded here in the states (three years ago or so) they were still being built using something called SID. The definiton of the acronym escapes me, but essentially the phone would look around, pick the tower with strongest signal and the most available bandwidth and use it. So with my Startac 7760 on Verizon, if I was closer to a non-Verizon tower my phone would use it, and then Verizon would pay the other carrier a tiny fee for my use.

      A couple of years ago (in Verizon's world, with the advent of the Startac 7868, I think) they got rid of SID and came up with PRL, a Preferred Roaming List. Phones were programmed with lists of preferred towers where Verizon didn't have to pay a fee. So if I was using my Verizon Startac7868W and I was sitting on top of a non-Verizon tower, but there was a tiny, weak signal from a Verizon tower 15 miles away, my phone would use the weaker signal to save Verizon a few tenths of a cent.
  • by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:57AM (#4697245)

    Some people can stand voting with their wallet because they do not absolutely require the cell phone service. However, many others do. So, just change your service often - forcing the sales representatives to give you good introductory rates but without a long term service contract. If you can get one of them to give you cheap rates for half a year and then standard rates for another half a year on a one year contract, then take it and cancel the service afterwards. Repeat. Not only does this get you repeating good rates, but it contributes to the service cancelation numbers for the companies to possibly motivate them to provide better service.

    Funny thing to note that most of these bastage companies are just ripping you off even more: Where I live, we need to make a lot of cell phone calls from a certain area just South of town, but we can never seem to get good service there. So after switching providers a couple times and figuring out that none of them will give us good reception down there, we start looking at coverage maps for the cell phone companies in our area. Guess what, they all look exactly the freaking same. Not only do they all use the same towers, but a lot of them even use the same equipment, they just portion their usage off with each other. So, the only thing you are usually paying for is how much less of an a$$ one company will be to you over another company.
  • Too much to handle (Score:2, Informative)

    by tourettes ( 97445 )
    I work for a wireless reseller, and I've seen the complaints flood in. We are often flooded with callers who cannot connect their calls, or once every 10 calls they might actually get through. This is more seen in big cities such as New York, Miami, etc. The systems are overloaded, and from my experiences, the wireless carriers don't really care. They need to take a step back, and look at the current infrastructure they have in place, and realize that this is not going to last much longer. The systems weren't designed to handel the amount of traffic they are currently holding, and it's only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down around them.

    I know that they currently do not have the money to pump into upgrading the entire system, but right now, the cellular phone industry is at a place where a lot of people are relying on the technology, so it may be a time to have a small markup in the rates. I know where I live, it is cheaper to own and use a cellular phone then a landline phone these days. There's only so much that the consumer will be able to handel before they go back to their old ways of communicating.
  • by compwizrd ( 166184 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:58AM (#4697262)
    In 56 percent of the nation's households, someone now subscribes to wireless phone service, more than double the percentage in 1995.

    The average per-minute cost has dropped to 11 cents this year from 56 cents in 1995. For the phone companies that has meant a decline in average revenue per customer to $61 a month, from $74 in 1995.

    I wonder if the same would happen if cd's dropped to a fifth the price? You've got double the customers, so you're still making more money just not as much per customer.

    A lot of people wouldn't have a cell phone if it still cost 56 cents a minute.
    • by b_pretender ( 105284 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:34AM (#4697662)
      Ummm...

      All of your assumptions are valid... except that price elasticity is different for different products. If this wasn't the case, then *everything* would sell for $0.11 per minute (assuming that to be the optimal cost), and there would be no such thing as an excise tax (or all purchases would be excise taxed equally).

      Read up on your microeconomics before you post. Microeconomics is a cool geeky subject with lots of math and theories that rival physical theories.

  • by og_sh0x ( 520297 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @10:58AM (#4697264) Homepage
    The PUC is your best friend. I have a friend that had a subscription with T-Mobile. Their service was horrible and customer service was always jerking him around and billing was charging him for hundreds of text messages he never used. I kept telling him to threaten them with calling the PUC. One day he did it. They immediate dropped all the false charges and kissed his ass.

    Each state has it's own PUC, for instance, this is Minnesota's [state.mn.us]. As you can see, they control telecom, electric, and gas. PUC really is your friend. For instance, PUC is responsible for penalizing Qwest for anti-competitive business practices.
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:00AM (#4697291) Homepage

    And in Europe... and in India. But when I get to the US there is a marked drop off. To the stage where I have often used two phones, one tri-band and one CDMA/analogue.

    I can "roam" onto competitors networks outside of my home country, but not at home. Hence my tri-band phone often gets a signal as it has 3 or so networks to chose from, while the Sprint phone gets nothing because I'm in a Sprint zone.

    Basic solutions would be for better roaming agreements between providers and one standard for phones.
  • by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <DesScorp AT Gmail DOT com> on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:01AM (#4697301) Homepage Journal
    When my contract was up, I simply got rid of mine. Alltel was absolutely horrible, but Cellular One was no better, nor was Suncom. I now just use one pager, supplied by my employer. And you know what? The world didn't end when I got rid of it, surprise surprise. You find out that you DON'T have to be connected 24 hours a day. And the people constantly calling you discover this as well. I got my life back when I dumped that damned phone. I've now set rules on how I can be contacted. In an emergency, page me, but it damn well better be a real emergency. Other than that, send email, and I'll get back to you when I can. It feels so much better that way. When I had the phone, it seemed that I was on call to everone I knew constantly. Now it seems more like I'm in charge of my own time again. Dump your cell phones. You'll be surprised how much better you feel.
    • Nobody says you have to pick up all those calls. Put it on silent, and either ignore it altogether or only answer calls you want to via caller ID. Did you really feel like you HAD to answer EVERY call that came in to your cell? No wonder you didn't feel in charge of your time. Seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to give up your cell phone over an uncontrollable urge to answer every ring.

      Your world won't end without one, to be sure-- I have lived without one myself on and off. But it's certainly convenient to have it around. I just don't have the "talk to everyone" compulsion that it seems everyone has hardwired into their brains.

      This sounds awfully ranty. I don't mean this as a personal attack on you-- I'm just baffled by people who pick up every single call on their phones, but seem perfectly capable of saving email until later. And they seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. Caller ID and voicemail are fantastic. Let 'em wait until *you* have time.

      You CAN be connected 24/7 without giving up control of your life.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:02AM (#4697324)
    But what if I want a monkey with a cold?
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:04AM (#4697342) Homepage
    "We're sorry, all circuits are busy. Please try again at a later time."

    Because of this, I end up not using all the minutes I buy every month on my phone. Which means two things, I am not getting what I am paying for and T-Mobile is losing out on raping me on overage charges. So its a two way loss.

  • About 2 years ago, I had service with Airtouch (now Verizon?) and the service had gone to hell in the Phoenix area. I got so fed up that I switched to Sprint and called Airtouch and told them to cancel my service. They, of course, said that I had a contract. I spoke with a supervisor, who reminded me of the contract. I reminded him that the contract also required that they provide cellular phone service, and that they were not holding up their end of the bargain. He agreed (I think alot of people were dropping them at the time), and I terminated the contract with no penalty.

    Moral of the story: Talk to your provider, you might get satisfaction.
  • by rosewood ( 99925 ) <[rosewood] [at] [chat.ru]> on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:15AM (#4697463) Homepage Journal
    A little more then a month ago in the middle of a conversation, my Samsung SGH-Q105 went into emergency service only mode. Aparently AT&T had switched over to GSM in my area and all hell started to break loose. I was CONSTANTLY in Emergency Service ONLY mode with my phone and the phone for my second line (Samsung SGH-N105). Customer service from T-Mobile was crap. First they told me it was just maintence and would be done in a day or two. Then they told me it was a well known problem with those two samsung phones and it would be fixed in a day or two. Then it was a well known problem with no ETA on fixing. Through this whole time the people on the Customer Care line kept saying "We do not make gaurantees of service." Finally I couldnt wait for their bullshit so I took my phone into bestbuy where I have a 3 year service plan. I could not go back to the Q105s due to the problems on the network. So, I wanted to switch phones. This was a fucking headache too since T-Mobile refuses to formally admit that there is such a problem. Finally I went into a best buy at a different hour and just said that the phone drops calls and T-Mobile said get a new phone. So, I received the Samsung SGH-S105, the flagship of Tmobile phones currently. Guess fucking what. Even though I got the phone that the retail sales manager told me shouldnt be affected by this non documented problem, Emergency Service Only. On top of that, the box for the damn phone advertises that I can hook the phone to my PDA or Laptop and use it as a modem ... such a data cable has not been made by Samsung yet.

    Then, I go to Denver for the weekend. The whole time I am in the Denver area my second line (also in Denver with me with my Girlfriend) could not dial me.

    There is also the constant billing problems I have. Every month I have to take $2-$3 off my bill for text messages they charge me for. I have 350 and I use say 100 and they charge me for half of them! Then there is a problem where I call in and pay, and I never get charged yet they tell me I am late to pay!

    Also, 9 times out of 10, the Wireless Internet, or T-Zones they call it now, does not work. Bad gateway response, server unresponsive, etc. Im glad I do not use that for anything important.

    Voicestream and now T-Mobile are notorious for having phone manufactures issue special cippled firmware here in the USA. My Nokia was crippled and so is my S105.

    I will say this. I do have a great plan when it does work. Unlimited between my two lines. Unlimited weekends. 800 shared whenever minutes. No long distnace, no roaming, detailed billing. Also, for the internet stuff -- when it does work its by MB not by minute ... although Sprint's new unlimited plan is much cooler. Also the fact that my phone will work in damn near every country (tri mode GSM) is very cool.

    I realize that no matter who I go to, I am going to have issues. I had a friend with Sprint that would over bill him. His statement said X minutes and they billed him for Y and pointed to a clause that said the statement may not be accurate minute counts. Another friend was getting eronous charges with Cingular aka SwBell aka SBC who then turned off his phone line and internet for not paying a $2000 cellphone bill. My aunt has AT&T and she says half the times when she is in Wichita she can not get a signal. Another friend is on Verizon and said other then the shitty plan, he likes it.
  • by Razzious ( 313108 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:20AM (#4697506)
    Within the last 2 years, I have owed or heavily used all of the major Cellphone providers. Below is my thoughts on each. All companies SUCK if you go over your minutes! Oh and I travel about 40% of the time so I am basing it on Nationwide coverage.

    Sprint PCS: This is my current provider and I plan to keep it that way. Yes there are occasional places where the service skips, but a quick call using their VOICE COMMAND customer service gives me a credit minute, and away I go. Not to mention most of those places get fixed if you report the location to a SPRINT STORE. Not the phone customer service, but the actual SPRINT PCS store. Overall coverage is good in major metro areas. Have some of the BEST PHONES, and I have found often times the PHONE is the problem over the coverage area. However the new network they have does get hit heavily in rush hour.

    Cingular: Overall a decent company. I like the no extra charge for analog roam. I dislike their customer service. THeir Digital Network is a bit weak in the coverage area though based on how much I travel and see. Literally cross a street in Manhatten and lose coverage.

    Verizon: I would never use them now because of the "Can you hear me now" commercials. However when I used them, I found some cities had EXCEPTIONAL COVERAGE, yet others had HORRIBLE. Atlanta for one was HORRIBLE coverage for them. Their Customer service is an absolute JOKE IMHO. All in all would be near the bottom of my list of preferred companies.

    T Mobile: If you job requires connectivity, DO NOT USE THIS. Its great for some of the trinkits and features, however if you are traveling its a PAIN! When you lose a call its INSTA DROP, not the usual "you are breaking up" if you would hear static on another phone with TMOBILE you LOSE THE CALL. The customer is ALWAYS WRONG with them too.

    Nextel: Hard one to comment on. If you are in a city and use alot of intra company minutes this is the way to go. However if you are traveling about, their ROAM network can KILL YOU, and you need a credit card with you to use it.

    Bottom line is NONE of them are perfect. I think overall SPRINT is the best. However time will tell if that will remain. I personally take my phone in every 2 months for a software and network update. That has made alot of difference to my service and coverage area over the past year. Its a hassle but I DEPEND on my phone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:22AM (#4697521)
    I am a Radio Freqency (RF) engineer with a wireless carrier that shall remain unnamed. My responsibilities include designing new coverage, and optimizing existing coverage (fixing drops, planning for capacity, etc). I've been in the industry for several years, needless to say, I'm quite qualified to address this issue.

    There are a whole host of issues affecting network quality right now. I'll start with some history. Back in the late 90's wireless was hot. RF engineers were in incredible demand. Those that were good (and plenty who were not) became consultants making lots of money. Wireless carrier s couldn't get enough consultants to handle all the design and optimization work, and they still needed to hire their own in-house engineers. Obviously the relatively low salary positions with carriers didn't attract the best engineers who were making very handsome six figure salarys, but they did attract a lot of less qualified individuals.

    Enter the recent downturn. Wireless carriers (many of whom have never turned a profit due to the massive costs of the ongoing expansion of their networks, Verizon, Cingular and other cellular providers excepted) suddenly became unpopular. In an effort to become profitable / look good to Wall Street, they suddenly slammed on the brakes and stopped or dramatically slowed their builds. They also got rid of all the high-priced, very talented consultants, leaving only their staff engineers to handle the optimization and new design.

    In addition to getting rid of consultants, a lot of staff engineers have been cut as well. Those that are left don't have time to track down the obscure problems that arise in the complicated interactions between cell sites and phones that cause dropped calls (some are due to lack of coverage, but the vast majority of drops are due to the internal parameters that govern the behavior of the cells and phone not being tuned to provide the best service in a specific area. The phone needs to be told when to hand off, what to hand off too, and so on. Often the particular combination that will work for a user traveling on a certain road is unique to that road, and even the direction of travel. Each combination needs to be figured out, and then manually entered by an engineer.) Even when a problem is tracked down, money to fix problems is non-existant. The budgets reflect very specific priorities, and quality isn't nessesarily high up on the list (since it takes a long time for consumers to react negatively to poor network performance. They can't go anywhere else for years sometimes).

    Oh, one poster mentioned that his phone seems to have several 'bars' of coverage and then suddenly drops to none. There are a few reasons for this. The first, and most common is what is known as Rayleigh fading. Wireless connections experience very rapid, highly localized signal fades. You may have experienced this phenomena when listening to a radio station at a stoplight. It may be almost unlistenable until you creep forward a few feet, at which point it returns. Mobile phones are afflicted by the same problem. Providers use multiple antennas per sector on each cell site (known as diversity), to reduce this effect, but tough zoning laws often force us to use only one antenna per sector , which increases the freqency of this effect. (cross-slant polarization antennas can help in some situations, but not all, and certainly don't perform as well as dual antenna configurations)

    The rapid fading can also be a product of the way the phone displays the signal strenght. Some phones on CDMA networks (Samsungs in particular) do not display signal strength with their 'bars'. Instead, they show the signal to noise ratio. In a weak signal area with low interference, the phone will show a great signal to noise ratio when the signal is just above the receiver sensitivity threshold, but just a small change in signal strength can drop the signal below the threshold, at which point the signal becomes unusable.

  • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:26AM (#4697564) Homepage
    It will improve soon. We had a similar situation a few years ago in Europe.. you usually subscribe for a year and after that, you can cancel at any moment. And since you usually get a new phone with a new subscription, a lot of people switch after their subscription expires. Well, the tech savvy ones do anyway.

    Of course here in the Netherlands (a little larger than Delaware, 16 million people) you can choose between 5 providers and there's a regulation where they must provide you with the option of keeping the same cell number. If there's less competition where you live, you might be screwed.
  • by Goody ( 23843 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:27AM (#4697573) Journal
    Cell companies built like mad during the 90s. It wasn't about profits or revenue, it was all about capital expenditures and building out infrastructure (sound familiar ?). Now that it's time to pay investors back, cell companies are having to layoff engineering personnel left and right and have had to stop building capacity sites. It's not about quality and performance engineering anymore, it's about quantity.

    It also doesn't help that most cell companies have reached customer saturation in every market. Every last business person, drug dealer, soccer mom, and teenager has a phone. There's no more revenue out there in new sales, it's all goofy new services like being able to download pictures on your phone and other technocrap that no one really needs. And with the cutthroat pricing and marketing tactics going on it's going to get much worse before it gets better.
  • ob Verizon (Score:3, Funny)

    by bastion_xx ( 233612 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @12:01PM (#4697952)
    Hello, can you hear me now?

    Didn't think so.
  • wait a minute (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @12:41PM (#4698513) Homepage
    I thought this was NEWS for nerds? Since when has cell phone service in the USA not sucked?
  • by yalla ( 102708 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @12:51PM (#4698628) Homepage Journal
    Various new companies are trying to develop towers and other forms of transmission technologies that could handle such surges.

    Actually the number of calls in one cell is limitited to the availability of slots in the time-division of one frequency and the number of available frequencies near your location (not necessaririly your cell). And for other types of communication than voice, like SMS (runs over the signalling channel via the MAP protocol), is limited to the bandwidth of the signalling channel (C7, or A7 in the US).

    And regarding emergencies: In GSM-networks it is allways possible to put the network into emergency-mode. In emrgency mode only subscriber with a special flag in their subscriber entry in the database (Home Location Register) are allowed to place phonecalls. And 911 or other emergency calls allways kick one call out of the line when there isn't no more bandwidth. Fun for new years eve. Tell your friends to call 911 and hang up immediately. 30 friends bring 30 free lines for 30 friendly phonecalls ;-) (Don't do this at home, kids, GSM only)

    The point that the basestations and "towers" aren't powerful enough is just... Well, NYT :-)

    Ahh, how common is GSM in the US anyway? Is it as common than in the rest of the world or is it still just available in major cities and sourrounding areas? Just for comparison: GSM coverage in Germany is ~97% for all providers in the mean. What is it in the US or Canada? (Except deserts, mountains and other very remote areas)

    Alex.

  • by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @01:13PM (#4698885) Homepage Journal
    I have a Ken P. Prediction!

    In 1-2 years the cellular companies will ask for federal assistance to salvage the industry. They will receive more than 100 million dollars in assitance while the top 5 executives will pull down well over 100 million dollars collectivly in their pockets.

    God Bless companies like Qwest where they lay off thousands with no severance (And no warning) but the CEO when laid off walks away with 33 million.

    Head out to tsewq.com for details on that.
  • GSM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theolein ( 316044 ) on Monday November 18, 2002 @06:15PM (#4702063) Journal
    The rest of the world apart from Korea uses GSM. While many international telcos have huge debts because of the UMTS licence fiasco (the so called 3g services) there is a middle solution called GPRS which enables 48kbit/s and is now in common use in europe and MMS the multimedia equivalent of SMS, enabling people to send images, short videos and sounds to others instead of plain text is already being marketed like crazy and all new phones here in Europe now support this. SMS has been available for longer than I can remember here in Europe and MMS looks ready to improve on this with phones from Nokia and Ericsson already sporting digital cameras in them (and they are massively popular). Not only this but almost all phones in europe use the Symbian platform (apart from Orange's SPV-MS Smartphone- which looks ready to fail before it even begins). There are many providers that are already proving Java games and utilities that can be downloaded and installed on one's phone. The mobile phone has a completely different status in Europe, where there are many people such as myself who no longer (in fact for a couple of years now) have a fixed telephone because the mobile has become cheap and far more practical. You can take your phone anywhere you want in europe and it works with the same quality that you have at home, albeit paying higher rates in some cases due to roaming. Here in Switzerland, which is a very mountainous country the mobile coverage is around 95% of the country. Mobile phones, such as Nokia's communicator are doing things that PDA's were origionally sold for. The future of mobile phone technology in Europe is rosy, and the reason lies primarily behind the fact that there is ONE standard, agreed upon by all participants in Europe. The GSM/CDMA thing is becoming another PAL/NTSC thing where PAL took most of the world by storm due to it's better quality. I would go with GSM if possible in the states as that is where the the best services lie in the future.

    If you're ever in Europe go into a telco or mobile shop and give the phones a spin or let a sales person demo the stuff to you. You might be pleasantly surprised. Having one standard for all participants also has the added benefit of forcing the telco's in Europe to treat their customers better because they cannot lock them in, and one can switch to another telco if one is not happy.

"I've finally learned what `upward compatible' means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes." -- Dennie van Tassel

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