Tag Archives: MetroPCS

Pre-Paid Cell Providers Offering More Data

More and cheaper data is coming your way. Pre-paid cell phone providers are boosting the amount of data you can get but not boosting the price. Right now the cellular phone service market is a brutal, cut throat game. New customers are hard to come by and new technologies, small providers and competition makes it hard to increase prices. Its just a tough business to be in right now.

U.S. Cellular is a regional provider of pre-paid cell phone service but even so, it is the fifth largest cell provider in the country. The company’s Simple Connect Prepaid $45 monthly plan boosts the available data from 1GB to to 3GB.  Their $60 monthly plan also gets a boost from 5GB to 6GB. The companyis also offering a new plan that is $75  a month that includes 12GB of high-speed data.

U.S. Cellular also offers the Ready Connect Prepaid plan. Only Walmart and Dollar General store sell these plans. Customers can pay $45 for 4GB, $55 for 8GB and a $75 plan than offers 12GB of high-speed data.  If you enroll for auto-pay you take off another $5 off the $45 and $55 monthly plans, or $10 off the $75 plan.

Cricket Wireless is also at the data boosting party. On January 27th Cricket boosted high-speed data allowances for several of its plans. The new plans offer customers with the basic $40 a month plan and the $60 a month plan data boosts to 3GB and 12GB. Thats only a half a gig for the $40 plan but 2 GB for the $60 plan.

Cricket is also going to retain an existing promotion that upped the data limit from 5GB to 8GB for its $50 a month. From now on 8GB will be Crickets’s standard at that price level. Like U.S. Cellular if you enroll in auto pay you save $5 a month.

For the record its not a concidence that two pre-paid phone companies are offering data increases at the same time. Its actually about timing. According to U.S. Cellular Vice President of Brand Management, “February and March are popular months for prepaid wireless purchases, so our updated plans provide an even better experience to our current customers as well as any consumers looking for a better prepaid deal.”

Cell phone service does not have to be expensive. But you have to shop around, know your needs and your budget. A smart consumer can get the phone and the service plan for the price they are looking for if they just do a little homework.

The website Android Police did a little leg work for you. They found that MetroPCS is the cheapest cell  carrier offering a $30 a month plan that comes with 1GB of data. The cheapest prepaid providers are T-Mobile and Boost. The carriers tied for the cheapest with $30/month plans. But here is the catch, T-Mobile doesn’t advertise the plan it some of the compnaies reps don’t even know it exists. Android Police also warns against buying any kind of family plan. Apparently you can save money by just getting the  individual planes with more data. Check out “The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans in America”

We know in this country there are the truly needy. And no one should be isolated from the world because they can’t pay a phone bill. SafeLink Wireless offers free cell phone service for those less fortunate.  User can get a phone and 500 minutes absolutely free and free text messaging.

Now you know.

T-Mobile to Pay for Misleading Customers

t-mobile-logoThe FCC has dropped the hammer on cell provider T-Mobile. T-Mobile USA Inc. agreed to cough up at least $48 million for making customers believe it offered a truly unlimited data plan. It was never true.

An FCC investigation that began last year  looked into whether the company properly disclosed that it was slowing down data speeds for heavy users. In the cell phone industry this is a common practice known as throttling.

As part of the agreement T-Mobile will pay a $7.5 million fine and offer $35.5 million in customer benefits that includes data upgrades and discounts on accessories. The giant cell provider will also spend another $5 million to improve mobile high-speed Internet access for as many as 80,000 low-income public school students.

Travis LeBlanc, head of the FCC Enforcement Bureau said, “Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called unlimited data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps and other material limitations.When broadband providers are accurate, honest and upfront in their ads and disclosures, consumers aren’t surprised and they get what they’ve paid for.”

The FCC enforced settlement applies to T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans but not its Binge On service.

According to the FCC it began investigating in March 2015 after T-Mobile and pre-paid service provider MetroPCS customers complained. T-mobile customers complained about being mislead by the so-called unlimited data plan. According to the FCC the plan throttled customer data speeds after a certain data threshold is used each month.

T-Mobile “de-prioritized” heavy users data speeds during times of network congestion. Unlimited plan subscribers who consumed more than 17 gigabytes of data in a given month, typically about  3% of its users, were subject to slower speeds than advertised.

The FCC found that T-Mobile failed to properly notify its customers of the restriction from August 2014 to June 12, 2015.  T-mobile has agreed to better inform its customers of the restrictions and notify customers when their data usage approaches the monthly limit at which it could be slowed.

For T-Mobile  customers they could get 20% off the regular price for any accessories up to $20 and an automatic upgrade of 4 gigabytes of data for one month, valued at $15 that can be used over the course of a year under its “data stash” program. MetroPCS customers automatically get the 4GB of data to use over two months. The company must also notify eligible customers of the benefits by Dec. 15.

In an effort to help bridge the digital divide T-Mobile has also agreed to spend an additional $5 million providing free tablets and other mobile devices to low-income public school districts. Beginning in October 2017 eligible schools will receive reduced-cost mobile broadband services for the devices. Students and their families will get the service at no cost. The program will enroll 20,000 students annually over four years.

Cops & Data Collection: No Warrant Needed for Location Data

It seems the cops don’t need a warrant to know where you are. A federal appeals court handed down a ruling on Tuesday declaring that the public has no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to their cell phone location records. The ruling means that police don’t need a search warrant to get access to cell tower location records when investigating criminal cases. Why?  According to the ruling this data belongs to a third party, the cell phone carrier.

The ruling in the case centered around Quartavious Davis, a Miami resident, who was convicted of robbery, possession of a firearm, and conspiracy in 2012.  Investigators obtained Davis’ cell phone records, 11,606 in all, for 67 days  from MetroPCS. Davis was eventually sentenced to 162 years in prison.

Davis’ case was appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The court disagreed in a 9-2 decision that the “government’s obtaining of a court order for the product of MetroPCS business records did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”  The ruling states that even though the cell tower records concerned Davis, they did not belong to him. The records were created by a third party, in this case MetroPCS, and therefore Davis did not have a right to privacy around that information.

The court’s ruling also argued that the public understands that cell towers are used to “connect calls, document charges, and assist in legitimate law-enforcement investigations.”  The public is aware that they can be tracked using their cell phones. The court argued that people have no reasonable right to expect privacy around those records. The ruling compared cell phone location records to store video surveillance tapes. “Those surveillance camera images show Davis at the precise location of the robbery, which is far more than MetroPCS’s cell tower location records show.”

Two judges dissented on the decision. They felt that the broad application of the “third-party doctrine” in the case could give the government grounds to greatly expand its searching capabilities without warrants in the future.

 

 

Cellphone Wars – It’s On!

The cellphone market is one of the most competitive technology service industries on earth. African-American customers need to be aware and take advantage of the cellphone wars.  You can get paid to switch from one service provider to another. Early cancellation fees be damned. You can get substantially reduced monthly bills, new phones for you and your family and get better deals on data, voice and text packages. You can even go no contract and be totally free of obligations. The war between phone companies is on and the customer is the prize.

sprint-logo-black_11699935Right now Sprint is going after competitor’s customer’s with a vengeance. Their latest move promises to cut new customer’s cellphone bills in half. In a recent press release Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said “It’s as simple as this: Bring Sprint your Verizon or AT&T bill along with your phone and we’ll cut your rate plan in half. That’s a 50% savings on your rate plan every month.”  And you don’t have to pay early cancellation fees either. Sprint will pay you $350 per line to switch services. The deal does not apply to T-Mobile customers.

Cellphone service providers have brought in customers before with some really cheap introductory rates that expire after a period of time. But Sprint’s offer is permanent making it that much more impressive. This is a valiant effort from Claure who has his work cut out for him as Sprint has lost customers for 11 straight quarters. Claure, a native Bolivian, is also reaching out to the Hispanic market for customers. And why not? Latinos are America’s fastest growing demographic.

t-mobile-logoT-Mobile is in the war for customers too and is offering its Contract Freedom plan that pays as much as $350 per line termination fees for customer to switch to their service.  On the data front T-Mobile is battling with its new Data Stash program. With this new data plan the customer can save the data they have paid for each month for up to a year and use it when they need it. Data Stash is included at no extra charge for every new and existing T-Mobile customer on an eligible Simple Choice plan with extra high-speed data for their smartphone or tablet.  The plan is a good idea for someone but no competition for the Sprint Unlimited Plan that includes unlimited voice, text and data.

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Verizon is not looking real aggressive either but they do have a dog in the fight. Verizon’s big selling point is its network. The company claims to have the only 4G network that is 100% LTE that covers more than 95% of Americans. The company is also dangling $150 to switch carriers but for a limited time only. Verizon is also offering unlimited text and talk time but only a sharable data plan with no rollover. The company’s family plan offers four phones and 10G of shareable data for $140. They also offer phones that act as Wi-Fi hotspots at no extra charge but you pay for the data you use.

My advice to anyone who is shopping for a data plan is to ask questions. The first question is; will my data be throttled? That is the practice of slowing down data transfer for people who use a lot of data or data hogs as the companies may call them. Some cell phone companies throttle customers they consider data hogs regardless of the plan they purchase. But if you really want to shop for unlimited cell phone plans there is a website that is built just for that purpose. Visit ConsumerReports.org  for a full unbiased comparison of all the available plans to choose from.

Sprint’s Claure maybe fighting for customers at the right time as T-Mobile was recently slammed by the FTC for billing customer’s cellphone bill for unauthorized services. A practice known as cramming. The charges amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. This news is sure to cause some defections for the Sprint deal. But T-Mobile reported a net gain of 2.1 million customers in the final quarter of 2014.

As part of the settlement T-Mobile will pay $90 million punishment for “mobile cramming.” That is, if the agreement is approved by a U.S. District Court. If so it would resolve an FTC lawsuit filed in July.

Most of the settlement  money, $67.5 million, will be refunds to consumers fraudulently charged after Jan. 1, 2010. T-Mobile will have to either provide direct payments to the customer or forgive an equal amount on their bills. T-Mobile has agreed, as part of the settlement, to get consumers’ “express informed consent” before placing third-party charges on their bills in the future, the FTC said.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said a statement, “Consumers should be able to trust that their mobile phone bills reflect the charges they authorized and nothing more.”

The T-Mobile settlement is just the most recent cell carrier to get hit for cramming. In an industry wide crackdown on wireless carriers for cramming AT&T agreed to pay $105 million to settle cramming charges. As a result of these settlements both companies could owe consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. In December Sprint was also hit with lawsuits filed by the FCC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over allowing similar charges.

AT&T, the second largest carrier in this war,  is fighting for customers, both its own and new ones. In February the company announced new price cuts for family plans and offered additional discounts for new customers. To retain its current customers AT&T is extending a one time $100 credit to customers who renew and on each new line they sign up for. Other weapons deployed by AT&T include its AT&T Next phone upgrade program that lets you pay for your new phone over time.  That is probably a good deal for the gadget hounds who need the latest phone on the market. AT&T also offers a base plan  that provides unlimited text and talk with 10GB of data service. AT&T  also jumped into the roll over data battle by introducing their own data rollover plan.

Everywhere you turn you can find ads for cell carriers describing what they can do and how much better they are than the other guy. And the pre-paid services are in the fight as well.

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Cricket pre-paid brand is arming up to aggressively fight for customers. The company offers up to $100 for switching although the offer is slightly deceptive. The fine print limits it to customers of other pre-paid service providers.

Cricket is ready to make quick adjustments to its rate plans to respond to competitive pressures. Cricket President Jennifer Van Buskirk was interviewed by FierceWireless.com and said that the company has opened hundreds of new stores in the three and a half months since offering new price plans, a new tagline and and a new store design. The company has also announced it will start selling its services, smartphones and accessories exclusively in more than 2,800 GameStop stores nationwide starting this past October. There’s just one problem with all that bluster from Cricket Wireless, the company is owned by AT&T. AT&T also offers GO Phone another no contract service provider.

consumer-cellular1Other pre-paid service providers are positioning themselves to attack particular market segments. For example Consumer Cellular is fighting for position in the market for senior cellphone users with an aggressive advertising campaign. Great Call is counter punching in the senior market with its Jitterbug cell phones designed for seniors with services such as health and safety experts with its 5-Star service plan.

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Fighting for customers means no one is going to be without a phone including low income and credit challenged customers. The combatants know that every market is worth fighting for.  AT&T owns two prepaid cellphone companies and Sprint owns VirginMobile and BoostMobile prepaid service. Tracfone  is throwing punches of its own and offering to let the new customer bring their own phone saving the expense of buying a new phone. But remember this is a war so AT&T and Verizon lets you bring your own device as well.

You can walk into any Wal-mart store and see the numerous prepaid cell offering from TracFone, Cricket, VirginMobile, MetroPCS, Straight Talk,  NET10 Wireless. But you can also check out Amazon.com and Walgreen’s stores. All these services are fighting for customers because the market has reached a saturation point. Everyone already has a cell phone. These companies have to answer the question; now what?