Monday, 30 March 2009

TruUnlimited flat rate calling plans from Truphone

Truphone has just announced new tariffs which deliver the flat rate unlimited calling plans that many of us have been waiting for. TruUnlimited offers flat rate calling for a fixed monthly fee. For £10 per month you get unlimited calls to landlines in 38 countries and for £25 you get unlimited calling to landlines and mobile phones in 64 countries. The landline tariff also includes calls to mobiles in the USA, Canada, China, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Geraldine Wilson, Truphone CEO, commented:
Many of our customers have asked us to help simplify their lives by providing the peace of mind that comes with the ability to make unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles and not have to worry about checking balances or fearing bill shock when they receive their statement.
Flat rate calling has for me been the missing piece in the Truphone line-up. Per call charging is fine for people who make a limited number of calls but flat rate calling is essential to get real benefit out of a telephony product. As you'd expect there are no contractual tie-ins with TruUnlimited and it can be cancelled at any time. It's also available to customers across all the handset platforms that Truphone support. Truphone appears to have decided against an in-country unlimited plan and gone with two simple tariffs that support their ethos of being the provider of choice for people with an 'international lifestyle'. As with all unlimited plans there will be a fair use policy.
Truphone's existing tariffs continue to be available alongside the new unlimited plans.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Mobile coverage - more important than tariffs?

Recently I switched mobile operators from 3 to Vodafone. In the past I tended to switch to take advantage of the most appropriate package for my usage. However this time the key driver was better coverage. I'm fed up with flaky (and seemingly getting worse) coverage from 3 in my house - despite promises of improvements. This location is flagged by 3 as 'excellent coverage' but of course that applies outside and in-building coverage is variable at best. I switched to Vodafone because I know it works well here and generally I haven't been disappointed so far. The only big coverage problem with Vodafone, as with all the operators, is coverage on railways. This is still terrible on the line I use, across all operators.
Real world coverage is for me a more important consideration than the specific tariff deal. The mobile operators all 'appear' to offer fairly similar coverage, certainly if their marketing is to be believed. However in reality there are huge differences, even in cities. The problem for consumers is that until you test the network coverage in your home or wherever coverage is important to you, you never know what the reality will be because operator coverage claims just can't be believed. Borrowing a friend's phone on your desired network, pre-purchase, is a absolute must but I think often overlooked.
It never ceases to amaze me how variable coverage still is, so many years after launch. I hope that the operator network infrastructure sharing deals will do something to address this but in this age of cost cutting I wonder ...
Just one request to Vodafone - please fix your online billing system. It's been broken for weeks and doesn't show accurate data.

Entertaining video about .tel from

Captures the essential simplicity of .tel

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Some thoughts on the Nokia E75

Those friendly people over at WOM World have loaned me the new Nokia E75. When I first saw this handset announced I thought - 'that's the one for me' - and I haven't been disappointed so far. The E75 form factor is excellent and the build quality, in common with other E Series devices, is reassuringly solid. I love the 'clunk' the keypad makes when it slides in and out. One feature that caught my eye is the ability to set an application to open when the keypad slides out. I've set mine to launch the web browser which, with as my homepage, means to browse Twitter I just slide open the keypad.

In order to slide in and out seamlessley the qwerty keypad needs to be completely flat. So whilst the keys are a reasonable size, they are not as tactile as my E63 and I miss the feel of the raised keys that I've got used to.

Would I buy a E75? Very tempting as I think I could overcome my hesitation about the qwerty keypad!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – To port or not to port, that is the question

This week’s (and final) post from Mobile Industry Review.
This week I thought I’d look at mobile number portability having experienced it twice in the past month. Both experiences were very different but both were frustrating in their own way. My wife ported her number from 3 to O2 and from a technical perspective the process went very smoothly. However getting a PAC code in the first place was a challenge as the customer service agents tried every delaying tactic possible (including providing misleading information) and even continued to call her after she’d ported her number to O2! My port from a minor T-Mobile MVNO to Vodafone was a technical disaster. Initially everything worked on Vodafone but after a few hours the number went out of service. I could make calls but inbound calls and SMS failed. Callers were greeted with a ‘you have dialled an incorrect number’ message. Because of the weekend it took four days to resolve the problem! The problem turned out to be a failure on T-Mobile’s part to correctly port all the number data to Vodafone and it required considerable effort from Vodafone to resolve the problem. Both the MVNO and T-Mobile claimed everything had been done correctly, which only served to delay the resolution of the issue.
Talking to people it’s interesting to hear how often porting goes wrong and it wasn’t until I started looking at it that I realised how deficient porting is in the UK compared to other countries. Uniquely in the UK we have donor led porting where the customer has to contact the donor operator to obtain authorisation to port. Elsewhere in Europe and worldwide recipient led porting is the norm where the customer contacts the receiving operator and asks them to port in their number. One of the problems with donor led porting is it can be anti-competitive as it allows the donor operator to use delaying tactics, such as my wife experienced. The other issue we have in the UK is that we don’t yet have a central database of numbers for routing. Ported numbers are still routed via the original network which is inefficient and users can experience problems if there is a network failure in the original network. In addition, in the UK porting still takes 2 days whereas elsewhere in the world it is much quicker; 20 minutes in Ireland, 3 minutes in Australia! Belatedly, Ofcom is keen to move to all-call query of a common database of numbers (ACQ/CDB) to improve the management and call routing for ported numbers. I spoke to Ofcom for an update on their plans but they were unable to provide any information on the future of mobile porting, apart from stating their commitment to a two hour porting timeframe from 1 September 2009. This is an area I’m going to be keeping an eye on because it could work so much better.
The changes afoot at Mobile Industry Review mean that this will be my last weekly piece here. Thank you to everyone who's read, commented and supported MIR. However I will continue to write about pertinent mobile issues, Normobs and the rest over at Sevendotzero, so don’t forget to check in there!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

SpinVox 1, iPhone Visual Voicemail 0

When Jo purchased her iPhone recently she automatically started using iPhone Visual Voicemail as the handset is set up to do this 'out of the box'. However after the first few messages she realised that while Visual Voicemail has a 'nice' iPhone style interface, it's missing that crucial ingredient - the message itself. As a SpinVox user on her old phone, she realised that Visual Voicemail is a triumph of Apple marketing over content. There's no substitute for actually seeing what your caller said and having the voicemail delivered to you as a text. Yes, it's nice to see who called but that only part of the story. So she's now a much happier iPhone/SpinVox user!

You can read more about SpinVox versus Visual Voicemail here.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A new future for Mobile Industry Review

As many of you will have read, Mobile Industry Review moves to a subscription based service from 27 March. Ewan MacLeod will continue to own and manage it, however the content will no longer be publicly available. A single company has bought all future output and will make it available for corporate subscription. Despite Ewan's efforts, funding the site via sponsorship and advertising never became a realistic option.

This is a great opportunity for Ewan to monetise his investment in MIR, however it's a sad time for MIR's many readers & contributors. I've been contributing to MIR for nearly a year now and really enjoyed the opportunity to comment on and share my thoughts about mobile issues and products. I've also met some great people including Ewan, James, Ben & Dan. I will miss being part of an authoritative but entertaining source of mobile news.

I will no longer be publishing my weekly 'Jonathan Jensen on Thursday' piece on MIR, although I aim to continue with something similar here at Sevendotzero. Plus who knows what else might happen in the future!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Mobile cost control for enterprises with Agito Networks

This week’s post from Mobile Industry Review.

Last week I met the team at Agito Networks to discuss their proposition for enterprise telephony. Agito was set up to address a number of issues in the enterprise mobile market. Poor in-building coverage is an issue for many businesses and has been exacerbated by the trend towards greener buildings which tend to use materials that impact radio propagation. Escalating mobile costs is an ongoing challenge for businesses; and mobile integration with PABXs, whilst saving money on calls to internal numbers, has had the effect of increasing overall spend for many businesses because users started using their mobiles for all calls. Communication has become increasingly complex, with multiple devices, and a strategy to simplify this improves the user experience as well as controls costs. However that simplification must combine the functionality of both the corporate desk phone and the mobile phone.
So how does Agito address these challenges? The Agito solution comes in two parts; the RoamAnywhere Mobility Router plus a handset client in the usual flavours – Nokia S60, Windows Mobile, with BlackBerry and iPhone due shortly. Agito’s goal is to keep calls on in-building WiFi when possible and it does this by using location context intelligence to determine when the handset should be using WiFi and when to fallback to cellular coverage. The location context intelligence ‘fingerprints’ the building access locations and combines this with cellsite triangulation to determine the handset’s location and optimise handover between WiFi and 3G/GSM. Hand-off between WiFi and 3G/GSM is achieved in a sub 100ms time frame and is therefore completely transparent to the user. The location awareness also enables optimisation of handset WiFi to maximise battery life – important as WiFi can be a mobile battery killer. In addition to corporate WiFi access points, the handset can use home or public hotspots when available. A neat example of the benefits of location context intelligence is switching on handset WiFi when you walk into your home. In order to optimise cost savings when out of WiFi coverage, the client will route defined call classes, for example international, via the office so they can be least cost routed to their destination. Whilst this all sounds great in theory it does work in practice; Agito has a number of existing deployments in the USA in both businesses and higher education.
What caught my attention with Agito is how they’ve used technology to deliver a simple, Normob friendly, user experience. Users continue to use their handsets as normal and the ‘clever stuff’ is completely transparent to the user. Agito took the view that their service had to deliver a user experience similar to the existing mobile user experience; meaning no additional complexity for the user and WiFi cellular hand-offs as seamless as regular cellular hand-offs. Users are not interested in the wireless technology behind their calls – the service has to just work.
Agito’s solution is a good example of using the best bits of different wireless technologies to deliver a service that addresses the shortcomings of each of the underlying wireless access methods.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Truphone; the first global operator?

This week’s post from Mobile Industry Review.
The item that caught my eye at Mobile World Congress was Truphone’s announcement of Truphone Local Anywhere. As a long time fan of Truphone I’m always interested to see what they’re planning next and this looked like the announcement that nailed the question about where their strategy is taking them. In one respect announcing a product that won’t be available to users for about six months might seem a little premature but Truphone’s intention was to stimulate interest from potential partner operators around the world; and talking to the Truphone guys it seems to have done that very successfully.
 So what is Truphone Local Anywhere and why has it got the potential to be a game changer? Truphone Local Anywhere will be a global virtual operator (MVNO) with its own HLR & IN (for the geeks) infrastructure, operating worldwide. Users can have local mobile numbers in all the countries they spend time in and make calls at local rates – not roaming rates. So for the first time one SIM allows you to use your phone worldwide, without being stiiffed for roaming, without having to stick another SIM in your phone and without expecting people to call you on international numbers. Truphone Local Anywhere also addresses a shortcoming of some travel SIMs by including data as well as voice and SMS.
 I asked Geraldine Wilson, Truphone CEO, about pricing and whilst no firm details have been announced yet, the intention is to price well below existing roaming rates and slightly above existing in-country tariffs. This is probably a good place to pitch it because Truphone needs local operator co‑operation to get the coverage footprint but needs to keep prices sufficiently competitive so travellers don’t bother switching SIMs. An intriguing feature I’m looking forward to seeing is the ability to change CLI depending where I am. I’m hoping this will allow the CLI to be changed depending who I’m calling. So if I call someone in the UK I’ll want them to see a +44 UK CLI but if they’re in the USA then they should see a +1 US CLI. Not sure if that’s the plan but Truphone, if you’re listening, that’s what I’m looking for!
 Truphone’s MWC presentation covered a number of scenarios where a single SIM would make life easier – airline pilot, family international business traveller, homes in more than one country, expatriates with family in the home country, people in the armed forces. The one that caught my eye is the airline pilot; my brother-in-law is a captain with one of Europe’s biggest airlines and therefore spends time in a vast array of countries. A Truphone Local Anywhere SIM would be perfect for him – definitely an early customer!
 The Truphone Local Anywhere announcement didn’t go into detail around service value-adds but I’d really like to see a tie-up with SpinVox to convert voice messages into text and deliver as SMS. This would be a significant enhancement to the current ‘traditional’ voicemail setup and crucially, make it easier for international travellers to pick up their voice messages. Number porting is also going to be key. Potential customers will need to be able to port in their existing mobile numbers to make the transition to Truphone as simple as possible.

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