Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Countdown to CDMArmageggon

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For those who haven't made the upgrade to a modern smartphone, hanging on to their old trusty flip phones may have to upgrade or lose the service they have by this time next year.  Subscribers on Bell, Telus, MTS, and Sasktel who are using phones made before 2009 running on CDMA networks will have to upgrade to more modern phones or lose service.  Like analog cellular networks just a few years ago these Canadian cellular carriers are going to shut down CDMA service on December, 31, 2015.  

Carriers maintain that the increasing cost of maintaining CDMA networks for a decreasing number of subscribers is not financially viable.  While the cost operating CDMA networks is increasing while the revenue that supports it is evaporating it is the radio frequency spectrum that CDMA networks are using is the real valuable commodity that carriers need to repurpose for their modern HSPA and LTE networks.  

To find out if your phone will lose service at the end of 2015 turn it off and open the battery compartment remove the battery.  On the label with the barcodes and long numbers if one of those long numbers is labelled ESN then you have a CDMA phone that will need to be replaced.  

Cellular subscribers who are keeping an old phone probably doing for a number of reasons.  Those who are just using the cellphones just for making phone calls and maybe basic texting can get a feature phone for use with modern HSPA networks.  Others holding onto old handsets are doing it to hold onto an older cellular plan that give more or charge less.  Cellular carriers are going to unwilling to upgrade hardware leaving an older plan in place.  If this case the solution is to buy an off the shelf prepaid cell phone and ask the cellular carrier to transfer service to the purchased prepaid phone.  

Some especially in rural areas are often hanging onto those old cell phones get service where newer phones do not.   Current CDMA uses the 850 MHz band which is best for rural areas because the signals travel farther than higher frequency bands.  When CDMA gets shut down the newer network technologies will take over 850 MHz band the performance of HSPA and LTE will match today's CDMA phones get today in rural areas.  

American visitors to Canada on Verizon or Sprint will need to know after December, 31, 2015 their phones that use CDMA for voice calls will no longer functional, however LTE data service will be available.  Sprint and Verizon subscribers with compatible phones that have dual CDMA/GSM voice radio hardware will have to their Verizon or Sprint to get a SIM card that will enable voice roaming on Canada's HSPA networks.  

The end of CDMA service may just seem like a cash grab for cellular carriers but it's just like other transitions in technology.  In order to advance to what is new it means letting go of what's old.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Canadians Are Going To Have Wait For Apple Pay

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One of the features generating interest in the iPhone 6 Apple recently announced is the NFC based payment system called Apple Pay.  Customers will have the ability to store their credit card(s) on their iPhone and just tap their iPhone on the terminal at the till in any retail store or restaurant to pay for a purchase or meal.  

For us North of the 49th parallel we will have to wait for Apple Pay much like other goodies in the Apple ecosystem.  Launching Apple Pay in Canada will take an agreement between Apple and Canada's banks but will also require Canada's retailers and restaurants to install NFC enabled payment terminals who that haven't done so already.  These retailers and restaurants are still paying for the upgrade to chip and pin payment terminals about half a decade ago.  

Anybody wondering about Apple Pay coming to Canada will have to ask about Canada's Goliath in payment processing, Interac debit.  The answer depend on if the banks demand adding Interac support to Apple Pay.  Using Interac with Apple Pay in uncertain because the banks make more from credit cards than from debit card usage.  

Canadians are familiar with tap and go payment from credit and debit cards that NFC technology brings.  With the large number of NFC payment terminals already installed in retail stores and restaurants across Canada it will prove to be fertile ground for Apple Pay.  If Apple can get the banks to agree to let in Apple Pay it will be one of the best opportunities to sell the iPhone 6 in Canada better than any new generation. of iPhones ever before seen.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone In Canada, When and With Who

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Yet another smart phone platform launched yesterday (June 18th) with a press announcement on par with Apple or Samsung.  Amazon's Jeff Bezos announced the Fire Phone.  Pre orders have already started the official launch date is July 25th.  Amazon's Fire Phone will be launching just in the United States and only available on AT&T.   

This hasn't stopped many this side of the 49th parallel looking for an alternative to the androiPhones that occupy ninety percent of the smartphone market from wondering when the Fire Phone will launch in Canada and if only one carrier will be able to offer the Fire Phone which one will it be?  

Answering these questions will come later rather than sooner unfortunately.  Amazon's digital products such as streamed music, movies and TV shows are not available in Canada due to intellectual rights issues.  It would make no sense to sell the phone if the content is not available.

If it is the intention to keep the Fire Phone on one carrier only per country like Apple did during the early life of the iPhone then it could make for interesting wagering. Rogers would be the the most likely candidate.  Canada's most popular cellular carrier was also the first with the iPhone and Android.  

Bell can't be counted out, they were the only carrier to snag the Palm Pre, we all know how that turned out but they were carrier that was willing to take a chance on a new smartphone platform.  

There is a chance although a slim one that one of Canada's newer regional cell carriers such as Mobilicity or Wind Mobile will pick up the Fire Phone to finally vault one of the struggling carriers over the one million mark, but for Amazon thy would need an agreement with a national carrier if they are to have any chance at success in the market that Apple and Google already dominate.  

Despite the growth of the smartphone industry in the past decade it has been unable to support more than two platforms.  Prior to the introduction of the iPhone Blackberry and to a lesser extent Windows Mobile were the two big dogs in the pound.  In the early going after iPhone hit the scene, Blackberry went to second place and Windows Mobile became road kill.  Then after the rise of Android, it was Blackberry that became left over kibble in the food bowl.  

Amazon will have to deliver something nothing short of spectacular just to be a viable competitor to iPhone and Android. To get to that point in Canada Amazon will have to get all their digital content products into the Canadian as soon as possible.