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Solving A Cellular Signal Problem

Wilson Electronics zBoostMy wife’s family is from Thorndale, TX. Bert, her oldest brother, lives at the family’s homestead. In his late 60’s Bert recently got his first cell phone. It’s as pretty basic flip-phone. It’s exactly what he needs. However, he’s having trouble receiving calls when he’s in the house.

The rear portion of the old house has a steel roof. That’s also where Bert’s bedroom is located. As far as I know the cellular signal is ok in the yard, and even in the front portion of the house. But if Bert is in the rear of the house his cell phone loses it’s connection to the nearest tower.

Bert’s cell service is a prepaid account. I don’t know what company provides the service, but Googling for the phone number I see it belongs to Cingular. That suggests that the service provider is using AT&T’s network. This tells us what kind of network it uses (GSM) and the frequencies involved.

A week ago I tweeted an inquiry about cellular signal boosters. Rakesh Agrawal replied, telling of a good experience with Wilson Electronics Wi-Ex signal boosters. Apparently Rakesh’s company, Snapstream, had cellular connectivity issues in their former location. He described that building as a metal box.

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AT&T Bids to Buy T-Mobile

Over this weekend AT&T got hungry. To address it’s desire for a snack it has bid a staggering $39 billion to acquire T-Mobile USA. There’s a ton of analysis and commentary about this appearing online. Anyone who is not working for the two companies seems to think that this deal is bad for customers. That’s my position as well.

I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for the past five years. I’ve been consistently impressed with the companies customer service ethic. They didn’t always have the best handsets, or the best coverage, but they handled me in a manner that made me feel good about doing business with them.

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Advantage GSM Carriers: Simultaneous Voice & Data

Now that Verizon Wireless is getting traction with the iPhone 4 on their CDMA network AT&T is left trying to find ways of differentiating itself. While it’s too early to know how much of a bloodletting AT&T will suffer, it’s clear that in many parts of the country Verizon’s much touted network supremacy will win over a significant number of frustrated AT&T customers, even if it means buying a new CDMA capable iPhone4.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two carriers is the type of networks they operate. Networks based upon GSM standards, like AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US, allow the simultaneous use of voice and data. In marked contrast, CDMA networks like Verizon’s, simply don’t do this.

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One Month Emboldened By The Blackberry 9700

blackberry-bold-9700-2As opposed to elsewhere, where I do in depth reviews of certain devices, this is a little mini-review that reflects the experience of my first month carrying the new Blackberry 9700, aka the Bold2. If you’re looking for a more general overview of the device I suggest Crackberry.com’s review.

In the weeks just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday my 3 year old Blackberry 8100 was failing. The mechanical trackball from which the models “Pearl” nickname was derived was simply failing. I cleaned it a couple of times but each time it would again become unresponsive after just a few days. It’s time had come.

I wasn’t settled upon another Blackberry as it’s replacement. I had been happy with the handset for a long time, but felt that a full keyboard would better meet my needs moving forward.

Further, while I was interested  in Android powered phones, I wasn’t willing to change carriers based solely on hardware availability. I’m basically happy with T-Mobile. I wasn’t about to move to Verizon Wireless just to get access to a Motorola Droid.

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An Unexepected Benefit Of My SIP-to-Cellular Gateway

blackberry-bold-9700-2It’s been a while since I installed the little Portech MV-370 GSM gateway. It sits in the office IT stack and does what it does. When I’m traveling it lets me call home using my unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes. It also backs up our IP-based home & office phones. If both the Comcast Cable modem and Covad DSL are out the we can route calls out via T-Mobile.

The Gigaset cordless phones support enough accounts that this is easy, just add #6 to the number to specify dial using the GSM trunk. The GSM gateway is the 6th account on the Gigasets. We don’t even need a local Asterisk system to make it possible.

Remembering back to the installation of the GSM gateway, I converted my T-Mobile account from an individual plan to a family plan, with the gateway device becoming the second line on the account. I dropped my number of minutes but the monthly carrying cost was the same. It seems like a good idea since the use of mobile-to-mobile minutes to call home was going to reduce my need for minutes in the end.

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