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NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Mobile phones are essential travel tools. Most air travelers are reluctant to turn off their cell phones before take-off and can’t wait to turn them back on when they land. Airport cell phone service is important to everyone involved.
Mobile phones are used for everything from voice calls to texting to popular travel tasks like making hotel reservations, finding ground transportation and much more.
That’s why, twice each year, the experts at RootMetrics survey the quality of mobile phone connections and data speed at the 50 busiest airports in the U.S., as provided by ATT(T), Sprint(S), T-Mobile(TMUS) and Verizon(VZ).
Covering the first half of 2015, the latest survey examines speed for uploads and downloads and considers the overall service quality travelers encounter. RootMetrics then ranks the 50 airports for cell phone service.
Cell phone coverage at New York City area airports ranks in the middle of the country’s busy airports for service. Newark Liberty International (EWR) scored 13th and John F. Kennedy International (JFK) came in 21st, with T-Mobile the top provider in both locations. LaGuardia (LGA) placed 38th, with ATT the top carrier there.
Here are the top 10 U.S. airports on the new list.
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL)
Atlanta’s airport offers the best cell phone services in the country.
According to the February 2015 survey, ATT was No. 1, with a composite score of 99.7. Verizon was close behind with a rating of 99.1. T-Mobile was also near the top with a score of 98.4. Sprint trailed the pack with 91.5.
When surveyed previously in September 2014, the Atlanta airport saw Verizon, T-Mobile and ATT sharing the top honors.
Want a wireless plan with unlimited voice and text and 5GB data for under $50? You can move to Manitoba or Saskatchewan — or, if you live in the rest of Canada, you can try the wireless “black market.”
Recent postings on Kijiji offer the cheap prices to residents of other provinces — for a fee.
“Tony,” whose ad is based in Toronto, offers to hook you up with a Koodo monthly plan with unlimited nationwide calling and 5GB of data for $48. That’s the price you’d pay in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, but the same plan costs $90 in the rest of Canada (including Alberta). For his services, Tony charges $100, paid once the service is working,
Meanwhile, someone named Kevin is offering a Fido plan for the same price and the same setup fee. “I can also get you a 416 number for extra $25,” he claims, referring to a popular Toronto area code. Both ads were active on Monday morning, but had been removed by Tuesday morning.
‘You know wireless pricing in Canada is messed up when there’s a black market emerging to provide people with better deals.’
- Peter Nowak, technology journalist
Tony says he uses “internal tools” like promo codes to help people in other provinces access cheaper cellphone plans advertised in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The practice was first flagged by freelance technology journalist and blogger Peter Nowak, who received a tip about Tony.
“You know wireless pricing in Canada is messed up when there’s a black market emerging to provide people with better deals,” Nowak, a former CBC journalist, wrote on his blog Alphabeatic earlier in July.
Pricing ‘out of whack’
In a phone interview, he said the purpose of the blog post was to “point out again that the pricing between the Prairies and the rest of Canada is just out of whack.”
The huge difference in pricing between Manitoba and Saskatchewan has led to animated discussions on online forums such as Red Flag Deals and Reddit about workarounds to access Manitoba and Saskatchewan plans outside those provinces, which typically involve changing your address.
Tony says he doesn’t change people’s addresses because “that would be fraud” — although he acknowledged that his service has been called fraud anyway. He himself refers to it as a “grey area.”
“But [cellphone companies] are screwing us over too,” he told CBC News in a phone interview. “They’re stealing money from us because it shouldn’t be this expensive.”
Tony wouldn’t say how many people he’s hooked up, but insists “it’s a lot,” stretching from the East Coast to British Columbia.
Nowak says the reason for the difference in pricing between Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada is the extra competition provided by local wireless carriers MTS and Sasktel.
“The big guys can afford to but they don’t extend that,” he said in a phone interview. “It just illustrates how much money they’re making in the rest of Canada.”
Telus ‘looking into the practice’
Telus, which owns Koodo, has a different explanation for the regional pricing differences. Spokesman Shawn Hall said in an email that the different pricing in Manitoba “reflects that Koodo is a new entrant without the same market and network advantages the provincial incumbent enjoys.”
He added that the company is “looking into the practice” advertised by people such as Tony.
And he warned that consumers should be wary of services that ask for customer account information “as that opens up the possibility of fraud.”
Rogers spokesman Kevin Spafford offered a similar warning and a similar explanation for the company’s different pricing in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“Our customers’ plans are based on their home address,” he said.
However, neither Rogers nor Telus indicated that they were taking any measures to target people like Tony or their customers.
Gerry Wall, president of Ottawa-based Wall Comunications, a company that studies cellphone plans for the CRTC, echoes that concern.
“You’re giving up on one hand in terms of security. You’re taking a chance,” said Wall, who calls ads like Tony’s a “grey market.”
Still, he says it’s no surprise people are looking for cheaper plans.
Wall says a small number of people using workarounds to access regional plans is unlikely to affect a market with 28 million wireless subscribers.
“If I’m Rogers or Bell, am I going to be worried about these types of resellers? Not now because I think it’s a very, very limited take up.”
He added that he doesn’t think cellphone plan prices will ever drop in Canada. Instead, he says, Canadians are more likely to see new uses for their wireless networks in the next few years.
“I think those new uses are going to be so valuable we’ll find ways to pay for them,” said Wall. ”And we won’t like it.”
‘National Broadband Plans: Deployment Models and their Effectiveness in
Improving Broadband Penetration,’ provides information on national
broadband plans and strategies of several countries across the globe.
The report also includes projections of growth trends of broadband
penetration and lines over 2014-2019 of different regions. It also has
charts depicting correlation between fixed-broadband penetration and GDP
per capital of several countries. The report includes forecast of mobile
broadband over 2010-2019 for the regions. The reports analyses trends in
all the regions separately with the help of 14 case studies. The regions
under study in this report are: Asia-Pacific, Latin America, North
America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa and
- Increasing number of countries are adopting national broadband plan or
a strategy as a tool to improve broadband infrastructure to stimulate
economic growth. The number of countries with a specific broadband
plan/strategy increased to 140 in 2014 from just 17 in 2005.
- Majority of the countries are experiencing growth of both fixed and
mobile broadband services. National broadband plans of developed
countries, which already have high broadband penetration, are targeting
on boosting the speed of broadband services while focus of emerging
countries are on improving coverage of broadband networks to eradicate
- Most of the countries, both developed and emerging, have selected
fibre-optic and LTE technologies as they support applications and
services that require high bandwidth and provide better quality.
- Governments in all the countries are actively participating to ensure
development of broadband infrastructure. In some countries, Governments
are supporting through providing funds and subsidies to telcos to
contribute to the cost of deployment, whereas in some countries,
Governments are supporting through modifications in policies and
spectrum allocation. Additionally, some countries like Australia and
India, which have a created a special entity, NBN Co in Australia and
BBNL in India, to deploy and manage the broadband infrastructure.
- Telcos are also investing heavily in deployment of network and
technologies that support high speed broadband services to extend
coverage and increase bandwidth.
- Proliferation of smartphones and increasing demand of services like
video-streaming, music etc. will force operators to invest in the
broadband networks to increase bandwidth and quality of services as well
as to handle increasing traffic.
For heavy data users who tend to hit their limits, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA have a new option to get you back up to speed.
Customers of the prepaid wireless services who exceed their monthly allotment of data have their connection dramatically slowed to 2G dial-up-like levels from their normal 3G or 4G speeds, which are more akin to traditional broadband. To remedy this, Boost and Virgin Mobile — which are both units of Sprint and provide no-contract plans — are offering the option to buy additional data.
An extra $5 will get you 1 gigabyte of data, while $10 will get you 2GB.
The amount of data smartphone users consume has gained more attention as people stream more movies and upload photos to each other. T-Mobile recently changed its family plan option to give each member 10GB of data, but took away an unlimited-data plan option. Sprint’s unlimited-data plan may see a price increase, and ATT is facing a $100 million fine by the FCC because of slowing down its customers’ grandfathered unlimited-data plans.
“Customers are hungry for more high-speed data, and with studies showing U.S. consumers’ monthly data consumption growing two-, three- and fourfold over the last three years, we’re giving customers the option to get more,” Doug Smith, product marketing director at Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, said in a statement.
This offering comes at a time where other prepaid wireless carriers like Metro PCS, a unit of T-Mobile, and Cricket Wireless, a unit of ATT, are bulking up their options.
Motorola is rapidly climbing up the smartphone market-share charts, and there are a few reasons why. According to the company, its bargain-priced Moto G is the best-selling smartphone in company history (the title of bestselling phone goes to the Razr, of course!). But beyond bargain prices, the Lenovo-owned company is gaining ground on Apple and Samsung because it actually listens to what people want.
Take the new Moto G and Moto X Pure Edition, which are made for two completely different types of buyers but share the same ethos. They ditch bloatware in favor of near-stock Lollipop and a few generally useful Moto add-ons thrown in. They’re being sold unlocked for decent prices, because people generally hate carrier contracts. They have decent battery life, good cameras, expandable storage, and customizable designs. And they are both destined to be very good, very popular, hot-selling phones.
“It seems like the name Pure Edition sort of embodies that,” says Jim Wicks, SVP Consumer Experience Design at Motorola. “There’s no bloatware, there’s no extra stuff on the back end that you get with carrier requirements. We just felt the name embodied the spirit of the product. People want battery life, they want a camera, they want clean, fast software, and that’s what we’ve been trying to drive. Let’s not bring in all those extra bells and whistles.”
Though it’s the cheapest phone in Motorola’s new lineup ($179 for an 8GB model, and it’s on sale today), the Moto G has the coolest trick: Open ports be damned, it’s fully submersible in water thanks to nanocoatings and internal water seals within its headphone and USB charging ports. Just as impressive, its 5-inch touchscreen reacts quickly and accurately even when it’s soaking wet.
“The nanocoating means that if water gets inside the device, it repels it, and it can drain out,” says Wicks. “We’re also sealing the phone on the inside so that consumers don’t have to deal with it. That’s very difficult to do. Other phones would use an external seal so the user would have to put in a grommet.”
In terms of speed and specs, the camera on the new G is impressive. Shots fire off quickly, and it has the same main 13-megapixel shooter as the Nexus 6. That kind of resolution seems problematic for a phone with just 8GB of internal storage, but rest assured that there’s a MicroSD slot in this thing just like the higher-end Pure Edition.
Although the Moto G’s 720p screen certainly looks less sharp than its upper-tier stablemate, it’s still very usable, and you probably won’t even notice the difference unless there are fancier phones nearby. There’s a new metallic accent on the back, but the phone itself feels lighter and more plasticky than most. Still, it is an incredible bargain: Near-stock Android, a nice camera, a waterproof body, expandable storage, and a solid 2,470 mAh battery that should last you all day, all for less than $200 (for the 8GB version) off-contract.
There’s a nice, pleasant weightiness to the Moto X Pure Edition.
Clear on the other side of the hand-feel spectrum is the Moto X Pure Edition ($399 unlocked for the 16GB model), the new flagship phone framed in metal and premium materials. Wake it up from sleep, and the thing that immediately hits you is how compact it feels in your hand despite its whopping 5.7-inch QHD display. This is for two reasons: It has less of a bezel than most phones so the front is practically all screen, and its edges feel skinny despite its curved back.
“We feel that the display-to-body ratio is very important,” Wicks explains. “It’s really near and dear to our design strategy. People gain a lot of value from a larger screen, but they don’t always feel comfortable holding it. For us, it’s about squeezing the borders and then taking all the fattest and biggest components—the battery, the imager, the flash—and put them right down the middle.”
The result is a phone with a curvy back that peaks in the middle, and there’s a nice, pleasant weightiness to it. To my hand, the volume controls and power button on the right edge of the phone felt like they jutted out a bit too much—and they’re kind of sharp—but I’d probably appreciate that while trying to operate it in my pocket.
Battery life and charging time is a huge draw. Motorola says you should easily get a full day out of its 3,000mAh battery, and the company also says the TurboPower charging is the fastest in the smartphone domain. The battery can take on a 34-percent charge in just 15 minutes.
That big, high-resolution screen looks predictably gorgeous, with tack-sharp detail on photos and text. Motorola also claims that the X Pure Edition’s 21-megapixel camera is the best in the premium smartphone class, citing a DxO Mark rating that puts it ahead of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It’s definitely fast. If anything, all those megapixels will give you a lot of room to zoom digitally and crop without affecting image quality, although they’ll also take up a lot of space on the phone.
Unlike the Moto G, the Moto X Pure Edition doesn’t have a removable back plate. It still has expandable storage, though: There’s a pop-out tray next to the headphone jack on the top of the phone that houses both the SIM card and the MicroSD slot. And, of course, you can customize that back plate through the Moto Maker site, with some great-looking options such as red, black, cognac, or natural Saffiano leather and bamboo, ebony, walnut, and charcoal ash wood.
You’ll have to wait until September to buy the higher-end Moto X Pure Edition, but it may be worth the wait. If you’re willing to be a little patient, rest assured it looks like it will be one of the best—if not the best—Android phones on the market.