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What would a Sprint-T-Mobile merger mean for Ting?

I don’t know.

But I’d hate to not acknowledge that this is a strong possibility and attempt to answer the question.

At the very best, it means a bigger, better carrier partner with more network (including both CDMA and GSM), more clout with manufacturers to get great devices sooner, more data and insight to help us understand the market and more backend functionality that we can pass along to our customers.

At the very worst, it means a change in attitude about wholesale (MVNOs, or front-end partners, like us). Although looking at these two organizations, that doesn’t seem likely.

As we’ve said, Sprint is enjoying tremendous growth in its wholesale unit. Sprint likes the margin they make on MVNOs. Sprint understands that a customer acquired by an MVNO is one that likely would have gone to Verizon or AT&T. Sprint regularly thanks us for our business and asks how they can help us do more.

T-Mobile is having a very similar experience with both innovative little partners like Solavei and Giv Mobile and retail giant partners like Walmart and Target. Wholesale fits perfectly with T-Mobile’s commitment to shake up the mobile industry and ultimately deliver greater value to customers.

A combined Sprint-T-Mobile would still be #3 behind Verizon and AT&T. There really isn’t any reason to believe that the new company wouldn’t still want us out there acquiring and saving customers for them.

But, again, back to my initial point, I don’t know. And many of you might have fresher, more objective perspectives than mine. So feel free to weigh in.

Meanwhile, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize for this.

 

Ting customers unaffected by Heartbleed

heartbleedTing was not affected by Heartbleed. Ting uses a different version of SSL than the one that was recently discovered to be vulnerable (OpenSSL).

We originally took the view that no news was good news and decided not to add our voice to the din. The thought was that affected sites should have the loudest voice as they communicate with their customers with important steps to take to protect themselves. This was the wrong approach and we apologize. We should have communicated right away that Ting customers would be unaffected by Heartbleed.

While you should change sensitive passwords regularly and always use password best practices, there is no action required for your Ting account to remain secure at this time.

Mashable has a great list of popular sites affected by Heartbleed. If you see a site you have an account with, be sure to check said site’s official communications to find out the best course of action. You can also check out heartbleed.com for all the gory details of this pervasive and potentially nasty bug.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere stole my 2012 brand strategy and my 1987 hair

You want to know what T-Mobile is going to say and do six months from now? Check out Ting six months ago.

Making Sense

Here’s Elliot launching Ting in February 2012:

“What people are forced to put up with from mobile service providers just doesn’t make sense. It’s too complicated, too opaque, too adversarial, too expensive and frankly too inhuman,’ said Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows. ‘We’re changing that. Ting is a mobile service that makes sense.”

Here’s John re-launching T-Mobile in March 2013:

“This is an industry filled with ridiculously confusing contracts, limits on how much data you can use or when you can upgrade, and monthly bills that make little sense. As America’s Un-carrier, we are changing all of that and bringing common sense to wireless.”

Device Subsidies

Here’s me rejecting device subsidies in February 2012:

“When you get a subsidized or heavily subsidized device from one of the major providers and sign a long-term contract, you are absolutely paying for that device. The price, plus a significant premium, is buried in your monthly service…Please do not believe that any business (particularly one that has to offset huge marketing and network operating expenses) would ever give you a device for free.”

Here’s John revising T-Mobile’s 10+ year policy of subsidizing devices in January 2013:

“You are paying every penny for their phones. You are not getting a $99 phone. Anyone who thinks they are, come with me into the back. While you’re handcuffed, they go into your pockets and they take your money.”

ETF Reimbursement

In February 2013, we made headlines by giving away $100,000 in Ting credits to pay off early termination fees (ETFs). In September 2013, we announced our permanent policy to reimburse 25% of ETFs in the form of Ting credits. Here’s Andrew Moore-Crispin outlining our rationale for that policy:

“Early termination fees suck.”

In January 2014, John announced that he would pay out ETFs in the form of T-Mobile credits. Here’s John’s clever twist on Andrew’s commentary:

“This industry blows.”

Fashion

Here’s me rocking shoulder length hair, a sweet tan and and a hot pink shirt in 1987.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 1.21.07 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come on, John, it’s been done.

Ting goes for three: Tri-Band LTE

Cell tower
An older cell tower riding off into the sunset. Thanks iStock!

EDIT: Updated to explicitly state that Ting Tri-Band LTE doesn’t come at an extra cost and to correct erroneous information about wave frequencies as they relate to capacity and travel.

We’ve talked at length previously about the fact that Ting customers get the self same cell service and access to network improvements at or at very nearly the same time as our network provider’s own retail customers.

Recently, another 70 LTE sites came online bringing the total to 300 sites.

The latest and most potentially impactful in a steady stream of major network improvements is Tri-Band LTE.

So what is Tri-Band LTE?

Tri-Band means LTE service offered on three distinct frequencies or “bands.” Each of the three bands (800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz) has its own unique benefits. By offering three bands together, any shortcomings of a single band are shored up by the strengths of the others. In other words, with three bands together, you get more reliable coverage, greater capacity and faster speeds in more places.

Lower frequency bands are able to cover a wide area and can penetrate building materials readily. However, they’re lacking when it comes to capacity.

Higher frequency bands offer great capacity but can’t travel as far or through obstructions like lower frequency bands can.

With the mid-range band in the mix, you get Tri-Band LTE that offers the broad coverage and material penetration of the lower band with the increased capacity of the high frequency band. Switching between bands is seamless and whichever frequency is strongest is the one your Tri-Band device will use.

Tri-Band rollout

Tri-Band LTE is available at no extra charge to Ting customers with a compatible device (more on those in a sec) in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Miami. As our network provider brings more Tri-Band capable towers online across the country, Ting customers will get access at the same time as said provider’s retail customers.

Tri-Band devices

Effective as soon as we hit the publish button on this blog post, we’ll also be putting our first Tri-Band capable devices online on the Ting devices page.

Tri-Band smartphones

The Nexus 5, which can be purchased direct from Google, is a Tri-Band capable device. If you get a Nexus 5 and a Ting SIM card, and if you’re in one of the aforementioned five Tri-Band locations, you’re set.

We’re also adding several new Tri-Band devices to the Ting lineup:

  • Samsung Galaxy Mega (black and white)
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (black and white)
  • LG G2 coming soon in both black and white.

Tri-Band data devices

Wholesale wireless would be a positive step for Canada

The Canadian government should mandate a wholesale regime as a first step to addressing the fact that Canadians pay the most expensive mobile phone rates in the world.

I spoke about this at length in a recent interview with Jesse Brown but a post last week by Peter Nowak entitled “Wholesale wireless not the answer for Canada” has spurred me to respond to a couple specific points.

Peter primarily lays out three reasons why “…the Canadian government shouldn’t be – and probably isn’t – thinking of wholesale service as a solution to what ails the country’s wireless market”. They are that MVNOs have “only” achieved 10% of the market in the US, that MVNOs “that do offer data are operating on carriers’ older, slower and even near-obsolete networks” and that mandated wholesale has failed in the fixed Internet access market in Canada with the implication clearly being why try it again.

He also specifically offers these arguments in response to Open Media (and so many more on Twitter) calling for us to be allowed access in order to bring Ting to Canada.

First, “only” 10%. The share of MVNOs actually continues to grow from there, as all the articles about the MVNO renaissance in the US detail. More importantly, while the postpaid market in the US is flat, the prepaid market is showing significant growth (and most MVNOs, Ting included, are considered prepaid even though it really means “no phone subsidy”).

Also, the benefits that MVNOs bring to consumers go way beyond the market share those MVNOs manage to capture themselves. It is important to look at the changes the incumbents are forced to make in response to those MVNOs (and 10% is plenty to force change). In the US, MVNOs like Ting started challenging conventions like subsidized devices and contracts, overpriced unlimited and plans that dictate fixed levels of voice, data and text. T-Mobile took those messages and added several million in advertising spend. Now, Verizon and AT&T (60% of the market) are scrambling to respond with new plans and the average cellphone bill is undoubtedly coming down.

Of course slower networks and worse phone selection makes for lower market share. Except, Ting, and most of the newer MVNOs talked about in the MVNO renaissance, offer the most modern data networks and a great selection of high-end smartphones. LTE? Check. Galaxy S4? Check. Note 3? Check. Nexus 5? Check. iPhone? Only the 4 and 4S (you got us there Peter). In fact there is no doubt that our percentage of smartphone users far exceeds any of the big three in Canada (of course this is because we are newer). The whole argument about networks and smartphones seems like a straw man he builds up to be torn down. It is both factually incorrect and not relevant when talking about either Ting or Open Media’s asks.

Finally, perhaps the most bothersome argument, that mandated wholesale has failed in the fixed access market in Canada. The fact is that what has happened in fixed access is that the government has failed to enforce mandated third party access and that the incumbents have done everything in their power to thwart it. Third-party access to the cable plant was mandated by the CRTC in 1996. The cablecos were able to deny that access until 2012. Sixteen years!

If Peter’s point is that we should not bother with mandated wholesale access because the government will never be able to enforce it and/or the incumbents will always be able to avoid enforcement then I may have to sadly agree. But if Peter’s argument is that it hasn’t worked because it is the wrong strategy then he is simply wrong on the facts. We have seen a terrible failure in execution of an absolutely appropriate strategy (and here my heart goes out to Teksavvy and all the others who have fought and are fighting this good fight).

If the government took the resources they are spending on television ads telling us about how they want fairness in the mobile phone market and spent it on effectively executing a mandated wholesale regime, then Canadians would have real change. In places where this has been executed well, like the UK or Israel, users have immediately enjoyed lower prices and higher levels of service. Then perhaps in a short time “only” 3 million (or 10% of) Canadians would be enjoying the savings and actually dealing with a phone company that cares about them. And shortly thereafter 5 million. And…..

FOOTNOTE: There is one other note. In no way do I allege bias (truly I don’t), but the lack of disclosure of conflict bothers me. From Peter’s bio:

“In November 2010, Peter embarked on a freelance career and to work on his next book. He is a syndicated blogger for Macleans magazine, Canada’s news weekly, and Canadian Business magazine, as well as a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post. He also contributes to MSN, CBC and New Scientist magazine.”

Macleans and Canadian Business are owned by Rogers and the Globe and Mail is owned by Bell. There, fixed.

Frequently asked questions about Ting and the government shutdown

As we all start to digest the possible near and long term effects of the government shutdown, a lot of people are understandably asking, “How does all this affect my Ting service?!” In an effort to avoid widespread panic, we thought it might be a good idea to address a few of the likeliest questions.

Where is Ting located? The Grand Canyon? Statue of Liberty?

No. In fact, over the past twelve hours, we have moved our entire operation to Toronto, Canada to avoid any impact at all on our employees and customers. The people here are very nice and real estate is relatively…wait, I’m being told now that we’ve always been in Toronto, Canada. Boom! We were way out ahead on that one.

Is Ting reconsidering its promise to “make sense” now that the whole concept of making sense has been rejected at such high levels of the federal government?

We have indeed done a lot of soul searching and a lot of brainstorming. There was some momentum late last night behind “Mobile that holds its constituents hostage unless it gets exactly what it wants.” A small faction here favored “Mobile that earns your trust to do an important job and then simply doesn’t do it.” For now, we are going to stick with “Mobile that makes sense” mostly because it fits so cleanly into our top nav.

Does the shutdown mean that all currently held contracts with other carriers are now null and void?!

Settle down, people. This is a brief display of political gamesmanship, not a biblical event. If you want to get out of your contract, you will likely need to pay an early termination fee (ETF). However, we can help by reimbursing you 25% of your ETF up to $75 per device in the form of a Ting service credit. (See what I did there?)

Will Ting service still be available to military personnel, postal workers and the elderly?

Absolutely. We love all those guys. And just this week, we have also extended service to forest rangers, jugglers and comic book villains, making us the only truly universal affordable mobile phone service.

Can Ting do anything to help with the rising cost of healthcare?

I’ll tell you what. Call us at 1 855 TING FTW and cough into the phone. We’ll do our best to diagnose you for free.