Attention Cellular Customers: It's Time To Speak Out! - InformationWeek

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Commentary
4/24/2007
12:10 PM
Elena Malykhina
Elena Malykhina
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Attention Cellular Customers: It's Time To Speak Out!

Most of us, if not all of us, use mobile devices whether it's a cell phone, a smartphone, or a Pocket PC. We all pay the monthly fees, the necessary taxes, and sometimes even those obscure charges that show up on our bills. We all deal with dropped calls, "dead zones," and lack of features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 3G. But it's time for us-the consumers-to speak out and confront the cellular carriers with our frustrations.

Most of us, if not all of us, use mobile devices whether it's a cell phone, a smartphone, or a Pocket PC. We all pay the monthly fees, the necessary taxes, and sometimes even those obscure charges that show up on our bills. We all deal with dropped calls, "dead zones," and lack of features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 3G. But it's time for us-the consumers-to speak out and confront the cellular carriers with our frustrations.Carriers crippling features like VoIP on mobile devices is one of the hottest issues in telecom. European carriers Vodafone and Orange reportedly admitted that they've disabled VoIP functionality from a range of Nokia's N95 mobile phones. Truphone, a provider of mobile Internet telephony, had received complaints from Orange and Vodafone customers that its software wouldn't work on N95 phones.

It's a practice that's preventing mass adoption of VoIP in the United States, since carriers are concerned about customers making free phone calls via Wi-Fi networks instead of cellular networks.

Like most issues, this particular one goes beyond just enabling VoIP on mobile devices. Truphone and other industry players argue that the bigger issue has to do with wireless net neutrality, which would prevent service providers from locking customers into specific products, services, or content. A recent paper by Columbia professor Tim Wu, explored the topic extensively. Wu argues that carriers block, cripple, modify, or make certain features difficult to use on mobile devices in order to control the design of the devices and how they're used by consumers.

But it's important that we hear from you and get your feedback on what your experience has been with cellular services and mobile devices...

- Have you purchased a cell phone or smartphone thinking that it had certain features (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Internet support, photo file transferring, etc.), but found that you were unable to use those features?

- Have you tried to download a mobile application to your device but it wouldn't work? (Sometimes the operating system is responsible, but sometimes a capability like VoIP or 3G is excluded from the device.)

- Have you had to go through various menus to find a feature (like a call timer) that you were looking for?

- Have you ever purchased a phone that was locked, meaning unable to work on other carriers' networks, and you didn't know how to unlock it? (AT&T Mobility, formerly Cingular, claims that many customers are unconcerned about a locked phone.)

These are all important questions that I cannot answer on my own. I need your help!

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