Security abstract

Google Voice Call Forwarding And Security

Google Voice makes it easy for users to forward calls and texts from a Google Voice number to other phone numbers. It’s a great feature, but Google Voice users should be sure to disable forwarding on any numbers they don’t maintain possession of.

If you cancel service for a phone line and don’t port the number to another carrier, the inactive number can eventually be reassigned to another person. If someone else is assigned your old number and forwarding is still enabled, Google Voice will forward text and calls to the new owner of the number. Beyond the security and privacy vulnerabilities this presents, it can be a nuisance. The new owner of a phone number may get unwanted calls and texts. The prior owner of a phone number may miss calls—if a Google Voice call connects on a forwarding line, the same call can’t be picked up from the Google Voice app (or on other lines that calls are forwarded to).

In an ideal world, Google Voice would scan a database of phone numbers that recently turned inactive. With that information, Google could automatically stop forwarding anything to the numbers found in the database. Unfortunately, I don’t think the kind of database I’m imagining is available at this time.

Beyond Google Voice, phone number reassignment causes a slew of underappreciated security issues. I don’t think most people consider that numbers they stop using can eventually be picked up by someone else.

Image representing the idea of spam

Hello Mobile Spam

I’ve never used the Hello Mobile myself, but I’ve heard plenty of negative things about the carrier. Given how small Hello Mobile’s subscriber base is, the volume of negative reports is shocking. I like how a user in Reddit’s NoContract community, ruben3232, put it:

If there’s been an MVNO that’s had awful ‘reviews’ posted to the sub, it’s been Hello Mobile.

Today, I figured I’d post my own negative report. Hello Mobile seems to be using spam comments to promote the brand. Here’s a screenshot of two pending comments left on Coverage Critic:

Hello Mobile spam comments

I can’t be sure a Hello Mobile staff member (or a promoter hired by Hello Mobile) placed the comments, but I strongly suspect as much. While a competitor could be spamming to tarnish Hello Mobile’s reputation, I don’t find that plausible. Hello Mobile is a very small fish in the cellular market. Competing carriers have better ways to spend their time.

Telecom abstract

Verizon Expands 5G Coverage

Today, Verizon announced expansions of its 5G coverage.

More low-band 5G coverage

Verizon’s low-band 5G, 5G Nationwide in Verizon’s parlance, now covers about 25 million additional people. Here’s an excerpt from Verizon’s press release:

Verizon announced continued expansion of its 5G Nationwide service to millions more customers throughout Central Texas, Tulsa, OK, Upstate New York, and the New England area, bringing the total to 230 million people able to access Verizon’s 5G capabilities and benefits in over 2,700 cities.

New millimeter wave cities

Verizon added millimeter wave 5G to parts of four additional cities:

  • Tampa
  • St. Petersburg
  • Albuquerque
  • Durham

The additions bring the total number of cities with some millimeter wave coverage from Verizon to 61.

Verizon is also claiming to have millimeter wave coverage in parts of 48 stadiums. I’m not sure which stadiums Verizon added, but I believe Verizon’s count of stadiums increased by 5 since the company last shared a number publicly.

Carrier aggregation

Verizon’s press release included some boasting about the network operator’s carrier aggregation capabilities:

Using advanced technology called Carrier Aggregation, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network is reaching 4 Gbps peak speeds in some locations. This technology combines multiple channels of spectrum to provide greater efficiency for data sessions transmitting over the wireless network. Verizon combined eight separate channels of mmWave spectrum to achieve multi-gigabit speeds in parts of some cities. Using this technology, customers can see double the download speeds they have historically experienced on 5G Ultra Wideband, with peak speeds up to 4 Gbps possible in some locations. Customers will also see a boost in speeds with two carrier aggregation now available for uploads.

You can check Verizon’s 5G coverage at your location with the company’s interactive coverage map. For more details about Verizon’s 5G coverage and strategy, see my dedicated article.

Rocket launching

US Mobile Updates Its Low-Cost Plans

US Mobile, an MVNO that offers service over Verizon and T-Mobile’s networks, just updated two of it’s low-cost plans:

  • $15 per month: Unlimited minutes and texts with 3.5GB of data each month
  • $30 per month: Unlimited minutes and texts with 30GB of data each month

Before today, US Mobile’s low-cost plans still offered good value but came with less data. The $15 per month plan previously came with 2.5GB of data each month, and the $30 per month plan came with 10GB of data.

Customers signing up for US Mobile will have to opt for either Verizon’s network (“Super LTE” in US Mobile’s parlance) or T-Mobile’s network (“GSM LTE”). While the plans are a good deal on either network, the Super LTE options running over Verizon’s network strike me as some of the best deals on the market right now.

Potential subscribers should know that US Mobile’s fees tend to be higher than fees charged by similarly priced carriers. The final cost of US Mobile’s 3.5GB and 30GB plans will usually come out about $5 per month higher than the plans’ base prices.1

You can find more information about the updated plans on US Mobile’s website.

Snowflakes

Tello’s Holiday Promotion

Tello is running a holiday promotion until December 22. New customers that purchase Tello’s plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 4GB of data each month can get the first three months of service for only $10 per month. After the three-month promotional period, the plan will go back to Tello’s usual price of $19 per month.

Even without the promotion, Tello’s rates are awfully good. However, it’s an odd moment to make the switch to Tello. At the moment, the carrier operates over Sprint’s network. Thanks to the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, Tello will soon transition to operating over T-Mobile’s network. While the network migration will lead to substantially better coverage for Tello subscribers, the migration may be a bit of a hassle for subscribers transitioning between networks.

People who are interested in Tello and budget-sensitive may want to go ahead and switch to the carrier while the promotion is running. Less budget-sensitive consumers may want to prioritize convenience and wait until Tello has started migrating to T-Mobile’s network before making a switch.

T-Mobile Launches Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 & New Hotspot Plans

Last week, T-Mobile announced new mobile hotspot plans and the release of the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000.

Inseego 5G MiFi M2000

The Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 is T-mobile’s fanciest hotspot, and I believe the company’s first 5G-capable hotspot. The device supports both 4G service and sub-6 5G service. It does not support millimeter wave 5G, but that may be unimportant for now since T-Mobile’s millimeter wave coverage is extremely limited.

The hotspot has a base price of $336 (or 24 monthly installments of $14). With a promotion T-Mobile is running, customers that add a new line and purchase the device on a 24-month installment plan can get the M2000 for 50% off ($168 paid in $7 per month installments).

While I haven’t got my hands on the M2000 yet, I have been testing a very similar model offered by Verizon, the M2100, and I’m impressed.

New mobile hotspot plans

With the release of the M2000, T-Mobile also launched a handful of new plans for mobile hotspot devices. Most notably, a plan with a 100GB monthly allotment costs only $50 per month. Well-priced plans with 10GB and 30GB monthly data allotments are also available. T-Mobile shared this graphic in its press release:

Image detailing T-Mobile's new hotspot plans

While T-Mobile’s new offerings are excellent, the graphic represents T-Mobile’s competition unfairly. AT&T and Verizon don’t always offer plans with the data allotments shown in the graphic. To show prices competitors charge in these cases, T-Mobile slyly includes competitor’s overage charges. Additionally, T-Mobile doesn’t mention Verizon’s add-on hotspot plans. Verizon’s add-on plans are available to a substantial portion of the carrier’s subscribers, and the plans offer good value: 15GB for $20 per month or 30GB for $30 per month.1

5G city image

Visible Rolling Out 5G For iPhones

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, has just started rolling out 5G service. Yesterday, a Reddit user posted a screenshot showing an iPhone running over Visible’s service with a 5G connection.

At this time, it looks like Visible’s 5G service is only available to customers with devices in the iPhone 12 line that are running iOS 14.3. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A on Visible’s website:

You’ll need the most up-to-date iOS software and carrier bundle for your device before you can experience 5G. Remember, we only offer 5G on iPhone 12 at the moment, and you’ll need to be in a 5G area to experience 5G.

It looks like Visible has updated its coverage map to show areas where 5G is available. As expected, Visible’s 5G coverage looks essentially identical to Verizon’s 5G coverage.

Now that Visible’s 5G has launched for iPhones, I don’t think it will be long before the carrier launches 5G service for some Android devices.

Cellular tower

Teltik Rumored To Be Transitioning To An MVNO Model

The business line reseller Teltik may be transitioning to a more conventional structure as an MVNO.

Earlier today, a Reddit user shared a transcript from a conversation with a Teltik support agent. The agent suggested that a migration is underway and that Teltik will accept new customers in a few weeks. Based on what the support agent said, it looks like Teltik will continue to run over T-Mobile’s network but will transition to a traditional MVNO model. Some perks Teltik used to offer, like international data access and T-Mobile Tuesdays, will not be available under the new setup.

If the MVNO transition goes through, Teltik will likely adjust the structure and pricing of its plans. Given all the recent issues, I think it’s time for Teltik subscribers to jump ship. T-Mobile Connect and Mint Mobile may be great alternatives to Teltik.

T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G

In a press release shared yesterday, T-Mobile started referring to some of its 5G services as Ultra Capacity 5G. We’ve seen this kind of branding move before. Verizon calls its 5G service using low-frequency signals 5G Nationwide and its millimeter wave service 5G Ultra Wideband. AT&T calls its millimeter wave service 5G+.

T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G will typically deliver excellent speeds, but it isn’t well-suited for extensive coverage. Ultra Capacity 5G stands in contrast with T-Mobile’s low-frequency 5G, which T-Mobile is branding as “Extended Range 5G.” T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G has better coverage potential than Ultra Capacity 5G, but Extended Range 5G will tend to deliver slower speeds.

I expect T-Mobile intentionally copied the word “ultra” from Verizon’s term 5G Ultra Wideband. While Verizon reserves the phrase Ultra Wideband for millimeter wave 5G, T-Mobile is using Ultra Capacity to refer to both mid-band and millimeter wave 5G.1 I’m guessing T-Mobile is hoping consumers will incorrectly conflate the two terms.

While I’m not a fan of T-Mobile’s deceptive naming, I have to acknowledge the company’s cleverness. T-Mobile is leading the nation in mid-band 5G coverage, but the network is way behind AT&T and Verizon in millimeter wave coverage. By using a single branded term for both mid-band 5G and millimeter wave 5G, T-Mobile can brag about how extensive its Ultra Capacity 5G coverage is without drawing attention to how little millimeter wave coverage the network offers.

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Visible’s First Month For $3 Promotion

Visible is running a promotion where new subscribers can get their first month of service for only $3. The promotion will run until December 21. No commitment or device purchase is required.

Those taking advantage of the deal need to enter “Tryfor3” as their promo code at checkout. While Visible isn’t mentioning the promotion on the most prominent parts of its website, you can find more details from Visible here.

I regularly encourage people on expensive phone plans to try out a low-cost, prepaid carrier for a month. In many cases, people have a great experience and decide to stick with their new carrier and benefit from big savings month after month. In the cases where people don’t have a great experience, they aren’t locked in and can switch back to a premium carrier.

With Visible, I especially encourage people to treat their first month of service as a trial. While many people find their experiences with Visible to be almost indistinguishable from their experiences with expensive plans offered directly by Verizon, a meaningful minority of people who try Visible encounter issues. With the current promotion, it’s easier than ever to give Visible a go on a trial basis.