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Visible Security Update

Earlier today, Visible shared a few tweets with updates on the security issue I posted about yesterday. Here’s the important bit:

Our investigation indicates that threat actors were able to access username/passwords from outside sources, and exploit that information to login to Visible accounts.

Taking Visible at face value, it looks like the attacker is exploiting information leaked in an unrelated data breach.1 Consequently, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say Visible was hacked.2

I’m not sure what end game the attacker has planned. It sounds like many people are seeing fraudulent phone orders charged to the billing information on file in compromised accounts. Even if the fraudulent orders are fulfilled, it should be easy for Visible to track down the culprit. After all, the company knows where each phone is sent. Maybe I’m missing something.

Spitballing, I came up with a few possibilities:

  • Fraudulent orders could be a red herring to distract from the attacker’s real goal.
  • Multiple attackers could be working independently with the same compromised data.
  • An attacker could compromise numerous accounts and send phones to a large number of addresses. If only a small portion of the addresses were under the attacker’s control, it would be difficult and expensive for Visible to track down the attacker.

I don’t find any of these possibilities particularly likely. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Image conveying the idea of security

Security Issues At Visible

Visible, Verizon’s flanker brand, recently underwent some kind of security issue. Over the last day or two, subscribers have been posting in Visible’s Reddit community reporting hacked accounts, fraudulent orders, and loss of account access.

A Visible staff member shared the following update on Reddit:

We’re currently investigating an incident where information on a small number of member accounts was changed without their authorization. We’re working hard to take protective steps to secure these accounts.

We don’t believe that any Visible systems have been breached or compromised, nor that this unauthorized access to your Visible account is ongoing. However, for your protection, we recommend you review your account contact information and change your password and security questions to your Visible account. We also recommend that you review any other accounts that share the same email, login, or password, and make any changes you determine necessary to secure those accounts.

I’m unsure what’s meant by “a small number of member accounts”, but the volume of Reddit posts reporting issues suggests the issue is far from trivial. Adding insult to injury, it looks like Visible’s password reset feature has failed to function properly for many users trying to secure their accounts.

Megaphone cartoon

MobileX Announces Partnership With Verizon

For over a year, Peter Adderton, the founder of Boost Mobile, has been dropping hints about MobileX, a new cellular carrier he’s starting. Adderton has suggested MobileX will take a novel and consumer-friendly approach, but details about MobileX’s plans have been sparse until today.

This morning, Mobile X Global announced that its U.S. brand, MobileX, is partnering with Verizon. The partnership will allow MobileX to take advantage of Verizon’s Network as a Service platform. I don’t know much about the ins and outs of Verizon’s platform, but it will allow MobileX to offer service over Verizon’s network and potentially deliver features that conventional MVNOs cannot.

MobileX’s Ambitions

According to today’s press release, MobileX is aiming to launch in the U.S. in early 2022. The release also noted Mobile X Global’s goal of eventually offering a seamless user experience across countries:

[The Mobile X Global platform] will allow customers to seamlessly switch across global networks, with one number and one service that extends beyond borders.

Adderton was quoted stressing the unique and highly customizable nature of the MobileX platform:

Mobile X Global will deliver an incredibly intuitive, easy-to-use and real-time proprietary platform that truly puts the power in the hands of the consumer. Now they can choose what they want, when they want, and only pay for what they need. The innovations in our cloud-based platform enable unprecedented levels of customization and flexibility.

I’m not sure what MobileX’s offerings will look like. Last year, I shared a bit of speculation, largely based on mockup images. I’m hoping we’ll see MobileX bring unique approaches to pricing, network switching, and user control of service quality. I suspect more details will come to light over the next few months.

Crowd of people

Opensignal & Tutela Join Forces

Earlier this week, Comlinkdata announced that it will acquire Opensignal, a company that collects crowdsourced data about the performance of cellular networks. A few years ago, Comlinkdata acquired Tutela, another company crowdsourcing performance data. It’ll be interesting to see whether Comlinkdata continues to operate Tutela and Opensignal as more-or-less independent brands.

I’ve previously argued that network evaluation involves all sorts of weird dynamics and conflicts of interest. I expect putting Tutela and Opensignal under the same roof will cause a shift in the incentives at play, but I haven’t made up my mind about the implications of that shift.

Calendar visual

Dates For T-Mobile & Sprint’s 3G Phase-Outs

T-Mobile has been moving towards phasing out its 3G network for some time, but until recently, the company had not committed to a specific date. In a recently published webpage, T-Mobile shared a deadline of July 1, 2022 for shutting down its native 3G network. Here’s an excerpt from the page:

  • As of January 1, 2022 Sprint’s older 3G (CDMA) network will be retired
  • As of June 30, 2022 Sprint’s LTE network will be retired
  • As of July 1, 2022 T-Mobile’s older 3G UMTS network will be retired

We’ve also shared that we plan to retire T-Mobile’s older GSM 2G network as well, but no date has been set. We will update this page with any additional information in the future.

With T-Mobile’s latest announcement, all of the major US networks now have dates set for their 3G phase-outs. I won’t be shocked if one or more of those dates are pushed back.


Credit to Mike Dano of Light Reading who tweeted and posted about this topic.

People shaking hands

Dish Plans To Acquire Gen Mobile

Today, Dish’s Boost Mobile announced its plan to acquire the MVNO Gen Mobile. While the deal hasn’t officially closed and will need regulatory approval, I don’t expect any major hurdles will get in the way.

Gen Mobile focuses on budget-friendly plans, and Dish may be hoping to use the brand to market services to customers that are eligible for subsidies through the government’s Lifeline program.

Dish has now acquired four carriers in a relatively short span of time:

  • Boost Mobile
  • Ting
  • Republic Wireless
  • Gen Mobile

While I don’t know how large Gen Mobile’s subscriber base is, I expect Gen Mobile has substantially fewer customers than any of the other carriers Dish has acquired.

Satellites orbiting Earth

iPhone 13 Satellite Connectivity Rumors

Over the last day, lots of media outlets have been reporting that the iPhone 13 will likely support calls and texts via satellites for users without conventional cellular coverage. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m suspicious the media-at-large is getting the story wrong. The reports are based on insights from respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Here’s how AppleInsider describes things:

In a note to investors, seen by AppleInsider Ming-Chi Kuo says that the Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that Apple is predicted to be using in the ‘iPhone 13’ will support low-earth orbit satellite communications. He bases this on Qualcomm’s work with Globalstar, making the latter the most likely partner for the effort.

‘There are many potential scenarios for Apple’s business model cooperation with Globalstar,’ writes Kuo. ‘The simplest scenario is that if the user’s operator has already teamed with Globalstar, the user can directly use Globalstar’s satellite communication service on the iPhone 13 through the operator’s service.’

I’m perplexed. Over the last few years, there’s been growing interest in connecting conventional phones to satellites. However, I’m shocked if there have been enough technical breakthroughs that the iPhone 13 could allow satellite-based calls at no cost to end-users.1

The story being reported in the media may be wildly off. Perhaps Globalstar is just hoping to allow conventional cell service using the n53 band it holds some licenses on. In a Twitter thread, Sascha Segan explains how a relatively mundane story about Globalstar’s spectrum might have been blown out of proportion. On the other hand, I can’t come up with a plausible story to explain how Ming-Chi Kuo got the story so wrong (or had his words so badly distorted).

Person touching a light switch

Twigby Moving To Verizon’s Network

Today, the MVNO Twigby officially announced that it’ll switch from Sprint’s network to Verizon’s network.1 MVNOs like Twigby are usually prohibited from advertising the names of their host networks, so it’s unsurprising that “Verizon” doesn’t explicitly appear in Twigby’s announcement. However, there are plenty of indicators. Twigby’s announcement includes a red coverage map and describes the new network as the “nation’s largest and most reliable”.

Previously, Twigby allowed voice and text roaming on Verizon’s network for customers outside of the range of Sprint’s network. With the latest change, Twigby will drop Sprint entirely and move to offering voice, text, and data over Verizon’s network. New customers will access Verizon’s network automatically. Existing Twigby customers can continue to use Sprint’s network until at least the end of the year. Customers that want to switch to Verizon sooner can opt to do so.

Overall, I think this change is great for Twigby. Verizon offers far better coverage than Sprint, and Twigby appears to be keeping its prices unchanged for the moment. Some of Twigby’s plans rates are well-priced for Verizon’s network:

Twigby plan examples

US Mobile, another small MVNO offering service over Verizon’s network, still has better prices, but Twigby is offering real competition.

Supposedly, Twigby’s Verizon service includes 5G access for subscribers with compatible phones. I wonder whether iPhone 12 users will actually get 5G service. The MVNO Tello recently advertised 5G service while neglecting to mention that 5G iPhones were not supported.

Abstract image representing the idea of speed

PCMag’s 2021 Fastest Mobile Networks Report

PCMag recently released this year’s edition of its Fastest Mobile Networks report. T-Mobile won big. The network’s great speeds with mid-band 5G played a significant role.

My reservations about PCMag’s methodology in previous years still hold true this year. Most importantly, PCMag’s focus on speeds is misplaced. To get a good cellular experience, people need consistent coverage and decent speeds. Once a phone user has decent speeds, further speed increases have hugely diminishing returns. Whether you’re browsing Reddit, streaming video, or using a messaging app, 25Mbps speeds will be good enough. Moving from 25Mbps to 250Mbps won’t have a tangible effect on a user’s experience.

So yeah, T-Mobile won. But it doesn’t mean much. Availability and consistency trump average speeds.

On a less critical note, PCMag’s city-by-city results are interesting. And you can see availability metrics even if PCMag doesn’t give those much weight in its final scores.

A lock

Visible Will Lock Phones For 60 Days

On Friday, Verizon’s flanker brand Visible announced that it will lock phones customers purchase from its online store for sixty days. Phones will automatically unlock after sixty days of service with Visible.

The announcement mentioned an exemption to the rules for members of the military. While Visible suggests customers can make international calls while a phone is locked, rules around international roaming aren’t made explicit:

Locked devices will still work as normal on Visible, and will still be able to make calls internationally to Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. And for those serving in the military, Visible will be able to unlock devices before the 60 day period if you are being deployed outside of the Visible service area.
I’m inclined to think Visible’s locked phones won’t work by default with international carriers.

My take

The updates to Visible’s policy are reasonable. Without the policy change, Visible would be at higher risk of people taking advantage of promotions that incentivize new customers. Before Friday’s announcement, I think Visible only locked phones customers acquired through the carrier’s swap program.