Monday 30 January 2012

Data Hub Data Prices Caps as of 30 Jan 12

Comments and e-mails have once again raised the issue of data hub charges. The chart shows a price comparison based on information from the vendors’ website as of 30 Jan 2012 supplemented in some cases by correspondence with the vendors. There were a number of changes in 2011.

This information is only provided as a  general outline for quick reference and does not supersede the actual vendor contracts.   Users are encouraged to read their contracts in detail and ask questions to ensure they understand the terms and conditions that are applicable.

These prices are subject to change without warning and should only be used as a guide.

  Bell  Rogers Tbaytel
Top Tier Cap 10 GB 15 GB 20 GB
Top Tier Costs $70 $103.86 $75
Cost per Additional GB* $15** $10*** $50
Maximum Overage Billing Cap  N/A $50 N/A
Maximum Total Cost Open Ended $153.86 Open Ended
Total GB for $150.00 15.3 GB 20 GB  21.5 GB
Cost of Additional GB after $150 $15 $0 $50

* Bell quote $.015  per MB and Tbaytel quotes $.05 per MB. I have converted the rate to GB for ease of comparison.

** Bell provides a warning once the user is near the cap and before applying the additional GB charges.

*** Based on my personal experience, Rogers charges for a full GB even if the overage is only a few MB.

Dropped Mobile Calls

“Jp” sent me the following comment:

“I have been having a problem just a week before Christmas my bell iPhone 3GS is constantly searching or dropping signal. I have called numerous times and was told to change my SIM card which did nothing. I thought my phone was to blame and a few other people I work with say they are having the same problem. One co-worker of mine told me he heard that bell had sold some of their towers to Rogers and that is why we have a weaker signal. Maybe bell is gearing up for 4g in the north so they sold some towers to finance the north project.”

I am not sure I can provide the definitive answer for this particular case but it raised a number of issues so I decided to address it as a separate blog. As a caveat, I do not represent Bell nor do I have any special access to individual call information.

Since the issue involves Bell hardware it is safe to assume the disconnect problems did not occur in the North Sault area.

The obvious solution is to continue to escalate the problem within the Bell customer service system. I know first-hand this can be a frustrating process at times but it does work with enough patience. Be sure to keep a record any exchanges showing date and time, general subject, and employee ID.

It might also be useful  to look at some of the causes for dropped calls.

The most common reasons for dropped call on a Mobile network are network congestion and poor handoff between cells. Vendors do not like to admit this and will try to assign the blame to some element under the user’s control. This is not to say there may well be other hardware or network problems that could cause dropped calls.

As noted in previous blogs, the main cause of network congestion is too many network demands chasing too few network resources. In other words, the number users trying to access a cell outnumbers the capacity of the cell. Each cell has a priority list on how it handles traffic. As congestion begins, the cell gracefully degrades service until it arrives at the ultimate solution which is a dropped call. (Gracefully degrade is “geek speak” for slowing individual data speed down so more people can use the limited bandwidth. This is one reason why some rural users get a better speed during the day and slow down drastically after school and in the evenings. The last data to be dropped is usually voice.)

If a particular locality is identified as a problem area, vendors have a number of options to address the problem. They include, inter alia; add more cell sites to create smaller coverage areas and therefore fewer users per cell; add additional carriers to a cell site which increases the number of calls it can handle; add a separate frequency chain. One or all of these solutions have been used in the Algoma District to varying degrees of success.

All vendors are continuously upgrading and adding to their networks. Unfortunately, vendors worldwide have generally underestimated the growth of Mobile data demands over the last few years and have been playing catch-up to get ahead of the growth curve. This Nielson chart indicates the growth trends by quarters where information is available.


Poor handoff is more likely to occur while the user is on the move. There have been some discussions in the cyber world about carriers deliberately dropping roaming calls but I have not seen or heard any conclusion of this accusation.

As to Bell selling towers to Rogers. I doubt there is much validity to this rumour. There may be confusion because federal regulations encourage the sharing of tower amongst all the carriers and there are numerous sites in the north where Bell and Rogers hardware is on Rogers’ towers and vice versa. Some sites are owned by a third party such as the Bellevue site owned by MTS Allstream.

Bell has more than enough financial resources to fund the North Sault expansion without selling assets in other locations. I doubt they would rob Peter to pay Paul, especially if it involved their principal competition.