… then why can’t we have a dependable cell-phone system?
I know, I know, billionaires and their toy rockets have nothing in common with the workings of mega-communications corporations, but there does seem to be a broad common thread having to do with technology per se.
The cell phone I bought when we switched from T-Mobile to Consumer Cellular some two years ago suddenly stopped working dependably. At the most critical times I would find that the data function would fail, meaning that I could not send or receive email or text messages, the text messages being the more serious failure. I can check email on my computer, so that became more of an annoyance than a critical need like texting. In the little triangle that appears in the upper right corner of the phone’s screen (to indicate the strength of the signal I was getting), a tiny “x” would show up in the right angle of the triangle. I quickly learned that the “x” was telling me, “Buddy, you’re screwed.”
I called Consumer Cellular. “Randy” (or possibly “Randi”, since she was a woman) got inside the phone and did some tweaking which seemed to work as long as she was on the land line with me, but as soon as we hung up, that demonic “x” was back. I called again a day or two later and “Matthew” had me visit a deeper level of the phone and change the APN settings. Once again, the phone seemed happy until Matthew and I ended our conversation. Within minutes, the “x”-man was back. I called a third time and a woman whose name began with “M” (but which I failed to get) looked at what was going on and said that my 3G phone was not adequate to work on the 5G network that Consumer Cellular was providing, and I needed a new phone.
Well, that wasn’t as big a disaster as it might otherwise have been since I’d been planning to upgrade anyway. With daughter Karlyn’s help we visited our local Target store to see what they had available. Nothing. Either I would have to revert back to a flip-phone or shell out some $800 for something with more features than I knew I would ever need. The Target tech said that if we found a phone online, they could help me set it up, an invitation that made me feel a lot better. So Karlyn and I shopped online and found a nice, moderately-priced ($275.00) Motorola One 5G Ace which arrived last week.
I took my old and new phones to Target where Melissa assessed the situation. “You don’t need a new phone,” she explained. “You have an AT&T SIM card in your phone. Their Delaware towers have been down for the past two months. People have been coming in here jumping the AT&T ship like crazy. You’ll do much better with a T-Mobile SIM card.”
At that point my head was about to explode, because we had jumped the T-Mobile ship to join Consumer Cellular! And now, I was being told that I needed – in some form – to return to T-Mobile, even if it weren’t being directly immersed in the company. In order to use Consumer Cellular service, I needed a SIM card that would give me access to T-Mobile’s towers.
So, OK, with that being the best choice, I agreed. For ten bucks, I got the card and Melissa contacted Consumer Cellular to have them email me a mailing label for returning the new phone.
What I’ve discovered in the interim is that T-Mobile’s towers are no more reliable than they ever were. Yesterday (Monday, the 30th) I needed – NEEDED – to have my GPS working so I could find a doctor’s office in center city Philadelphia and keep an appointment that Evelyn had made weeks prior. I became physically and verbally irritated when the GPS wouldn’t work before we left the house. By the time we got to Smyrna, about five miles from home, the thing kicked in and kept working until we got to the Market Street hospital (so I need to drive five miles from home to use my data??). Later in the day, I needed to text my neighbor, but do you think I had a signal? Nope. Mr. “x” showed up again. Can you imagine – I couldn’t even text the guy across the street from me! But they can send billionaires ….
I’m told that the signals from the towers will vary for a while because of downed trees or weather conditions or swamp gas or aliens or some fool reason and within a few days, things should be more dependable.
Knowing what it is that will interfere with their service, why don’t phone companies construct their equipment to withstand those conditions in the first place? If they know that their signals are weak or non-existent in areas where their clients live, why do they let that condition persist? Why aren’t they out there making adjustments or installing the equipment that’s strong enough to meet the demand?
Jeff Bezos, where are you when we really need you?