Archive for April 9th, 2008

Mexican Cell Carrier Roundup

I have been meaning to write about this for a bit over a week now but have finally gotten around to it. Let’s sit back and compare Mexico’s cellular system to our own, and see how good ours is in comparison…

The country has around 110 million people, as opposed to a bit over 300 million here in the US. Land area is disproportionately smaller vs. the population. As to cell service, the top ten carriers alone in the US probably have 250 million subscribers, but then again you’ve got lots of small U.S. phone services that may make up for another several million people with cell service. This is actually an amazingly high ratio compared with Mexico, where a mere 65-ish million customers. Looks like four carriers dominate the space, with one being a near-monopolistic leader…

The Numero Uno, as it were, for Mexican cellular, is Telcel, with a staggering 74% of ALL cellular customers in its grip. Think AT&T back when they were renting you your phone. Okay, not that bad but still, Telcel is in a similar position to AT&T, complete with GSM technology and the number one spot in the Mexican cellular industry. Granted, it’s smaller than the top three carriers in the nation above it, but still…

Anyway, you can get their phones, both prepaid and postpaid, practically everywhere and, due to licenses in both 800 and 1900 MHz GSM, coverage is good too. Though the coverage map sort of looks like T-Mobile in the U.S. to tell you the truth. In other news, just recently (about a month and a half ago) Telcel launched 3G service in some of Mexico’s larger cities. Generally sounds like AT&T, except a few years later. It also seems like they have 55% of their employees dedicated to customer service…wonder what the figure is like in other carriers.

Okay, so enough about the 45-million-pound gorilla of cellular service in Mexico. There is another GSM provider, which seems to be the functional equivalent of T-Mobile in the U.S. Its name: Movistar. Part of the Telefonica international empire, Movistar is bigger in size, ratio-wise, than the next-biggest carrier the same way Telcel is bigger than Movistar. They have 11-ish million subscribers and their coverage seems to have gotten better recently, now reaching nearly as far as Telcel’s. There are even some areas where Movistar has coverage and telcel doesn’t. At any rate, the carrier’s rates seem a bit better than Telcel’s but otherwise you’re just dealing with another GSM carrier that cells a huge variety of phones, including some brands (likely made in China) that I’ve never heard of before, or that I’ve never heard of hawked by U.S. carriers before. Okay, I take that back; the company now known as CellularOne (formerly Chinook Wireless in Montana, formerly Blackfoot Wireless and 3 Rivers Wireless) sells an Alcatel phone or two.

Next up, we’ve got Iusacell. Looks like their network (on which 4 million people have service, the vast majority of them prepaid…even with data service) is fully 3G. That’s right, this company (whose website looks dated in my opinion…but I can say that of all the Mexican cellular operators) has full EvDO data (probably Rev. 0 though…I’d be surprised if they had Rev. A) network-wide, for as low as 599 pesos per month! This translates into a little under $57 per month at the moment. Not bad, until you find out that their network coverage, at least with the map I have, puts CricKet to shame in terms of spotty coverage. They probably cover all the population centers in the country, but outside of that you may need a TelCel or Movistar prepaid phone. But hey, they’ve got real, fast (I’m supposing) 3G! Too bad they’re the only CDMA carrier in the country, so roaming coverage is nonexistent…

Last and least, at least in terms of subscriber count (but not in coverage!) is Nextel Mexico. Unlike the U.S. version of the company, these guys seem perfectly happy keeping the iDEN technology alive. I’m betting this is because nobody has put up a serious 3G network to which data customers would go, added to their spectrum’s being separate from the fight over 800/1900 that CDMA and GSM must face. They also have a business niche, with the best walkie-talkie service in the land (sound familiar? Iusacell and Telcel both have PTT but they’re the same lame jobs that haunted AT&T and pre-merger Sprint). as a warning, there are some places where Nextel doesn’t have coverage where Movistar and Telcel do, but the coverage is probably an order of magnitude better than Iusacell’s mainly soutn-Mexico chickenscratch. The 800MHz MIRS channels on which iDEN runs probably helps with that coverage. On the less bright side of things, with only two million customers the Mexican government (!?!) had to tell the other three carriers to hook their lines to Nextel’s. So that means that before then some Nextel phones (at least) weren’t able to call out to normal landlines and cellular phones out-of-network? This is MADNESS! But hey, they offer an unlimited plan for a similar price to what you’d get in the U.S.

So there you have it. The wireless landscape of mexico has been bared, showing that there are a mere four carriers serving the nation, with many areas where no cell phone of a normal sort may tread. There, CDMA is almost gone, iDEN is small but powerful and GSM (complete with calling-part-pays service) rules the roost without a doubt, with over 90% of the market. That’s why I like being in America (okay, that’s not the only reason), where I can have high-speed internet access on a huge nationwide network, with roaming onto other carriers as needed, where if I wanted to I could pick up four prepaid phones off of different carriers and all of them be using different towers. A place where not four but SIX or SEVEN cell phone carriers have service…a place where the largest carrier is by no means a near-monopoly, and the smallest carrier sticks around because nobody else offers service where it does. A place where I can get unlimited service from all seven of the carriers offering service to my single spot, where I can have my high-speed data and high-speed push-to-talk. A place where I don’t pay or everything in pesos and where “no hablamos Español” is cool. 🙂

Comcast, FiOS and High-speed down, lower-speed up internet

Let me preface this by saying that, though I want to go into the industry, I’m by no means an expert on how all the backend stuff works on either cable or fiber internet. Or DSL for that matter. But I sort of know what’s going on, and I think that counts for something…

Looks like I’m gonna make this brief too. Got a lot to do.

Anyway here are some prices that I’ve found for internet out there, proving that Comcast could do better than its current offering (50 megabits down, 5 up, for $150 per month, $180 business edition I think)…the speeds are down/up in megabits per second

$90 50/20 (FiOS)

$140-$160 30/15 (FiOS in another area)

20/20 $77 (FiOS)

30/5 $62 (OptimumOnline Cable)

As you can see, it seems like cable is limited to 5 megabits upstream speed, though downstream speed can get pretty high. So don’t be too hard on cable for that…they still haven’t perfected “channel bonding” which allows faster upload speeds on their new DOCSIS 3.0 spec. So maybe we’ll see higher speeds, or maybe they can afford to overpromise on download speeds but not on uploads since people are looking to send stuff and want some way to do it reliably and quickly rather than an over-promise under-deliver type of thing. Then again, FiOS can do twenty megabits up with no problem, so why not Comcast? And why does Comcast cost $150 per month for a connection that I’m sure is going to be throttled in some way? Dunno, but gotta end this post somewhere, otherwise I’ll not have enough time for homework…