Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Searchmont Bell Site Active

For those not yet aware of it, the Bell cell site located at the Searchmont Ski Resort is now active. It is configured to handle the full range of HSPA and LTE voice and data service utilizing the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 1900 Mhz bands.

The site has four sectors meaning antennae are optimized for four quadrants as opposed to the three sectors or omnidirectional used at many other northern sites. Quite often sites that provide highway coverage may only use two sectors along the direction of the highway. Obviously, the use of more sectors provides more efficient coverage.

The new Searchmont site also provides a full range of data hub service including the BWI5/WI5F through the Station Mall Bell store.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Current Deferral Account Names

I was looking at my Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5) contract agreement the other day and noticed Bell is now referring to the service as Wireless Internet 5 Flex. (WI5F) 

You may want to use the new term talking to Bell about the service. 

Now there are three names that basically describe the same service of 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload over the cellular network:

a. Deferral Account 

b. Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5)

c. Wireless Internet 5 Flex (WI5F) 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

SIgned Up for the New BWI5 (Deferral Account) Plan

I finally got around to upgrading my Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5) Deferral Account service this week. As an existing customer I had to phone billing at 1-800-667-0123. If you are a new customer you need to deal with direct sales. Of course you can always deal with your nearest Bell Store or agency.

The whole process took less than 10 minutes. I wasted a large part of that time working my way through the abomination of voice response interfaces that has become the most common method used by companies in the name of efficiency to annoy potential customers.  

Having survived the voice response torture, I got connected to a live agent immediately with no wait. He confirmed my identity, to his satisfaction anyway, and he provided his name and Bell employee number for my records. We were off to the races.

I stated I wanted to upgrade my current BWI5 plan to the new Wireless Internet 5 Flex plan. After about 20 seconds he said I qualified for the newer service, which is really a modification to my existing data caps, and since I owned my own NetGear MBR1516 data hub he would sign me up for the 30 day, no contract rate starting at $48.95 for the basic 50GB data cap. 

Under my existing plan I was getting 45 GB for $42.95 per month with overages charged at $2.50 per GB. To match the 100 GB data cap included in the new BWI5 Flex plan as calculated under my existing plan, it would cost me $42.95 for the included 45 GB plus $137.50 for extra 55 GB at $2.50 per GB for a grand total of $180.45.

My household of 2 adults has the following hardware authorized to access the BWI5 data hub, not necessarily all at the same time: -  3 laptops, 1 desktop, 2 Android tablets, 2 Android smartphones, and 1 video security camera.  

Admittedly, in the 18 months I had my existing plan, I never went over the 45 GB data cap according to Bell. However, to achieve this I carefully restricted my video and other streaming uses.  When I did use the services, I set the parameters at the lowest reasonable definition – usually 240 if it was available. I do subscribe to NetFlix but mainly use it when travelling.

He offered me the option of changing to the new service immediately with the cost difference between the two plans being pro-rated for the remainder of the billing period, or making the change at the end of the current billing period – in my case the 20th of the month. For personal reasons, I opted for the end of the billing period date.

We reviewed the total package. I accepted it. And that was it.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone using the ZTE MF275R data hub in the BWI5 (Deferral Account) configuration. I am particularly interested in hearing about the download and upload speeds the unit is providing and any settings such as the APN at the web user interface level.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

BWI5 General Info and Maps Jan 2016

The purpose of this post is to provide general background information about the boundaries within which a user has to live to be eligible for the Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5). It can also act a reference post to respond to various I receive, 

BWI5 is the marketing name being used by Bell Mobility to provide the service funded by Deferral Account money as authorized by CRTC. The CRTC gave the final authorization after nearly a decade of legal appeal which eventually reached the Supreme Court of Canada (SOC); regulatory appeals which included a direct appeal to the Governor-in-Council (i.e. the federal cabinet through Industry Canada) and public hearings chaired by the CRTC.  

Bell first provided information about BWI5 in late July 2014. Since then there has been at least three changes to the price structure and data caps with incremental increases in data cap and minor changes of the basic price in each iteration.  

Information about the latest price structure and data caps as of Jan 2016 can be found at this post.

One of the requirements to be eligible for the BWI5 service offering is the user must live within a designated Deferral Account area. The maps below indicate the Deferral Account areas in the Algoma District.  However, I am aware of users who do not meet this criterion who are receiving the BWI5 service.

Bell Mobility is the lead BCE subsidiary for BWI5. Unfortunately, I cannot find any information about the BWI5 on the any BCE website.  BWI5 can be ordered through Bell Mobility direct sales at 1-888-466-2453 or through the Bell store in SSM. 

 Goulais DA

 Wawa DA

 Echo Bay DA

SSM Airport DA

St Joseph Island DA

Friday, 15 January 2016

New BWI5 (Deferral Account) Price Structure Jan 2016

The BWI5 (Deferral Account) is now offering a new price structure

Once again there have been major changes to the BWI5 (Deferral Account) service offering by Bell Mobility. Starting as low as 50 GB for $48.95, up 100 GB is now available for $63.95 plus taxes. It is a data flex type plan where the basic price is increase over two additional tiers only when your usage exceeds the limits in each tier.

As usual with announcements concerning the BWI5 (Deferral Account) program, there is no information available on the Bell websites. News of the amended service is being spread by word of mouth through users, stores and blogs like this.

The following details have been confirmed by contacts at Bell Mobility in Toronto:

Applicability:  Users must meet all the residency requirements of the BWI5 (Deferral Account) plans i.e. installation and use location within a Deferral Account area.  

Editorial Comments:

    1.      I am aware of users that use a billing address outside a Deferral Account area; a claim of seasonal residency seems to be the common approach.
    2.     I am also aware of users who do not live within a known Deferral Account area that are receiving BWI5 (Deferral Account) pricing by being able to convince Bell Mobility.
    3.      I am further aware of users that have transported and used their data hubs outside its normal registered Deferral Account area and have not been charged any extra charges contrary to the policy BCE expressed to the CRTC when seeking approval of the Deferral Account plan.
 Data Hub Requirements: the new prices are applicable with all three data hubs currently in use with the BWI5 (Deferral Account) plan, depending on when you signed a contract or purchased your data hub: the original the NetGear MBR 1516 (external port and antenna available), the interim the Huawei B882 (no external antenna port) and now the ZTE MF275R (no antenna port but has battery backup). If you are a new customer you will need to either acquire a data hub from Bell Mobility or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)  

Price Structure:

Data hub provided by Bell: ZTE MF275R

Two year term basic rate: Up to 50GB - $53.95
Up to 75 GB - $58.95
Up to 100 GB - $63.95
More than 100GB - $4/GB

User owned data hub or BYOD
The 30 day term starts at $48.95 with 50GB of data
Up to 75 75GB - $53.95
Up to 100GB - $58.95
More than 100 GB - $4/GB

Speeds: The 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload limits still applies 

Apparently Bell Mobility is allowing existing contract customers to pay off the time reaming on their contract and switch to the new plan.  

While the new plan is not identified as a “promotion”, as the interim was, Bell Mobility would not indicate how long it would be available. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

BWI5 (Deferral Account) Speed Problems - Check This Post

In about mid-August of 2015, I started to get fluctuating download speeds on my BWI5 (Deferral Account) service. At times the download speeds tested as low as .95 Mbps.

This was after I reported in this blog post of 10 Aug 2015 how steady the download speeds were for the past 12 months in spite of the growth in the number of users.

This slow down occurred at a time when the LED on the front of the Netgear unit went from green to blue, the receive signal strength went from around - 84 dBm to around -67 dBm, and the operating mode changed from HSDPA/HSUPA to LTE.  Common logic would indicate that these changes would indicate a better quality of service. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.  

After working a few weeks with my Bell contacts, we may have identified the problem and come up with a solution for folks using the Netgear 1516 router.
After the last software update to the Netgear router, the HSPA (WCDMA) band does not play well with the LTE Band. That means that people like me who are located roughly where the signal from the LTE site, even though it is slightly farther away, overwhelms the HSPA signal and creates havoc.   

The same software upgrade disabled the ability for a user to disable a particular band on the Netgear router. After the upgrade, it seems the 700, 800, 1900 and 2100 bands are being treated as equal and the router decides which the best signal is. It seems the router is selecting the 700 band even though the installer aimed the external antenna at the Pine Shores tower. This site does not have a LTE capability. However, the back lobe on the antenna looks at Buttermilk and I assume this is where the LTE signal that comes into play originates.

 A tech provided the following info and asked me to try it.
            “New update of Netgear 1516 removed option to disable LTE
In cases where clients coverage is borderline HSPA / LTE and experiences drop connections or difficulty connected disable LTE and test

      Type the address below:
      From there you have the option to Enable/Disable Frequency Bands
      Disable the MBR1516: LTE B17 band (700 MHz)”
Note by Hermes: You need to sign in using the input you normally use to access the router web page.

I did as requested and even went one-step farther and disabled all bands except the 1900 band, which is the only band in use at the Pine Shore tower.  

 All the speed tests are now back to normal with speeds well above 5 Mbps.

I am not sure if you can do a similar thing with the Huawei router but one can check with Bell tech support.

For the moment, all is good in BWI5 land for me. J 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

CRTC Reports Average Data Download Per User


The CRTC released recently their annual Communications Monitoring Report (CMR) for 2015, which covers the data collected over 2014. One can find an executive summary of the report at this link. This page in turn has links to the complete report and individual sections.  

Average Individual Data Usage

For a number of years, I have been publishing the growth of the average data downloads.

For 2014, the CRTC is reporting, "the average monthly amount downloaded by residential subscribers increased 49% between 2013 and 2014 to 66.5 GB per month, and an average of 46% annually over the last 5 years, indicating that Canadians are likely using more video content and other high-bandwidth consuming services. Uploads have also increased 43% in 2014, reaching 8.6 GB per month." [1]This totals 75.1 GB for data usage billing purposes. (For comparison, it was only in 2009 that the CRTC CMR reported the average total data transfer was 15.4 GB per month.)

Except for users on the basic terrestrial services of Bell, Eastlink, Shaw or Rogers, the chances are their monthly data download quotas cover this average CRTC identified download activity. If it doesn't, the terrestrial ISPs offer an upgrade option at a reasonable price which in most cases can double the download limit, enough to cover the download limit.

It is the user reliant on cellular wireless (mobile wireless) such as BWI5 (Deferral Account) or Data Hub flex Plans that are paying a price for the trend towards more data usage. Most of these plans have basic data caps that do not meet the 75 GB data transfer usage identified by the CRTC based on input collected nearly a year ago. If the current trend continues and all indications are that users will continue to use more data transfer than ever, the totals will grow in the 40% plus range.

Fixed wireless (Canopy users) may be slightly better off due to unlimited data usage but pay the price with speeds way below the advertised speeds.

The bottom line is that non-terrestrial based systems are not providing an adequate or acceptable level of service for users in suburban, rural or remote areas.

[1] Bold and underline added by Hermes  for emphasis