Bell Mobility

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Bell Mobility Inc.
Type Subsidiary
Industry Wireless Services
Founded Toronto, Ontario (1986)
Headquarters Mississauga, Ontario
Key people Wade Oosterman - President, Stephen Howe - CTO
Products BlackBerrys, Apple iPhone, Android Smartphones, Mobile Internet devices, Two way messaging, Picture and Video Messaging (MMS), Video Calling, Mobile TV
Parent Bell Canada
Website www.bell.ca/Mobility
A Bell Mobility Ford Explorer fleet vehicle.
Bell Mobility Headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario - "Creekbank Campus"

Bell Mobility is a CDMA, LTE and HSPA+ based wireless network (named Bell Cellular until 1993) and the division of Bell Canada which sells wireless services in Canada. Bell Mobility and its affiliates combined have just under 7.8 million subscribers as of the end of Q4 2013, including over 6.6 million or 84% on postpaid and over 1.1 million or 16% on prepaid.[1]

Bell-owned Virgin Mobile Canada and Solo Mobile, as well as Loblaw's PC Mobile, operate as MVNOs on the Bell Mobility network. Some of Bell Canada's regional subsidiaries continue to operate their own wireless networks separate from (but generally allowing for roaming with) Bell Mobility; these are Northwestel (NMI Mobility and Latitude Wireless), Télébec (Télébec Mobilité), and NorthernTel (NorthernTel Mobility). In July 2006, Bell Mobility assumed responsibility for the former Aliant wireless operations in Atlantic Canada as part of a larger restructuring of both Bell and Aliant, and continued to do business there as Aliant Mobility until re-branding as Bell in April 2008.[2]

Bell Mobility is a member of the British Columbia Technology Industry Association.

Networks[edit]

Although both are different and independent from one another, both the CDMA and HSPA+ networks use the 850 and 1900 MHz frequencies. Bell's LTE network uses Band 4 Advanced Wireless Services (AWS 1700/2100 MHz) in most coverage areas and Band 7 (2600 MHz) in a few areas.

AMPS (discontinued)[edit]

Due to the age and security problems of this technology, Bell Mobility discontinued its Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) analog mobile network in February 2008.

CDMA[edit]

Bell Mobility maintains a legacy CDMA network. It enabled the Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) technology on this network in 2005, providing theoretical maximum download speeds of up to 3 Mbit/s and typical speeds of 600 kbit/s to 1 Mbit/s. The operator continues to provide roaming to other CDMA carriers such as Public Mobile and Telus Mobility in Canada. Bell also provides roaming for Sprint, a CDMA carrier in the United States, following a renewed agreement effective June 21, 2006.[3] Starting in 2012, Bell Mobility and its now-defunct Solo Mobile brand no longer sell CDMA phones, although such devices remain available at Virgin Mobile Canada.

On April 8, 2014, a Bell Mobility internal document was published on Mobilesyrup, which notes that the CDMA network will be shut down by January 1, 2017.[4] The document also notes the following CDMA-related shut down dates:

  • March 31, 2014: EVDO in British Colombia and Alberta (excluding Calgary and Edmonton), due shut down of service by network partner (Telus Mobility)
  • December 31, 2014: All CDMA services in Thunder Bay area, due possible shut down of service by network partner
  • July 1, 2015: EVDO in Ontario and all provinces to the east of Ontario
  • July 1, 2015: All CDMA services in British Colombia (excluding Fort Nelson area), Alberta, and parts of Quebec

HSPA+[edit]

In October 2009 Telus Mobility and Bell announced plans to deploy HSPA technology by 2010 as part of an effort to eventually upgrade to LTE technology. The network launched on November 4, 2009, months ahead of schedule. This allowed Bell to carry the iPhone 3GS, which was available at Telus the following day. Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks provided the infrastructure for the new network, which covers 93% of the Canadian Population.[5]

According to Bell, the single-channel HSPA+ network is available to 96% of the Canadian population. It provides download speeds of up to 21 Mbit/s, with typical speeds ranging between 3½ and 8 Mbit/s. The dual-channel network, on the other hand, began in 2010 and is available to 70% of the Canadian population. It can reach download speeds of up to 42 Mbit/s but with typical speeds of 7 to 14 Mbit/s.[6]

Despite the extensive HSPA coverage area offered by Bell, the service area in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario is substantially smaller than its CDMA coverage but superior to the HSPA coverage area offered by some of its competitors. Bell's coverage in these areas is limited to the areas around Thunder Bay, Ontario, Kenora, Ontario, and a corridor running from Brandon, Manitoba to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Bell's HSPA+ network coverage is in all Canadian provinces and two territories, but it is not possible to drive in Canada between the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast without going through areas without any cellular coverage, as there are gaps in cellular coverage in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ontario.[7]

LTE[edit]

Bell Mobility LTE SIM card.

Bell launched LTE in Toronto and surrounding areas on September 14, 2011. This makes Bell the first LTE operator in all these regions. Theoretical maximum download speeds for the current network are 75 Mbit/s, but the company claims that select areas have double this theoretical speed. Typical speeds range from 12 Mbit/s to 25 Mbit/s for the 75 Mbit/s service and from 18 Mbit/s to 40 Mbit/s for the 150 Mbit/s service.

Smartphones, mobile broadband modems and SIM cards compatible with the LTE network are currently available.[6] LTE-specific service plans are available, but any plan that works with LTE will also work with the HSPA+ network at no additional charge.

Products[edit]

Feature phones[edit]

The Samsung C414 is a basic flip feature phone available to Bell Mobility customers.

Bell Mobility sells the Samsung C414 and Samsung Rugby II HSPA+ feature phones. The Sanyo Pro-700 is Bell's last feature phone to use the CDMA technology. It is now discontinued.

Smartphones[edit]

Various Android HSPA+ smartphones manufactured by HTC, LG and Samsung are sold via Bell Mobility.

The BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve smartphones, manufactured by Research In Motion, are also part of Bell's lineup. The Curve 9380 and the BlackBerry Torch 9810 were previously sold, but are now discontinued.

Bell is the second Canadian mobile carrier (after Rogers Wireless) to carry the Apple iPhone on November 4, 2009. This is the same day that Bell's HSPA+ mobile network was launched. More than two years later, the iPhone 3GS is still sold by Bell alongside the newer iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S models.

Previously available smartphone platforms were Symbian from Nokia, webOS from HP and Windows Phone from Microsoft.

Superphones[edit]

Select high-end Android smartphones sold by Bell Mobility have been marketed as "superphones" by the operator. The first of these was the Motorola Atrix 4G, but following a clearance sale of this device, it is no longer sold by the carrier since February 2012. Current superphones include:

Rugged devices[edit]

Similarly to but to a much lesser extent than its competitor Mike, Bell features a line-up of CDMA rugged feature phones and mobile broadband modems built to withstand various weather conditions.[8]

Despite the growing popularity of Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and instant messaging on smartphones, Bell seems to be preparing for the launch of a new push-to-talk technology along with new HSPA+ devices. The Sonim XP5520 Bolt is scheduled to be launched on April 10, 2012, while Bell plans to release the Samsung Galaxy Rugby on the following day.[9]

Legacy products[edit]

Bell carried the Palm Pre smartphone on August 27, 2009. They were the exclusive carrier in Canada for this CDMA device, and marketed it heavily to compete against the iPhone, which was then exclusive to Rogers Wireless and its brand Fido. When Bell launched its HSPA network and the iPhone 3GS on November 4, 2009, the promotion and popularity of the Pre decreased. On August 17, 2011, nearly two years after its initial launch, the Palm Pre was officially discontinued by Bell.

Due to the age of the technology as deployed by Bell, CDMA smartphones are no longer sold by Bell Mobility, although its brand Solo Mobile continued to sell the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 for a few months after Bell's Palm Pre was discontinued. The BlackBerry Pearl 8130 at Solo was no longer sold by late 2011.

Services[edit]

Bell offers a service to check account balances, minutes and megabytes of mobile data used, add features and answers to frequently asked questions. The service is called TCARE, short for text message care. It is used by sending a blank message to the phone number TCARE (82273).

Mobile Internet[edit]

Bell offers four Internet-only plans and several smartphone plans and add-ons for customers wishing to access mobile broadband.

Various fixed data allowances are offered by Bell: 10, 20, 100, 300 and 500 MB, as well as 1 to 6 GB, 10 GB and 15 GB. The 20 MB add-on is a daily allowance, while the others are monthly allowances.

Flexible data plans are also available. This is used for Bell Mobility's Internet-only plans and some smartphone plans, which begins with a certain usage limit at a lower tier. If this is exceeded, the customer moves to the next higher tier with a slightly larger allowance.

The flexible "Turbo Hub flex plan" from Bell differs in that customers have to pay a premium if they want to increase the maximum theoretical speeds from 7.2 Mbit/s to 21 Mbit/s. No additional usage is included when paying for the speed upgrade. Bell's policy is to only allow the sale of Turbo Hub service with its own Turbo Hub devices.

Monthly tier Monthly bandwidth limits Turbo Hub Speeds Over Usage Multiplier
Download Upload
First 2 GB Ericsson W35 (discontinued), NetGear MBR1210 (4G), NetGear MVBR1210C (4G + Voice), NetGear MBR1516 (LTE) 7.2 Mbit/s (some 21 Mbit/s) 5.76 Mbit/s 7 times # of extra GB
Second 5 GB 4 times # of extra GB
Third 10 GB 4 times # of extra GB
Fourth 15 GB 10 times # of extra GB
  • Bell's wireless Internet plan starts at the initial 2 GB tier. If this is exceeded, the tier automatically goes up to 5 GB, then up to 10 GB, then up to 15 GB as the final tier. There are additional charges if one does goes above the 15 GB tier.

Some grandfathered customers have an unlimited mobile Internet plan or add-on. These are usually limited to older and slower CDMA devices such as the now-discontinued Palm Pre, and normally cannot be used for tethering unless the device is a mobile broadband modem. Bell's discontinued brand Solo Mobile (soon to cease new activations) and its active Virgin Mobile Canada brand also have grandfathered accounts with unlimited mobile broadband.

Occasionally, Bell releases a 6 GB data allowance for smartphones at the reduced cost of $30/month. This cannot be purchased alone, as it must be added to a voice plan.

Mobile TV and Radio[edit]

Bell Mobile TV was launched for Bell smartphones on October 18, 2010.[10]

Push-To-Talk[edit]

On April 24, 2012, Bell launched an improved Push-To-Talk (PTT) service. It is powered by Bell's newer HSPA+ network, in contrast to the operator's older PTT (Officially titled 10-4) service which used the CDMA network. HSPA+ service is available at one flat rate for unlimited Bell-to-Bell PTT service from and to Canada. The monthly service can either be purchased alone, or added to any plan at a lower cost. PTT roaming in the United States or other international countries is billed per megabyte. One megabyte offers approximately ten minutes of PTT talk time. Consequently, Bell offers approximately 100 to 400 PTT roaming minutes for traveling in the USA.

Discontinued services[edit]

Bell launched a proprietary Video Calling service on November 4, 2009 for select HSPA+ mobile phones. The service featured a cost of $5 CAD per month for unlimited video calls.[11] It was supported by the LG Xenon, Nokia C6[disambiguation needed], Nokia N97, Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, Samsung Omnia II and Samsung Wave smartphones. These devices have all been discontinued. It is unknown whether or not a non-Bell Galaxy S, or even Bell's Samsung Galaxy S II, support the Video Calling service. These Android-based devices, however, can use the included Google Talk for videoconferencing as long as they have an Internet connection available. Bell's cellular service does not currently offer unlimited mobile broadband.

Advertising[edit]

From 2003 to 2005 and in 2007, Bell Mobility and its brand Solo Mobile used a pixel art style of advertising. This reflected the limited capacity of graphical displays in mobile phones sold throughout these years.

In conjunction with the 2006 Olympics, Bell Mobility introduced a pair of anthropomorphic CGI beavers named Frank (voiced by Norm Macdonald) and Gordon (voiced by Ken Hudson Campbell),[12] who constantly got into misadventures which led to Frank getting flustered with the antics of the dimwitted Gordon. Analysts covering a potential restructuring of BCE suggested getting rid of the Frank and Gordon ad campaign. They have also criticized some of Bell Mobility's initiatives as failing to tap the market, such as offering full-length movies.[13]

The ad campaign was canceled by Bell on August 1, 2008[14] and replaced with the "Today just got better" campaign.

Criticism[edit]

Feature restrictions[edit]

Some clients[who?] of Bell Mobility have claimed that their phones' features have been restricted. This action is typically referred to as “crippling”. Examples of claims of restricted features are the inability to perform Bluetooth file transfers, for example with the OBEX profile or with a USB cable. Restrictions also include increasing the GPS lock time (2–10 minutes) and resolution (1-2.5 KM) of third-party applications while maintaining the speed (10-15 s) and accuracy (10–25 m) of the branded GPS Nav program. GPS Nav service costs $10/month or $3.50/day in addition to the cost of a data plan. The phones affected include the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, BlackBerry 8130 Pearl, and BlackBerry 8330 Curve.[15]

Some clients claim that Bell Mobility purposely restricts these features in order to force them to use the data services and as a result pay more usage charges. Methods around these restrictions are to use an external memory card or software such as BitPim. Researching the abilities and lack thereof is recommended[by whom?] before purchasing a phone or PDA device, as some desired features may be lacking in the initial choice.

Some clients[who?] claim that Bell Mobility withholds firmware upgrades, especially for devices that are not meeting sales expectations. While some SKUs do receive updates on a regular basis, Bell Mobility is reluctant to release upgrades that add enhancements to product, focusing only on firmwares that fix issues. Oftentimes those upgrades fail to become available as well.[citation needed]

Data Plans[edit]

In December 2007 the BBC reported a customer with a $7/month unlimited mobile browser plan received a $85,000 bill.[16] The customer had used his phone as a wireless modem for his computer, and so data transferred was not included under the customer's unlimited mobile browser plan.[17] Bell Mobility now releases in detail acceptable data usage in the terms of service.[3] The BBC reported "Canadians complain that their mobile phone charges are much higher for comparable service in the United States".[16]

Text Messaging[edit]

In July 2008, along with Telus Mobility Bell introduced charges of 15¢ for incoming SMS messages. Critics were quick to point out that there is no way of blocking incoming message fees and suggested Bell and Telus were price fixing as both had announced the fees simultaneously.[18] Bell (and Telus) are now being sued by frustrated consumers and subscribers, as they demand change in text charges.[19] Many customers were frustrated because this fee also apply to existing customers with ongoing contracts.[20]

Retail presence[edit]

In addition to running its own retail operations, Bell partners with multi-carrier retailers like those run by throughout Canada by Glentel.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]